Cover by Wes McKinney

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Chapter 5. Getting Started with pandas

pandas will be the primary library of interest throughout much of the rest of the book. It contains high-level data structures and manipulation tools designed to make data analysis fast and easy in Python. pandas is built on top of NumPy and makes it easy to use in NumPy-centric applications.

As a bit of background, I started building pandas in early 2008 during my tenure at AQR, a quantitative investment management firm. At the time, I had a distinct set of requirements that were not well-addressed by any single tool at my disposal:

  • Data structures with labeled axes supporting automatic or explicit data alignment. This prevents common errors resulting from misaligned data and working with differently-indexed data coming from different sources.

  • Integrated time series functionality.

  • The same data structures handle both time series data and non-time series data.

  • Arithmetic operations and reductions (like summing across an axis) would pass on the metadata (axis labels).

  • Flexible handling of missing data.

  • Merge and other relational operations found in popular database databases (SQL-based, for example).

I wanted to be able to do all of these things in one place, preferably in a language well-suited to general purpose software development. Python was a good candidate language for this, but at that time there was not an integrated set of data structures and tools providing this functionality.

Over the last four years, pandas has matured into a quite large ...

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