Teaching basic lab skills
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My Favorite tool - A Coding Sandbox

My favorite tool is repl.it, a ‘sandbox’ tool to help me test and refine Python code.

Why do I like it?

It is an online tool for testing/running code. It allows you to write and run code in a number of different languages, and see the results. No R support I’m afraid, but it does have Python (2 and 3), Ruby, Haskell, Go, JavaScript and many more.

I use it to both test small bits of Python code to ensure they work as expected, but also to act as a virtual Python shell and run scripts that take input (text I paste in) and print results to stdout. I can then copy these results to paste into wherever I need to put them (Word, Excel, etc).

For Python fans like me, it also boasts every PyPI package available, although for packages that need Internet access (e.g., requests) you need to sign up for a paid account.

I like repl.it for many reasons. For one, it means I have Python (and other languages I might need) available at a workplace where I otherwise would not. It is free for a basic account, you can save your work, it’s pretty fast and responsive. It is also very actively developed so new features get added all the time.

For a quick playground to test scripts, I can’t fault it.

How does the tool help me in my work?

I work somewhere that doesn’t have Python available natively, so now I can use Python to help do my work without the hassle of trying to get it installed, which would be hard.

What do you wish someone had told you when you first started learning how to use this tool?

It would have been good to know that it doesn’t include Internet access with the free account - it took me a while to figure out why I couldn’t get requests to work (even though what I wanted was available as a Python package).

– Richard Vankoningsveld, Technology & Support Librarian, Queensland Supreme Court Library, Brisbane

Have you got a favorite tool you would like to tell us about? Please use this form to add a bit of detail and we will do the rest to create a blog post about it. You can read the background to these posts here, or see what other tools people have written about.


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