When I first learned Python, I did so for the web. It wasn’t until later that I got to use an Arduino. So, with the research I did into using Python to program Arduino, I thought I’d write this helpful article explaining it.
Can you program Arduino with Python? Yes, you can by installing Python IDE. But, Python is a difficult language to learn for programming an Arduino.
However, programming an Arduino with Python can be a bit tricky. So below, I will explain how to get set up to program an Arduino with Python, and some common issues you can run into.
How do you Program Arduino with Python?
Disclaimer: with any programming you do, multiple problems can occur even during the installation process. Such issues happened because of the use of many different versions of operating systems and software.
It will also be helpful here to give a bit of the basic of how Arduino works with your computer and programming languages to make programming your Arduino with Python easier.
Background knowledge about Arduino
An Arduino is a sensor, and as such, it can detect temperature, sound, light, and touch.
There are several types of Arduino boards, being the most popular Arduino Uno.
All Arduino’s models, which you can check in my guide here, come with a microcontroller. The microcontroller function is to read inputs (data coming in) from the environment and then sends them as output to a display such as a computer.
You can use other displays, such as a small LCD monitor.
You can make a game connecting the components on a board, and you’ll have total control of it using your Arduino. The program stores the information of the player on it. This information displays on the LCD in real-time.
There will also usually be many things you’ll need to Google because a lot of the information will be new to you, such as using the command line. A program rarely works the first time without any errors.
Here’s how to program an Arduino with Python.
For this, we will get your Arduino to performing the primary task of turning an LED light on and off when pressing keys.
First, a general overview of the process.
- Install Python Idle to your PC
- Install pySerial
- Set up Arduino IDE
- Write Python code (full template provided*)
- Write Arduino code (full template provided*)
1. Install Python Idle to your PC
Python idle is an application that allows Python to run on your PC. This way, your computer can understand Python because it’s translated from Python to a language that is compatible with other hardware.
To do this, visit the official Python website here. Select depending on the operating system you’re using from the downloads tab at the top of the page (Windows, Mac OS, etc.).
Find the latest release, sorted by date. Then download and install it.
2. Installing pySerial
You can download the install file here.
However, you should run through the step by step instructions to ensure everything is working correctly here.
3. Setting Up Arduino IDE
The Arduino IDE allows you to write code that causes changes in your Arduino. You can download it here.
Once you have installed it, move onto the next step.
4. Write Python code
Now, let’s write some python code in the Python Powershell, which is the program you installed previously in step 2.
You can simply copy and paste the code directly into a blank text document and save it to your desktop. Then open the Python Shell and open the file or copy and paste it into the command prompt.
The code to copy and paste it is below:*
5. Begin making the Arduino perform actions
Next, we write some code in the Arduino IDE. Open the Arduino IDE, which you previously installed in step 3.
Once it’s open, copy and paste the below code* into the Arduino editor.
Run the code, and you will get able to press 1 or 0 to turn the light on and off.
What are some easy options to learn the basics of Arduino?
Arduino has its programming language which you can find on the official website, click here to go there.
The Arduino programming language is, of course, more natural to use with the Arduino than Python because it has been specifically designed for Arduino.
Most programming languages perform relatively the same. But, the Arduino programming language, in this case, is more user-friendly.
But, if you have experience with Python, you will likely find it pretty straightforward.
Which programming language is better Arduino or Python?
As I wrote before, the Arduino programming language is more natural to use than Python.
Using Python also requires you to install more programs, which can lead to more errors.
So, Arduino is the favorite by most people and is beginner-friendly.
If you have a background in web development or other programming languages, you might pick up both Python and Arduino easily.
Which programming language is used in Arduino?
Arduino is written in C++. C++ is a popular programming language used to create computer programs.
Arduino blocks of code are stored in files. These files are called sketches.
Unlike code used in web development, the code must be compiled. This compilation turns the code into ones and zeros, which is a way of prechecking if the code will work when executed and to highlight any misspellings or grammatical errors, which might cause the program to crash.
Solving Programming Errors
These are referred to as syntax errors. Syntax errors are where the code has been written correctly, but there are mistyped words or missing symbols such as a colon or bracket.
When the code has compiled, the place where the error has occurred will be shown by the code editor or runtime environment. You can then go through and correct the error to compile it correctly.
Sometimes you’ll get errors that you might not understand. In these cases, it’s best to Google the wording of the error.
On the other hand, there are common errors that will come up when compiling code. Once you’ve seen most of them, you can correct them quickly.
Bear in mind that as a beginner, when learning a programming language, it can be quite challenging to fix errors. Often, a newbie will misuse a function or put in a wrong argument type.
Functions have strict requirements for the format of the inputs they receive. Sometimes it’s necessary to go back to the documentation of the language to see what kinds of inputs a function can receive.
Misused functions and syntax errors are the most common ones most people will get when compiling code.
Can you use Python to program microcontrollers?
Yes, you can use Python to program microcontrollers. The most popular microcontrollers, Arduino and Raspberry pi, both work with Python.
In conclusion, you can program an Arduino in Python. But, the Arduino language is easier to use with an Arduino because it has been designed specifically for it.
If you decided to go with Python, there are a few extra programs you’ll have to install, which are the Python IDE, and pySerial. Once you install them, the codes written in the Python shell will be sent to the Arduino and stored on it.
Other microprocessors can use Python, such as the popular Raspberry Pi. Keep in mind that many errors can occur when writing programs. The most common are syntax errors and invalid inputs.
Now that you know you can use Python to program your Arduino, which programming language would you choose for your projects?
Let us know in the comments and share in there some tips with us!
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