How to Use Jupyter Notebooks

A Jupyter notebook is a document that can combine live programming code, text, images, and pretty displays of data all in the same place. This combination makes Jupyter notebooks clutch for exploring data as well as for learning and teaching.

A Jupyter notebook has a special .ipynb file extension and can only be opened if you have the application JupyterLab or Jupyter Notebook installed and running. However, one of the cool things about Jupyter Book, which powers this online textbook, is that you can open a Jupyter notebook in the cloud (via Binder or Google Colab) without any prior installation or configuration.

Some of Jupyter’s Nice Features

This document is a Jupyter notebook! Let’s quickly demonstrate some of the features that make Jupyter notebooks useful.

Display Data

We can display and explore data in a readable and aesthetically-pleasing way.

For example, here’s a snippet of a CSV file with some data about films and character dialogue, compiled by The Pudding. We’ll be working with this data in a later lesson.

import pandas as pd
movie_data = pd.read_csv('../data/Pudding/Pudding-Film-Dialogue-Clean.csv')
script_id character words gender age title release_year gross proportion_of_dialogue after_2000
23043 9254 Lumiere 1063 Man 56.0 Beauty and the Beast 1991-01-01 452.0 0.104636 False
23044 9254 Maurice 1107 Man 71.0 Beauty and the Beast 1991-01-01 452.0 0.108967 False
23045 9254 Monsieur D'Arqu 114 Man 58.0 Beauty and the Beast 1991-01-01 452.0 0.011222 False
23046 9254 Mrs. Potts 564 Woman 66.0 Beauty and the Beast 1991-01-01 452.0 0.055517 False
23047 9254 Wardrobe 121 Woman 54.0 Beauty and the Beast 1991-01-01 452.0 0.011911 False

Make Data Visualizations

We can create visualizations based on the above data in the very same document.

Here’s a plot of The Pudding films by year of their release.

movie_data.groupby('release_year')['title'].count().plot(title='Films By Year')
<matplotlib.axes._subplots.AxesSubplot at 0x1191aed50>

How to Launch JupyterLab

To open a Jupyter notebook file (.ipynb), you need to have a Jupyter application both installed and running. This is confusing for many beginners. If you have Jupyter installed, it seems like you should just be able to click a Jupyter notebook to open it, but you need to launch the application program Jupyter Notebook or JupyterLab first.

In this class, we’re using JupyterLab as our primary Jupyter application program. JupyterLab and Jupyter Notebook are very similar programs, but JupyterLab is newer and has a bigger and better user interface as well as other improved features.

Anaconda Navigator

There are two main ways you can launch JupyterLab. First, you can launch JupyterLab from Anaconda Navigator. You can find Anaconda Navigator in your Applications folder or by searching your computer.


Once Anaconda Navigator opens, you can launch JupyterLab by clicking “Launch” under the JupyterLab icon.

Command Line

Second, you can launch Jupyter lab from the command line — but only if it is added to your PATH.

%jupyter lab


JupyterLab will open from whatever location you launch from on the command line

Wait Why is JupyterLab Opening in My Web Browser?

JupyterLab opens in a web browser. But JupyterLab is not connected to the internet. It is simply running on a local server on your own personal computer.

How to Shut Down JupyterLab

To shut down JupyterLab, you can go to File -> Shut Down.

You can also shut down JupyterLab from the command line by pressing Control + C.

How to Make a New Jupyter Notebook

To make a new Jupyter notebook, select the Python 3 icon under “Notebook.”


How to Create and Run a Cell

  • You can create a new cell by clicking the plus + sign in the toolbar or by pressing Option + Return (Mac) / Alt Return (Windows)

  • You can run the cell by clicking the play button ▶️ on the toolbar above or by typing Shift + Return.

from IPython.display import IFrame
IFrame("../videos/create-and-run-cell.mp4", width='100%', height='400px')

Code vs Markdown Cells

Jupyter notebooks are made up of cells, which can either contain code or Markdown text. Markdown is a simple “language” that allows you to include formatting instructions directly in the text — bold, italics, headers, links, imgages, code, and more. Markdown is used all over the internet, including on Reddit and on GitHub.

Markdown Syntax

Markdown Results

To make text *italics*

To make text italics

To make text **bold***

To make text bold

To make text a [link](

To make text a link

 To make text `code`

To make text code

  • You can change the cell from “Code” to “Markdown” by clicking the drop down in the toolbar.

How to Save Your Notebook

If you want to save your notebook, press Command + S (Mac) / Windows Key + S (Windows).