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03 Introduction to Pandas

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In the previous chapter, we dove into detail on NumPy and its ndarray object, which provides efficient storage and manipulation of dense typed arrays in Python. Here we'll build on this knowledge by looking in detail at the data structures provided by the Pandas library. Pandas is a newer package built on top of NumPy, and provides an efficient implementation of a DataFrame. DataFrames are essentially multidimensional arrays with attached row and column labels, and often with heterogeneous types and/or missing data. As well as offering a convenient storage interface for labeled data, Pandas implements a number of powerful data operations familiar to users of both database frameworks and spreadsheet programs.
As we saw, NumPy's ndarray data structure provides essential features for the type of clean, well-organized data typically seen in numerical computing tasks. While it serves this purpose very well, its limitations become clear when we need more flexibility (e.g., attaching labels to data, working with missing data, etc.) and when attempting operations that do not map well to element-wise broadcasting (e.g., groupings, pivots, etc.), each of which is an important piece of analyzing the less structured data available in many forms in the world around us. Pandas, and in particular its Series and DataFrame objects, builds on the NumPy array structure and provides efficient access to these sorts of "data munging" tasks that occupy much of a data scientist's time.
In this chapter, we will focus on the mechanics of using Series, DataFrame, and related structures effectively. We will use examples drawn from real datasets where appropriate, but these examples are not necessarily the focus.

Installing and Using Pandas

Installation of Pandas on your system requires NumPy to be installed, and if building the library from source, requires the appropriate tools to compile the C and Cython sources on which Pandas is built. Details on this installation can be found in the Pandas documentation. If you followed the advice outlined in the Preface and used the Anaconda stack, you already have Pandas installed.
Once Pandas is installed, you can import it and check the version:
python
import pandas
pandas.__version__
'0.18.1'
Just as we generally import NumPy under the alias np, we will import Pandas under the alias pd:
python
import pandas as pd

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