Using Python for scripting and automation (2023)

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The following is a step-by-step guide for setting up your developer environment and getting you started using Python for scripting and automating file system operations on Windows.


This article will cover setting up your environment to use some of the helpful libraries in Python that can automate tasks across platforms, like searching your file system, accessing the internet, parsing file types, etc., from a Windows-centered approach. For Windows-specific operations, check out ctypes, a C-compatible foreign function library for Python, winreg, functions exposing the Windows registry API to Python, and Python/WinRT, enabling access Windows Runtime APIs from Python.

Set up your development environment

When using Python to write scripts that perform file system operations, we recommend you install Python from the Microsoft Store. Installing via the Microsoft Store uses the basic Python3 interpreter, but handles set up of your PATH settings for the current user (avoiding the need for admin access), in addition to providing automatic updates.

If you are using Python for web development on Windows, we recommend a different setup using the Windows Subsystem for Linux. Find a walkthrough in our guide: Get started using Python for web development on Windows. If you're brand new to Python, try our guide: Get started using Python on Windows for beginners. For some advanced scenarios (like needing to access/modify Python's installed files, make copies of binaries, or use Python DLLs directly), you may want to consider downloading a specific Python release directly from or consider installing an alternative, such as Anaconda, Jython, PyPy, WinPython, IronPython, etc. We only recommend this if you are a more advanced Python programmer with a specific reason for choosing an alternative implementation.

Install Python

To install Python using the Microsoft Store:

  1. Go to your Start menu (lower left Windows icon), type "Microsoft Store", select the link to open the store.

  2. Once the store is open, select Search from the upper-right menu and enter "Python". Select which version of Python you would like to use from the results under Apps. We recommend using the most recent unless you have a reason not to (such as aligning with the version used on a pre-existing project that you plan to work on). Once you've determined which version you would like to install, select Get.

  3. Once Python has completed the downloading and installation process, open Windows PowerShell using the Start menu (lower left Windows icon). Once PowerShell is open, enter Python --version to confirm that Python3 has been installed on your machine.

  4. The Microsoft Store installation of Python includes pip, the standard package manager. Pip allows you to install and manage additional packages that are not part of the Python standard library. To confirm that you also have pip available to install and manage packages, enter pip --version.

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Install Visual Studio Code

By using VS Code as your text editor / integrated development environment (IDE), you can take advantage of IntelliSense (a code completion aid), Linting (helps avoid making errors in your code), Debug support (helps you find errors in your code after you run it), Code snippets (templates for small reusable code blocks), and Unit testing (testing your code's interface with different types of input).

Download VS Code for Windows and follow the installation instructions:

Install the Microsoft Python extension

You will need to install the Microsoft Python extension in order to take advantage of the VS Code support features. Learn more.

  1. Open the VS Code Extensions window by entering Ctrl+Shift+X (or use the menu to navigate to View > Extensions).

  2. In the top Search Extensions in Marketplace box, enter: Python.

  3. Find the Python (ms-python.python) by Microsoft extension and select the green Install button.

Open the integrated PowerShell terminal in VS Code

VS Code contains a built-in terminal that enables you to open a Python command line with PowerShell, establishing a seamless workflow between your code editor and command line.

  1. Open the terminal in VS Code, select View > Terminal, or alternatively use the shortcut Ctrl+` (using the backtick character).


    The default terminal should be PowerShell, but if you need to change it, use Ctrl+Shift+P to enter the command pallette. Enter Terminal: Select Default Shell and a list of terminal options will display containing PowerShell, Command Prompt, WSL, etc. Select the one you'd like to use and enter Ctrl+Shift+` (using the backtick) to create a new terminal.

  2. Inside your VS Code terminal, open Python by entering: python

  3. Try the Python interpreter out by entering: print("Hello World"). Python will return your statement "Hello World".

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    Using Python for scripting and automation (1)

  4. To exit Python, you can enter exit(), quit(), or select Ctrl-Z.

Install Git (optional)

If you plan to collaborate with others on your Python code, or host your project on an open-source site (like GitHub), VS Code supports version control with Git. The Source Control tab in VS Code tracks all of your changes and has common Git commands (add, commit, push, pull) built right into the UI. You first need to install Git to power the Source Control panel.

  1. Download and install Git for Windows from the git-scm website.

  2. An Install Wizard is included that will ask you a series of questions about settings for your Git installation. We recommend using all of the default settings, unless you have a specific reason for changing something.

