Python Variables and Keywords

Python Tutorial – Variables and Keywords

This article serves as a tutorial for Python beginners to gain the essential knowledge to start coding in Python. By complete this tutorial, you shall be able to know how to correctly use Python variables as well as the Python keywords.

Python Variable

Variable is a name that refers to some value. Like any other programming languages, Python allows to define variables and manipulate it in your code logic.

Name convention

Python allows to use letter, number, or underscore [_] in a variable name, but it has to start with a letter or an underscore (_) followed by zero or more letters, underscores and digits (0 to 9).

There is no limit on the length of your variable name, so you can choose anything meaningful to you in your code. but Python provided some guidelines to use lowercase as much as possible for the variables and function name.

Below are some examples of valid variable names:

a = "a"
#Python variable name is case sensitive
A = "a"
module_name = "Python Tutorial for Variables & Keywords"
speed_of_gravity = 299792458
pi = 3.14159265359
is_matched = True

And some invalid variable names as per below, if you use them in your code, Python throws “SyntaxError: invalid syntax” error.

1st_name = "John"
#invalid as variable cannot start with digits
first name = "John"
right/wrong = True
#invalid as variable cannot has special characters like /, whitespace, @, &, * etc., except _

Use of underscore

Take note of the _, although it is allowed to use in your variable name, it has some special meaning if you use it at the beginning. e.g. if you use _salary in your class, Python will protect it from accessing from outside of the class. This is out of scope for this topic, but do bear in mind on this.

Also if you use _ as your available name, there will be a conflict in the Python interactive mode, as in interactive mode, _ is interpreted as the result of the last executed expression, check more from this article.

You may also noticed that variables can hold different sorts of values, e.g. single character, multiple characters, numbers, and True or False etc. This is the different data type in Python, we will come to this topic in the later article.

Reserved Keywords

There are some other words we cannot directly use as variable, these words are so called Python reserved keywords, as Python uses these words to recognize the structure of the program.

Below are all the keywords reserved by Python3, and it is not allowed to use them directly as variable name.

False      await      else       import     pass
None       break      except     in         raise
True       class      finally    is         return
and        continue   for        lambda     try
as         def        from       nonlocal   while
assert     del        global     not        with
async      elif       if         or         yield

For Python beginners, if you use some IDE like PyCharm or Jupyter Notebook, these keywords will be automatically highlighted in different color, so you don’t worry about you mistakenly used them as variable name.

Python variables and keywords

Besides these reserved keywords, there are a few more words you shall try to avoid using them when defining your variable. For instance the below:


These are the Python built-in data types which will be covered in the next tutorial. And there won’t be any error prompted immediately when you assign a value to them, but you will face some issues when you want to call the default behavior of the built-in data type later. Below is an example:

python built-in data type

The str() will throw error if you assigned “Test” to it, and it only works again if you delete the “str” as a variable. Hence the best practice is not to use these words as variable name in your code to prevent some unexpected errors and confusions.


How to close Windows process with python

When automating some tasks in Windows OS, you may wonder how to automatically close Windows process if you do not have the direct control of the running application or when the application is just running for too long time. In this article, I will be sharing with you how to close the Windows process with some python library, to be more specific, the pywin32 library.


You will need to install the pywin32 library if you have not yet installed:

pip install pywin32

Find the process name from Windows Task Manager

You will need to first find out the application name which you intend to close, the application name can be found from the Windows task manager. E.g. If you expand the “Windows Command Processor” process, you can see the running process is “cmd.exe”.

python close Windows process

Let’s get started with the code!

Import the below modules that we will be using later:

from win32com.client import GetObject
from datetime import datetime

import os

And we need to get the WMI (Windows Management Instrumentation) service via the below code, where we can further access the window processes. For more information about WMI, please check this.

WMI = GetObject('winmgmts:')

Next, we will use the WMI SQL query to get the processes from the Win32_Process table by passing in the application name. Remember we have already found the application name earlier from the task manager.


for p in WMI.ExecQuery('select * from Win32_Process where Name="cmd.exe"'):
    #the date format is something like this 20200613144903.166769+480
    create_dt, *_ = p.CreationDate.split('.')
    diff = - datetime.strptime(create_dt,'%Y%m%d%H%M%S')

There are other properties such as Description, Status, Executable Path, etc. You can check the full list of the process properties from this win32-process documentation. Here we want to base on the creation date to calculate how much time the application has been running to determine if we want to kill it.

Assuming we need to close windows process after it is running for 5 minutes.

    if diff.seconds/60 > 5:		
        print("Terminating PID:", p.ProcessId)
	os.system("taskkill /pid "+str(p.ProcessId))

With this taskkill command, we will be able to terminate all the threads under this Windows process peacefully.


The pywin32 is super powerful python library especially when dealing with the Windows applications. You can use it to read & save attachments from outlook, send emails via outlookopen excel files and some more. Do have a check on these articles.

As per always, welcome any comments or questions.

auto switch browser tabs

How to auto switch browser tabs

Imagine you have a big monitor and you would like to display something from multiple web links, would it be nice if there is a way to auto switch between the multiple browser tabs in a fixed period? In this article, I will be sharing with you how to auto switch browser tabs via selenium, an automated testing tool.

There is a very detailed documentation on the python selenium library, you may want to check this document as the starting point. For this article, I will just walk through the complete code for this automation, so that you can use it as a reference in case you are tying to implement something similar.

Let’s get started!

To auto launch the browser, we need to first download the web driver for the browser. For instance, if you are using chrome browser, you may download the driver file here. Do check your browser version to make sure you download the driver for the correct version.

As the prerequisite, you will also need to run the below command to install the selenium package in your working environment.

pip install selenium

Launch the browser

Then import all the necessary modules into your script. For this article, we will need to use the below modules:

from selenium import webdriver
from import Options
from selenium.common.exceptions import SessionNotCreatedException

import time
import os, sys

Let’s assume we want to display the below 3 links in your browser and make them auto switching between each other:

url_1 = ",103.8403575,14z"
url_2 = ""
url_3 = ""

Assuming you’ve already downloaded the chrome driver file and put it into the current script folder. Then let’s start to initiate the web driver to launch the browser:

options = Options()
options.add_experimental_option('useAutomationExtension', False)

	driver = webdriver.Chrome(executable_path=os.getcwd() + "\\chromedriver.exe", options=options)
except SessionNotCreatedException as e:
	print("please upgrade the chromedriver.exe from")

You may wonder why we need a options parameter here?  It’s actually optional, but you may see the “Loading of unpacked extensions is disabled by the administrator” warning without setting useAutomationExtension to False. There are plenty of other options to control the browser behavior, check here for the documentation.

As frequently you will see there is a new version of chrome, and it may not work with old driver file anymore. So, it’s better we catch this exception and show some error message to guide users to upgrade the driver.

You can set the chrome window position by doing the below, but it does not matter if you wish to maximize the window later.

driver.set_window_position(2000, 1)

Let’s open the first link and maximize our window (This also can be done by options.addArguments("start-maximized")). And we want to execute some JavaScript to zoom out a bit so that we can see clearly.

#open window 1

To open the second tab, we need to use JavaScript to open a blank tab, and switch the active tab to the second tab. The driver.window_handles keeps a list of handlers for the opened windows, so window_handles[1] refers to the second tab.


Next, we will open the second link. And for this tab, let’s scroll down 300px to skip the ads second at the page header.

#open second link

Similarly, we can open the third tab with the below code:

#open window 3

Auto switch between tabs

Once everything is ready, we shall write the logic to auto switch between the different tabs at certain interval. To do that, we need to know how to perform the below 3 things:

  • Identify what is the active link showing now

We can use driver.title attribute to check if the page title contains certain keyword for the particular website, so that we know which page is active now

  • Switch to a new tab

We can continue to use driver.switch_to.window to switch the tab, but we need to have logic to determine which is the next tab we want to switch to

  • Refresh the page (in case there is any updates)

We can use driver.refresh() to refresh the page, but we will lose the setting such as zooming in/out, so we need to set it again

So let’s take a look at the complete code:

nextIndex = 2

start = time.time()

while True:
	#stop running after 5 minutes
	if (time.time() - start >= 5*60):
	if "Google Maps" in driver.title:
		nextIndex = 0 if nextIndex + 1 > 2 else nextIndex + 1
	elif "CNN" in driver.title:
		nextIndex = 0 if nextIndex + 1 > 2 else nextIndex + 1
	elif "Weather" in driver.title:
		nextIndex = 0 if nextIndex + 1 > 2 else nextIndex + 1

So each of the tab will be active for a few seconds before switching to the next tab. And after 5 minutes, this loop will be stopped.

If we wish to close all tabs at the end of the script, we can perform the below:

for window in driver.window_handles:

So that’s it and congratulations that you have completed a new automation project to auto switch browser tabs for Chrome. As per always, welcome any comments or questions.

python unpack objects

Python how to unpack tuple, list and dictionary

There are various cases that you want to unpack your python objects such as tuple, list or dictionary into individual variables, so that you can easily access the individual items. In this article I will be sharing with you how to unpack these different python objects and how it can be useful when working with the *args and **kwargs in the function.

Let’s get started.

