Learning Python with Advent of Code Walkthroughs

Dazbo's Advent of Code solutions, written in Python

The Python Journey - Jupyter Notebooks

Jupyter Notebook

Useful Links

JupyterJupyter Project DocumentationJupyter Lab DocumentationInstalling JupyterNotebook Tips and TricksAnacondaSciPy Docker ComposeGoogle ColabAnaconda Cloud

Page Contents

What are Jupyter Notebooks?

Integrated Development Environments (IDEs) have been the go-to choice for developers seeking a dedicated space to write, test, and debug their code. However, as data science and machine learning began gaining traction, there was increasing need for a more interactive and data-centric environment. Enter Jupyter Notebooks: a web-based application that has redefined the way we interact with code and data, the way we document our code, and the way we share it.

Unlike traditional IDEs, Jupyter Notebooks allow for code, data, and multimedia to coexist in a shared space. With its cell-based structure, users can write and execute code in small chunks, making it easier to test ideas and see results in real-time. This attribute alone sets it apart from the linear approach of traditional coding environments, making Jupyter Notebooks a beloved tool among data scientists and analysts.

A Few Benefits of Notebooks

Here’s an example of a Notebook, with chapter structure, and with an introduction written in markdown:

Notebook Example

And here’s an example, where we’re dynamically generating an image with code, and showing it after the cell:

Markdown, Cells, and Graphical Output

Ideal Scenarios for Using Notebooks

Jupyter Notebook vs Jupyter Lab

Whilst Jupyter Notebooks are great, they lack some of the features that developers have come to expect from an IDE like Visual Studio. This gap in capability has led to the next generation of Jupyter notebook environment, called Jupyter Lab. It builds on the Jupyter notebook environment, but then adds a bunch of extra capabilities, like:

For example, here’s one of my AoC Jupyter Notebooks:

Jupyter Notebook

Here’s the same notebook, opened in the Jupyter Lab environment:

Jupyter Lab

Options for Running Jupyter Notebooks and Jupyter Lab

There are a few ways to run a Jupyter Notebook. I’ll go through a few of them here.

Local Installation

Install with Pip

The quickest and easiest way is to install the notebook package with pip:

py -m pip install notebook

Then you can launch the notebook like this:


Install with Anaconda

For a more sophisticated and complete experience, you can instead use Anaconda or Miniconda.

Anaconda is a fully-fledged data science environment. When you install Anaconda, you get:

Anaconda is pretty big, at over 3GB. Alternatively, you can install Miniconda, which is a cut-down minimal version of Anaconda.

Anaconda is the de facto standard for data science. It is highly customisable and configurable.

Run a Container!

This is my favourite approach.

You can download a pre-configured container image, such as the Jupyter Notebook Data Science Stack .


There are a bunch of so-called Jupyter stacks available as Docker images, and they’re all documented here.

For example:

Stack Includes (for example) Approx Size
jupyter/base-notebook Conda, mamba, notebook, jupyterlab 1.0GB
jupyter/minimal-notebook As with base-notebook, plus some command-line tools and utilities (like curl, git, nano) 1.6GB
jupyter/scipy-notebook As with minimal-notebook, plus a bunch of data science packages and tools (like bokeh, matplotlib, pandas, scikit-image, scikit-learn, scipy, and seaborn) 4.1GB
jupyter/tensorflow-notebook As with scipy-notebook, plus tensorflow  
jupyter/pyspark-notebook As with scipy-notebook, plus libraries for working with Hadoop and Apache Spark  
jupyter/datascience-notebook Combines everything from scipy-notebook, r-notebook and julia-notebook 4.2GB

Of course, to run a container, you do need to have Docker installed.

My favourite way to pull the image and run a container is using docker compose file. For example, here is my docker-compose-scipy-lab.yml.

version: '3.9'
      CHOWN_HOME: yes   # Next three env vars are needed to fix permission issues on WSL
    image: jupyter/scipy-notebook
    container_name: scipy-lab
      - .:/home/jovyan
      - 8888:8888

To run the above file:

docker compose -f .\docker-compose-scipy-lab.yml up

And it looks like this:

Running Docker Compose

In the Cloud!

You don’t even need to run Jupyter Notebooks locally! You can make use of a pre-configured cloud service. They are often free, unless you reach a point where you need more power, capacity or features.

A couple of options include:

Anaconda Notebooks in the Cloud

Anaconda Cloud

Google Collaboratory

Google Colab


There are others, like Azure Notebooks, and Google Vertex AI Workbench. But these are paid-for offerings, so I’m not going to get into them here.

Sharing with a Cloud Service

Note: you can always edit your notebooks locally, and then use a cloud-based Jupyter service for sharing your work with others, in a runnable format. For example, here’s how you might share notebooks with Google Colab: