Module 2: Install Your Tools
This course will expose you to a wide range of tools, some (or all) of which you may be unfamiliar with. Although they may be overwhelming at first, these tools will soon become as familiar to you as a scalpel is to a surgeon. The purpose of this section is to acquaint you with each of these tools before walking you through the process of installing them on your machine.
Below is a list of the tools you should install before your first class to ensure you're ready to dive in on Day 1.
- Google Chrome
- Microsoft Excel
- Git and GitHub
- Git Bash (Windows only)
- Terminal (Mac only; preinstalled)
- Homebrew (Mac only)
- SSH Keys
- Python and Anaconda
- Mongo DB
- VS Code
You should also create accounts on the following websites:
- Stack Overflow
If you encounter any issues during setup, don't worry. Your instructional staff will help you troubleshoot any errors and answer your questions on the first day of class. Just sit tight until then.
An Overview of Your Tools
Before installing your tools, take a moment to examine each of them in more detail to better understand the role they will play in the course.
This is the web browser we'll be using to quickly determine whether our code is working. Google Chrome has a number of tools that make it an ideal platform for data analytics, so if you are currently using a different browser, we encourage you to switch to Chrome.
Slack is an online communication tool that is a mix of forum, instant messenger, and email all rolled into one. It's a tool used by countless organizations worldwide, and you'll be using it every single day for the next six months.
We will use Slack to send code snippets during class, relay important announcements, and facilitate group exercises. You will receive the link to your class-specific channel during orientation. Though there is a Slack web client, for this course you should have the program installed on your machine.
You'll be learning the ins and outs of Microsoft Excel during the first few weeks of the course. Excel is available on a subscription basis via Office 365 or as a one-time purchase. You can find details about both options at Microsoft Store. Remember, before completing your purchase, make sure that you've selected the correct operating system and version (Excel 2016 or later).
Git and GitHub
Code files are largely collaborative, as developers are constantly building on each other's work. Git is a version-control system that offers a specialized set of strategies for orchestrating this collaboration, and GitHub stores these collaborative actions online. You can think of GitHub as a sort of Dropbox for coders. It offers a central place for developers to upload their code, view revision history, and make changes to a master set of files. You'll come to learn a lot about Git and GitHub in your first week of class. You will receive the link to your class-specific repository during orientation.
Follow these instructions to set your Git username for every repository on your computer and set your email address for every repository on your computer.
Git Bash and Terminal
Git Bash (for Windows users) and Terminal (for Mac users) offer a command-line interface for working with the files and folders on your computer.
So, is it like Finder or Windows Explorer? Kind of, except that there are no pictures or visuals. It's just a box with text.
Uh, why would I want that? Over time, you'll come to understand that, in many situations, using a command-line interface can be faster and more effective than relying on the operating system's graphical user interface (GUI). You'll get plenty of exposure to the command line at the beginning of the course.
Homebrew (Mac Only)
Homebrew is a Mac-specific tool kit that makes it easy to install a variety of applications using the command line. It can greatly simplify the installation process for various tools you'll be using throughout your career.
Generating SSH keys allows developers to interface with certain remote services without having to constantly enter login information. You will set up an SSH key for GitHub.
Without a key, you won’t be able to push your code to GitHub without entering a password each time. And trust us, this would be as irritating as needing a key to open every door in your home.
Python and Anaconda
Python and its ecosystem are extremely popular tools in the world of data analysis. This course will use a popular all-in-one solution called Anaconda, which contains everything we'll need for the Python units of the course.
Like MySQL, MongoDB is a database, but it works in a fundamentally different way and has certain advantages and disadvantages as compared to MySQL. We'll use it during the web portion of the course.
Oh, the power of VS Code! A little program that does so much!
Visual Studio (VS) Code is a free text editor that runs on Mac, Linux, and Windows operating systems. For developers, text editors are like cozy pillows on which they rest their heads.
At a fundamental level, programming is all about creating text in files with various extensions. When we create a block of HTML like the one below, what we've really done is created a block of text. There are some funny symbols in there, but at its most basic level, it's just text.
For a simple text editor, this is where the comprehension stops: our block of HTML remains a block of text. But for more powerful text editors like VS Code, these blocks of text are immediately recognized as code (as long as we include the right file extension). VS Code can provide a more visually intuitive understanding of the code through indicative coloring, smart tabs, and autocomplete functionality. As a result, creating HTML is a more natural process, and the HTML can be debugged more quickly.
You're Ready to Install!
Now it's time to collect your tools and begin. Setup guides for both Mac and Windows users are provided in the links below. Follow the instructions closely and do your best with the information you have. (Yes, we know there is a lot to install.)
One bit of advice: Throughout the course, you will frequently need to install and use unfamiliar tools. Resist the urge to stop and ask, "Am I doing this right?" Instead, trust your instincts and take your best stab at it. If you get lost, we'll get you the help you need right away. You can do this!