  3. If you've never worked with Git before, GitHub Guides can help you get started.

Example script to display the structure of your file system directory

Common system administration tasks can take a huge amount of time, but with a Python script, you can automate these tasks so that they take no time at all. For example, Python can read the contents of your computer's file system and perform operations like printing an outline of your files and directories, moving folders from one directory to another, or renaming hundreds of files. Normally, tasks like these could take up a ton of time if you were to perform them manually. Use a Python script instead!

Let's begin with a simple script that walks a directory tree and displays the directory structure.

  1. Open PowerShell using the Start menu (lower left Windows icon).

  2. Create a directory for your project: mkdir python-scripts, then open that directory: cd python-scripts.

  3. Create a few directories to use with our example script:

    mkdir food, food\fruits, food\fruits\apples, food\fruits\oranges, food\vegetables
  4. Create a few files within those directories to use with our script:

    new-item food\fruits\banana.txt, food\fruits\strawberry.txt, food\fruits\blueberry.txt, food\fruits\apples\honeycrisp.txt, food\fruits\oranges\mandarin.txt, food\vegetables\carrot.txt
  5. Create a new python file in your python-scripts directory:


    mkdir srcnew-item src\
  6. Open your project in VS Code by entering: code .

  7. Open the VS Code File Explorer window by entering Ctrl+Shift+E (or use the menu to navigate to View > Explorer) and select the file that you just created. The Microsoft Python extension will automatically load a Python interpreter. You can see which interpreter was loaded on the bottom of your VS Code window.


    Python is an interpreted language, meaning that it acts as a virtual machine, emulating a physical computer. There are different types of Python interpreters that you can use: Python 2, Python 3, Anaconda, PyPy, etc. In order to run Python code and get Python IntelliSense, you must tell VS Code which interpreter to use. We recommend sticking with the interpreter that VS Code chooses by default (Python 3 in our case) unless you have a specific reason for choosing something different. To change the Python interpreter, select the interpreter currently displayed in blue bar on the bottom of your VS Code window or open the Command Palette (Ctrl+Shift+P) and enter the command Python: Select Interpreter. This will display a list of the Python interpreters that you currently have installed. Learn more about configuring Python environments.

    Using Python for scripting and automation (2)

  8. Paste the following code into your file and then select save:

    import osroot = os.path.join('..', 'food')for directory, subdir_list, file_list in os.walk(root): print('Directory:', directory) for name in subdir_list: print('Subdirectory:', name) for name in file_list: print('File:', name) print()
  9. Open the VS Code integrated terminal (Ctrl+`, using the backtick character) and enter the src directory where you just saved your Python script:

    cd src
  10. Run the script in PowerShell with:

    python3 .\

    You should see output that looks like this:

    Directory: ..\foodSubdirectory: fruitsSubdirectory: vegetablesDirectory: ..\food\fruitsSubdirectory: applesSubdirectory: orangesFile: banana.txtFile: blueberry.txtFile: strawberry.txtDirectory: ..\food\fruits\applesFile: honeycrisp.txtDirectory: ..\food\fruits\orangesFile: mandarin.txtDirectory: ..\food\vegetablesFile: carrot.txt
  11. Use Python to print that file system directory output to it's own text file by entering this command directly in your PowerShell terminal: python3 > food-directory.txt

Congratulations! You've just written an automated systems administration script that reads the directory and files you created and uses Python to display, and then print, the directory structure to it's own text file.


If you're unable to install Python 3 from the Microsoft Store, see this issue for an example of how to handle the pathing for this sample script.

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Example script to modify all files in a directory

This example uses the files and directories you just created, renaming each of the files by adding the file's last modified date to the beginning of the filename.

  1. Inside the src folder in your python-scripts directory, create a new Python file for your script:

  2. Open the file, paste the following code into the file, and save it:


    os.getmtime returns a timestamp in ticks, which is not easily readable. It must be converted to a standard datetime string first.

    import datetimeimport osroot = os.path.join('..', 'food')for directory, subdir_list, file_list in os.walk(root): for name in file_list: source_name = os.path.join(directory, name) timestamp = os.path.getmtime(source_name) modified_date = str(datetime.datetime.fromtimestamp(timestamp)).replace(':', '.') target_name = os.path.join(directory, f'{modified_date}_{name}') print(f'Renaming: {source_name} to: {target_name}') os.rename(source_name, target_name)
  3. Test your script by running it: python3 and then running your script again: python3

