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Alternative Python Distributions


Several organizations now distribute versions of Python tweaked for a special set of users. The alternative distribution that's received the most notice is ActiveState's ActivePython distribution. Packaged with the Pythonwin IDE and PythonCom tools by Mark Hammond, and some of the more commonly used external modules like expat and zlib, ActivePython is a nice one-stop distribution for those developing on a Microsoft Windows platform. ActivePython also takes advantage of the newer Windows installer, which makes its installation even easier to manage. While ActiveState has also created ActivePython distributions for Linux and Solaris systems, they are less compelling. The Windows add-ons are really what distinguish ActivePython.

Perhaps less well known is PythonWare's distribution of Python, PY20. PY20 includes PythonWares Image Library for generating and manipulating graphic files, their sound toolkit, SOAP and XML-RPC modules. It is a complete PythonWare package, and it is also the basis of their commercial IDE, PythonWorks. If you get PY20 on CD-ROM, it comes with an evaluation copy of PythonWorks. The PY20 distribution is only available for Windows systems, though PythonWorks is available for Linux and Solaris systems too. An especially sweet feature of PY20 is that it doesn't touch the Windows registry during installation. PY20 can coexist with other Python installations.

A former specialized distribution is worth mentioning: Carnegie Mellon's 3D graphics distribution, Visual Python. The tool is still available but is no longer being distributed with a modified version of Python. It has a new name too, VPython. (Visual Python is now the name of a plug-in Active State is developing for Microsoft's Visual Studio.NET.) VPython, the successor of the old Visual Python project, now upgrades an existing Python 2.0 installation. VPython includes an enhanced version of IDLE and a real time 3D graphics module.

Stephen Figgins administrates Linux servers for Sunflower Broadband, a cable company.

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