Unpack python tuple objects

Let’s say we have a tuple object called shape which describes the height, width and channel of an image, we shall be able to unpack it to 3 separate variables by doing below:

shape = (500, 300, 3)
height, width, channel = shape
print(height, width, channel)

And you can see each item inside the tuple has been assigned to the individual variables with a meaningful name, which increases the readability of your code. Below is the output:

500 300 3

It’s definitely more elegant than accessing each items by index, e.g. shape[0], shape[1], shape[2].

What if we just need to access a few items in a big tuple which has many items? Here we need to introduce the _ (unnamed variable) and * (unpack arbitrary number of items)

For example,  if we just want to extract the first and the last item from the below tuple, we can let the rest of the items go into a unnamed variable.

toto_result = (4,11,14,23,28,47,24)
first, *_, last = toto_result
print(first, last)

So the above will give the below output:

4 24

If you are curious what is inside the “_”, you can try to print it out. and you would see it’s actually a list of the rest of items between the first and last item.

[11, 14, 23, 28, 47]

The most popular use case of the packing and unpacking is to pass around as parameters to function which accepts arbitrary number of arguments (*args). Let’s look at an example:

def sum(*numbers):
    total = 0
    for n in numbers:
        total += n
    return total

For the above sum function, it accepts any number of arguments and sum up the values. The * here is trying to pack all the arguments passed to this function and put it into a tuple called numbers. If you are going to sum up the values for all the items in toto_result, directly pass in the toto_result would not work.

toto_resut = (4,11,14,23,28,47,24)
#sum(toto_result) would raise TypeError

So what we can do is to unpack the items from the tuple then pass it the sum function:

total = sum(*toto_resut)
#output should be 151

Unpack python list objects

Unpacking the list object is similar to the unpacking operations on tuple object. If we replace the tuple to list in the above example, it should be working perfectly.

shape = [500, 300, 3]
height, width, channel = shape
print(height, width, channel)
#output shall be 500 300 3

toto_result = [4,11,14,23,28,47,24]
first, *_, last = toto_result
print(first, last)
#output shall be 4 24

total = sum(*toto_resut) 
#output should be also 151

Unpack python dictionary objects

Unlike the list or tuple, unpacking the dictionary probably only useful when you wants to pass the dictionary as the keyword arguments into a function (**kwargs).

For instance, in the below function, you can pass in all your keyword arguments one by one.

def print_header(**headers):
    for header in headers:
        print(header, headers[header])

print_header(Host="Mozilla/5.0", referer = "")

Or if you have a dictionary like below, you can just unpack it and pass to the function:

headers = {'Host': '', 'referer' : ''}

It will generate the same result as previously, but the code is more concise.


With this unpacking operator, you can also combine multiple dictionaries as per below:

headers = {'Host': '', 'referer' : ''}
extra_header = {'user-agent': 'Mozilla/5.0'}

new_header = {**headers, **extra_header}

The output of the new_header will be like below:

{'Host': '',
 'referer': '',
 'user-agent': 'Mozilla/5.0'}


The unpacking operation is very usefully especially when dealing with the *args and **kwargs. There is one thing worth noting on the unamed variable (_) which I mentioned in the previous paragraph. Please use it with caution, as if you notice, the python interactive interpreter also uses _ to store the last executed expression. So do take note on this potential conflict. See the below example:

codeforests interactive interpreter conflicts

As per always, welcome any comments or questions.

python dictionary keyerror

Handling the KeyError for python dictionary

python dictionary KeyError

The KeyError is quite commonly seen when dealing with the dictionary objects. when trying to access the dictionary while the key does not exists, then this error will be showing up. Usually to avoid this error, we will need to check if the key exists before accessing the value.

For instance, you can check if the key “country” exists in my_dict and then check if the values is “SGP” like the below. But the code does not look elegant.

my_dict = {"name" : "National University of Singapore", "address" : "21 Lower Kent Ridge Rd Singapore", "contact": "68741616"}
if my_dict.get("country") and my_dict["country"] == "SGP":
    print(f"country code is {my_dict['country']}")

You may also see someone uses the below way to make the code more concise. To pass in a default value if the key does not exists:

if my_dict.get("country", "") == "SGP":
    print(f"country code is {my_dict['country']}")

The Zen of Python tells us

Explicit is better than implicit.

So the above code actually does not follow this principal. If you go through the python documentation for dictionary, there is indeed a way to get the value of the key and meanwhile setting a default value if the key is new to the dictionary. Below code shows how it works:

if my_dict.setdefault("country", "") == "SGP":
    print(f"country code is {my_dict['country']}")

By doing the above, the key “country” will be added into the my_dict with a default value if the key does not exists previously, and then return the value of this key.

To extend the above setdefault method, if the value is a list of objects, you can also use this method to initialize it and then set the value.

my_dict.setdefault("faculty", []) # use list or set()
my_dict["faculty"].append("Computer Science")


As per always, welcome for any comments or questions.