  4. You should see output that looks like this:

    Renaming: ..\food\fruits\banana.txt to: ..\food\fruits\2019-07-18 ..\food\fruits\blueberry.txt to: ..\food\fruits\2019-07-18 ..\food\fruits\strawberry.txt to: ..\food\fruits\2019-07-18 ..\food\fruits\apples\honeycrisp.txt to: ..\food\fruits\apples\2019-07-18 ..\food\fruits\oranges\mandarin.txt to: ..\food\fruits\oranges\2019-07-18 ..\food\vegetables\carrot.txt to: ..\food\vegetables\2019-07-18 C:\src\python-scripting\src> python3 .\\food\Directory: ..\foodSubdirectory: fruitsSubdirectory: vegetablesDirectory: ..\food\fruitsSubdirectory: applesSubdirectory: orangesFile: 2019-07-18 2019-07-18 2019-07-18 ..\food\fruits\applesFile: 2019-07-18 ..\food\fruits\orangesFile: 2019-07-18 ..\food\vegetablesFile: 2019-07-18
  5. Use Python to print the new file system directory names with the last-modified timestamp prepended to it's own text file by entering this command directly in your PowerShell terminal: python3 > food-directory-last-modified.txt

Hope you learned a few fun things about using Python scripts for automating basic systems administration tasks. There is, of course, a ton more to know, but we hope this got you started on the right foot. We've shared a few additional resources to continue learning below.

Additional resources


Can Python be used for automation? ›

Python is often used in workplaces to automate and schedule the sending/receiving of emails and texts. Python packages – email, smtplib, are used for sending emails using just Python. You can turn a time-consuming task into an automated/scheduled task.

How to do automation of the script in Python? ›

Use crontab and the task scheduler to automate your scripts and save time. Running a Python script could be as easy as opening your IDE or text editor and clicking the run button; however, if the script has to be executed daily or weekly, you don't want to waste time repeating these steps over and over again.

Can you use Python for scripting? ›

Introduction. Python is an advanced scripting language that is being used successfully to glue together large software components. It spans multiple platforms, middleware products, and application domains. Python is an object-oriented language with high-level data structures, dynamic typing, and dynamic binding.

Which scripting language is best for automation? ›

Let's take a look at the top five languages:
  1. Python. Python is an open-source programming language popularly supporting automation testing. ...
  2. JavaScript. JavaScript focuses strongly on test automation and performs well when it comes to rebranding client-side expectations through front-end development. ...
  3. C# ...
  4. Ruby. ...
  5. Java.
Nov 8, 2022

Which automation tool is best for Python? ›

Get Started: Install Test Automation Tools With This Ready-To-Use Python Environment
  • pytest.
  • robot.
  • selenium.
  • selenium-firefox.
  • selenium-helpers.
  • setuptools 51.2.
Aug 5, 2022

How do I automatically run a Python script everyday? ›

Double-click on the Task Scheduler, and then choose the option to 'Create Basic Task…' Type a name for your task (you can also type a description if needed), and then press Next. For instance, let's name the task as: Run Hello World. Choose to start the task 'Daily' since we wish to run the Python script daily at 6am.

How do I run a Python script every 5 minutes? ›

With the help of the Schedule module, we can make a python script that will be executed in every given particular time interval. with this function schedule. every(5). function will call every 5 minutes.

How do I create an automation script? ›

  1. In the Automation Scripts application, select the type of launch point that you want to create.
  2. Select whether to add a script or specify an existing script. ...
  3. Create the launch point if you are using one, and then associate variables and bindings with the launch point.

Is Python scripting same as Python programming? ›

Yes, Python is scripting, general-purpose, high-level, and interpreted programming language. It also provides the object-oriented programming approach.

How hard is Python scripting? ›

Python is widely considered among the easiest programming languages for beginners to learn. If you're interested in learning a programming language, Python is a good place to start. It's also one of the most widely used.

Is Python scripting different from programming? ›

Generally, all the scripting languages are considered programming languages. The main difference between both is scripting languages don't require any compilation and are directly interpreted. The compiled codes execute faster than the interpreted codes as they are changed in to a native machine program.

What is the hardest scripting language to learn? ›

The applications such as Google Chromium and a few Microsoft applications are developed using C++. It is one of the hardest programming languages because it has a complex syntax to support versatility. And it is best learned by those who have an understanding of C programming.

What is the hardest scripting language? ›

Haskell. The language is named after a mathematician and is usually described to be one of the hardest programming languages to learn. It is a completely functional language built on lambda calculus.

