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Name: [002] Ian Ozsvald
Member: 128 months
Authored: 181 videos
Description: I am the co-founder of ShowMeDo (see, author of `The Screencasting Handbook <>`_ and the founder of the professional screencast production company `ProCasts <>`_: .. image:: ...

Bonus - IDLE's Python Help and an Exercise [ID:162] (10/10)

in series: Python Development on XP

(Showmedo is undergoing major changes. To report any problems viewing the videos please email us and include browser and OS specifics. Cheers - Kyran.)

Tal, an IDLE developer, suggested I add a bonus episode covering the 'help()' function within IDLE. Here I discuss the built-in help, using the external Python help, and I add a bonus Web exercise. I also show you how to use Alt P and Alt N to navigate to the Previous and Next items in IDLE's the command-history.

Bonus exercise - use urllib2 to read the html at, checking the response for the return code and looking at the dictionary of headers. You might find the notes here at voidspace to be useful.

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14. anonymous Thu, 02 Apr 2009 21:40

Thanx for providing for newbies

Hi Ian,

Thanks for the videos! Great work. One question that perhaps you could help me with is that I am using Python version 2.5 similar to you in the video and I tried to install the help documents. When I go to I get the documentation for python 2.6.1. I downloaded the html zip file and extracted it to the c:\python25\Doc directory but the help functions still didnt work in idle. Any thoughts?? Thanks

Hi dmackersie. It is always difficult to know which words survive the jump between countries and which cause confusion - thanks for the tip!


A point of minor confusion:

In this video

"( )" == "brackets"

For US listeners:

"[ ]" == "square brackets" == "brackets"

"( )" == "parenthesis"

Ian, I'd like to see a "Beginner to Advanced" series for Python. Anything in the works?

Anon (Frank) - as discussed by email, the problem with the tab-completion is that you have Python 2.4.4 and you need Python 2.5.

That answers that one nice and easily :-)


Hi Anon, I think the problem is that you're using an older version of IDLE. In this video series I use Python2.5 and IDLE 1.2 (bundled with Python 2.5). Tab-completion works fine.

Using another machine with Python 2.4 and IDLE 1.1.1 I don't have any tab-completion. I'll mail you privately to check this but I think you'll need to upgrade to the same version of Python as I've used in these videos.



7. anonymous Thu, 19 Apr 2007 01:17

Hello Ian,

During bonus exercise you mentioned 'Tab' will invoke the functions and objects list. For me, when I use the tab it idents only. I don't get the invoke list. Is this a key combo or a single key?


Jerol - sorry for the slow reply (you can login now using your email for personalised commenting too, rather than using 'anonymous').

That's not a bad idea, something to add to the list certainly.

I had no idea that you had to install the Python Docs to get extended help in IPython - I guess that's why I don't see much help in IPython :-) Heck, I'm just used to using's help pages.

You publish a video like this and you get to learn so many new/interesting things!


Ah, yes, that will explain it! The site only went down for 2 hours but it must have been at the same time as you tried to use it.

Sorry about that, we'll be working to improve ShowMeDo so it doesn't go under quite so quickly in the future in the face of such a flood of visitors!


Yes, it was yesterday

Hi Jack. Great, glad the exercise helped. Sorry to hear you had trouble using ShowMeDo for that...did you do this yesterday?

If so - we were promoted to' front-page and ShowMeDo died for 2 hours under the torrent of visitors! The site (and the blog) totally disappeared, then fixed itself once the link changed <phew>.

Kyran and I will be working to prevent this kind of effect in the future.

Anyhow, glad to hear that the exercise worked from's site.


I enjoyed this video. It is informative and useful.

On the exercise. I had trouble getting the information to pull up from your web site, but I was able to do this with the python web site.


I thought this was a very good SMD. I used it to compare the help functions within IPython, and was inspired to add a permanent alias to evoke the Python help file (like F1 in IDLE). I have one suggestion: what about making a video just on downloading and configuring the python help files that would be in the public section? The reason is that both IDLE and IPython need this step to display enhanced help (I found that I had to set the PYTHONDOCS variable to make IPython help work right).


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At Showmedo we believe the community can play a vital role here and also say thanks for the tools and software that make our lives easier. If you have a piece of software you love or a programming langugage you are enthusiastic about, why not make a screencast showing others how to use it? All the stuff you wish you'd been told, the tips, tricks, insights that would have saved you time and frustration.

Screencasting is easier than you think, and we're happy to help you. You can emailus for advice or just use some of the how-to screencasts on the site. This screencasting learning-pathis a good place to start.

Kudos and Thanks for Ian

3 Minute Oveview (What Does Python Look Like?)

simple and informative. you draw me in
70 months ago


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