The current undergraduate programming course, as discussed in Chapter 1, is implemented in Pascal. A successful handbook for the Pascal course already exists. It takes students from the basics of variables to the complexities of procedural programming and arrays. Although Python is more modern in design and syntactically very different, it proved possible to re-implement much of the Pascal course's structure with few problems.
It was decided that the handbook's usefulness to students would be increased by a move from a terse, reference manual to a more verbose textbook-like document. To this end, the amount of explanation in the handbook was increased. The Python handbook used during the trials was of the order of 10,000 words2.1.
Due to time limitations, and the previous success of the exercises scattered through the Pascal handbook, there was little change to the exercises within the handbook. Happily, this allowed a determination of whether these extremely simple but common programs could be implemented in Python by students.
The document was formatted using a set of shell and Python scripts maintained by Fred L. Drake, core documentation maintainer for the Python project. These allow a document to be written in LATEX using a special set of Python-specific markups and to be exported conveniently to either Postscript or PDF for printing, HTML for distribution on the web, perhaps with a view to moving the handbook to an online (rather than printed) resource, and also to plain text.