Is Python powerful scripting language? ›

Python is undoubtedly considered a top programming language at the same level as JavaScript or C++, and it's one of the most used languages by businesses and enterprises. Even though it's almost 30 years old, Python is still relevant, given its ease of use, its vibrant community, and many applications.

Is Python automation difficult? ›

Python is easy to learn.

A QA engineer has to focus on software testing services, and learning new things shouldn't become an obstacle. The simple syntax makes Python the best programming language to learn from scratch. Besides, you can find a bunch of useful materials on the web.

Is Python automation difficult to learn? ›

Python is easy to learn, which makes it the number one reason to use it for automation. Whether you're a beginner or have done programming in other languages, you can grasp Python super fast since it has a really simple syntax. Minimalism is another thing that contributes to ease of learning and use.

What do professionals use Python for? ›

Python has become a staple in data science, allowing data analysts and other professionals to use the language to conduct complex statistical calculations, create data visualizations, build machine learning algorithms, manipulate and analyze data, and complete other data-related tasks.

Is Java or Python better for automation? ›

Given the choice between Java and Python as a programming language for Selenium automated testing, Python is unquestionably the superior choice. Selenium is a comprehensive and powerful programming framework. Regardless of the technology, it is used to automate web application testing.

Should I learn Python for automation? ›

Python is relatively easy to read and understand when compared to other programming languages. This makes it ideal for automation as automation engineers need to focus on other complex tasks and trying to understand a complicated programming language would be an obstacle.

Is Python enough for automation testing? ›

Python is one such programming language for automated software testing, which is easy to learn and use. It makes automated software testing easier, even for testers that have just started their journey in software testing.

Is Python useful in automation testing? ›

Python is one of testing teams' favorite programming languages. It has multiple features that make it suitable for automated testing. For example, you can benefit from Python's dynamic typing but also make use of checkers like Pyre for static typing. Python is easy to learn and can also be used for complex problems.

How long does it take to learn Python for automation? ›

Read on for tips on how to maximize your learning. In general, it takes around two to six months to learn the fundamentals of Python. But you can learn enough to write your first short program in a matter of minutes. Developing mastery of Python's vast array of libraries can take months or years.

What jobs can you automate with Python? ›

If you're looking for ways to automate tasks with Python, be sure to read the article above for some ideas.
  • Automate social media posts. ...
  • Automate email marketing campaigns. ...
  • Automate website tasks. ...
  • Automate tasks on eCommerce sites. ...
  • Generate reports with data analysis tools like pandas and numpy.
Mar 10, 2022

WHAT IS IT automation with Python salary? ›

How much does a Python Automation Engineer make? As of Jan 20, 2023, the average annual pay for a Python Automation Engineer in the United States is $98,999 a year. Just in case you need a simple salary calculator, that works out to be approximately $47.60 an hour.

Is Python still relevant 2022? ›

Python ranked first among Stack Overflow's “most wanted” languages for 2021. It is the third most popular technology, according to the same developers' survey. As of May 2022, it is no. 1 in the TIOBE Index.

Which is better Python or Selenium? ›

According to the StackShare community, Python has a broader approval, being mentioned in 2830 company stacks & 3641 developers stacks; compared to Selenium, which is listed in 777 company stacks and 443 developer stacks.

Why do people prefer Selenium with Python? ›

Selenium can easily send standard commands of python to various browsers irrespective of all variation in the design of the browser. Python being a scripted language, there is no worrying about running a compiler for converting code from lines of the code to anything that can be implemented and utilized.

Which is better Selenium with Java or Python? ›

The execution speed of Selenium with Java is faster. Comparatively, Java has an extensive presence in commercial applications, and this feature makes it easy to integrate Selenium tests. Most importantly, Java is a boon while handling errors in coding.

Can I use Python for Selenium? ›

Selenium is an open source automation testing tool that supports a number of scripting languages like Python, C#, Java, Perl, Ruby, JavaScript, etc.

Is Selenium with Python good for Career? ›

Selenium sets you on the right track to enhance your career and boost your knowledge. Moreover, as companies are increasingly making use of web applications and test automation, and the market trends are steadily shooting up with extensive demand with Selenium. Start your career in selenium and lets get started.

How much Python knowledge is required for automation testing? ›

You need to know all the basic level of programming concepts in Python as Selenium is pretty easy to use as well as Python is pretty easy to learn. You do not need to master Python, just basic programming skills are required as I already mentioned this point, if you are industrious.


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