Learn to code for data analysis
Learn to code for data analysis

Start this free course now. Just create an account and sign in. Enrol and complete the course for a free statement of participation or digital badge if available.

Free course

Learn to code for data analysis

1.4 Downloading the notebook and trying the first exercise

So far, I’ve done the coding and you’ve read along. Booooring. It’s time to use the Jupyter notebooks and work on the first exercise in the course.

Exercise 1 Variables and assignments

If you haven’t yet installed the software package or created an account on CoCalc, do it now using these instructions [Tip: hold Ctrl and click a link to open it in a new tab. (Hide tip)] !

Open the Exercise notebook 1 (from here), and put it in the folder you created. (You’ll open the data later and learn how to use it in the notebook.)

Once you have installed the file, watch the video to learn how to work with Jupyter notebooks and complete Exercise 1. Pause the video frequently to repeat the demonstrated steps in your notebook. Throughout the week you’ll be directed back to the notebook to complete the other exercises.

Download this video clip.Video player: ou_futurelearn_learn_to_code_vid_1046.mp4
Skip transcript


In this screencast I'm going to introduce you to Jupyter Notebooks. First you'll need to start the Anaconda launcher. This screencast was done on a Mac. However, the same process applies to Windows. If you're a Linux user, you'll need to use the command line as described in the installation instructions. To follow along on your computer, make sure you have created a folder for this course, and that it contains the exercise notebook for this week. This screencast uses earlier versions of the exercise notebook, and of the Anaconda software than you downloaded, so don't worry that things look slightly different.
Do not click on 'Update' buttons in the Anaconda Launcher, because you should use the version you installed to avoid compatibility problems with the notebooks of this course. Once the Anaconda launcher has booted up, launch the ipython notebook. Whenever you see a circle, the mouse has been clicked. After a couple of screens you should see Jupyter running in a browser, and the contents of your home folder. Navigate to the folder you created, and open the relevant notebook. The first thing to appreciate is that Jupyter notebook consists of a sequence of individual cells. You can see the individual cells as I click on the left of each one. Each cell can contain text or code.
Before starting any exercises, you should execute all the code already in the notebook. I'll explain why in a moment. Go to the 'Cell' menu and select 'Run all'. As the notebook executes all code, it may automatically scroll to a different part of the notebook. Just scroll back to the start. Go to the first exercise. It asks you to add assignments for more countries into the preceding code cell. To select a cell, click to the left of it. A grey border shows the currently selected cell. To edit a cell, click inside it. The border becomes green to show the cell is in editing mode.
Once inside the cell press 'Enter' a couple of times to put the cursor on a new line, then start typing an appropriate variable name, say 'deaths in Russia'. Once you've start typing, names that have been used within the notebook can be accessed via the Tab key. So once you've typed 'de' press the Tab key to get some auto-complete suggestions. Use the arrow keys to scroll through the options and press 'Enter' to select the appropriate option. In this case I'll accept the first suggestion in the list and edit it to complete the assignment. Next start a new line and just enter the new variable name you've just added. Remember to use auto-complete to avoid spelling mistakes.
Now we can run the code. To execute only the current code cell, click on the 'Play' button. The results appear below the code cell in a line titled 'Out'. If you wish to split a cell, for example to separate the supplied code from the code you are adding, then put the cursor where you want to split the cell, go to the 'Edit' menu and select 'Split Cell'. It's easy to move cells around - for example we can cut a selected cell......and then paste it below another cell that you select. To save a snapshot of the notebook, called a checkpoint, click the 'Save and Checkpoint' button.
If things go horribly wrong, you can revert the notebook to the last checkpoint by using the 'Revert to Checkpoint' option in the 'File' menu. To finish your session, go to the 'File' menu and select 'Close and Halt'. It is very important to note that opening a notebook does not execute any code cells. Any code output was saved from the previous session. So if I reopen the workbook and execute the code in the second cell alone, I'll get an error, because in this session (that is since the notebook was opened again) the first cell hasn't been executed and therefore the computer doesn't recognise the variable name 'deaths in Portugal'. And that's why you should run all code after opening a notebook!
It's easy to add your own notes to the notebook. For example if I select the first cell......and then click on the plus button, I can insert a new cell below the current one. By default, a new cell is a code cell. Select 'Markdown' to change it to a text cell. To edit a text cell, double-click inside the cell. Text is written in Markdown, a very simple formatting system. Here are some examples of what Markdown can do - pay attention to how prefixing or surrounding words with simple characters is all the information needed to format the text.
Also note the way a word or phrase to be hyperlinked is surrounded with square brackets and immediately followed by the URL, in round brackets. Once the text is written, click the 'Play' button to see the formatted text in the cell. The 'Help' menu contains links to information about Jupyter notebooks and Markdown formatting. As you get used to Jupyter, take a look at the keyboard shortcuts, as they will help you to work more efficiently.
End transcript
Interactive feature not available in single page view (see it in standard view).

If you haven’t yet installed Jupyter and Anaconda, do it now using these instructions.


Take your learning further

Making the decision to study can be a big step, which is why you'll want a trusted University. The Open University has 50 years’ experience delivering flexible learning and 170,000 students are studying with us right now. Take a look at all Open University courses.

If you are new to university level study, find out more about the types of qualifications we offer, including our entry level Access courses and Certificates.

Not ready for University study then browse over 900 free courses on OpenLearn and sign up to our newsletter to hear about new free courses as they are released.

Every year, thousands of students decide to study with The Open University. With over 120 qualifications, we’ve got the right course for you.

Request an Open University prospectus