Reading keyboard input


Many programs are interactive. Supporting interactivity means you have a program that runs differently depending on what the input is. The one inputting data to a program is usually a user, but it can be another program for example. There are many ways to send input to a program, two common ways are via a graphical interface or a console.

User input

For reading input from the keyboard, Python provides the input() function. input() reads what the user types on the keyboard and returns it as a string. Here is an example that combines input() and print() to capture a person's name and then display it on the screen:

name = input('Enter your name:')

The string passed as an argument to the input function is the prompt that the user will see. In this example, you are asking the user to type their name ('Enter your name'). Once the user types a name and presses Enter, the input function will return. The function's return value is the text that the user typed, and that text is assigned to the variable named name. The name variable is then used as an input or argument to the print function, which will output the name that the user entered.

You can also call the input function without a parameter:

print('What is your name?')
name = input()

This program will behave almost the same as the first one. The difference is that print (by default) adds a newline to the output.

Reading numbers as input

The input function always returns the typed value as a string (text). This choice makes sense because the user can enter whatever value they like. Even if the input is a valid number, it's still returned as a string type from the input function. For example:

x = input('Enter a number: ')

Running this code and entering the value '5' would display <class 'str'> even though the value itself is numeric. To turn the value into a true integer variable, you can use the int() function:

x = int(input('Enter a number: '))

This code will output <class 'int'> for the value '5'. You can use the float function in the same way if you expect a fractional component.


What if the input isn't numeric and you pass it to the int() function? As you might expect, this would be an error and cause a runtime failure. The program will end at this statement - you can try it yourself in the Python interactive console. We'll cover various solutions to handling these sorts of errors in future modules.

Converting numbers to strings

You can go the other direction as well. The str() method will take an integer or float value and turn it into a string. Calling the str() method is needed if you want the below code example to work. The conversion ensures the integer, in its string form, is concatenated to the string on the left.

x = 5
print('The number is ' + str(x))