July 14, 2023
5 min
Alberto Ureña

Understanding the behind-the-scenes of Python Notebooks and their evolution

A detailed overview of how Python notebooks work, their benefits and drawbacks, and future advancements, particularly in creating interactive data applications via platforms like MINEO.


Python notebooks have become an indispensable tool for data scientists, researchers, and programmers alike. With their interactive and intuitive nature, notebooks offer an efficient way to combine code, documentation, and visualizations in a single, easily shareable document. In this blog post, we will take a deep dive into the behind-the-scenes workings of Python notebooks, explore the challenges they present, and discuss the future of this powerful tool.

How Python Notebooks Work

Python notebooks are built on a client-server architecture, where the client is a web browser and the server runs the notebook environment. The server manages the execution of code cells and maintains the notebook state, while the client provides the user interface for editing and interacting with the notebook.

However, it's worth noting that there are alternative approaches where notebooks can run directly in the browser without relying on a server. One such method is by using Pyodide, a project that enables running Python in the browser using WebAssembly.

In most notebooks the server is called “kernel. The term "kernel" is often used to refer to this server-like component due to its fundamental role in the notebook ecosystem, much like the kernel of an operating system that provides essential services to software applications. In the context of Python notebooks, the IPython kernel is widely used, offering various enhancements beyond the standard Python interpreter, such as code autocompletion and rich output display. It's worth noting that different programming languages and notebook platforms may have their own dedicated kernels tailored to their specific requirements.

How iPython Works. Image taken from https://ipython.org/ipython-doc/3/development/how_ipython_works.html
How iPython Works.
Image taken from https://ipython.org/ipython-doc/3/development/how_ipython_works.html

Each notebook is composed of cells, which can contain code, text, equations, or visualizations. When a code cell is executed, the code is sent to the kernel for execution, and the output, if any, is displayed below the cell. The kernel maintains the state of the notebook, allowing variables defined in one cell to be accessed in subsequent cells.

Python notebooks primarily run on IPython, an interactive shell for Python programming. IPython enhances the standard Python interactive shell by providing additional features such as tab-completion, command history recall, object introspection, and history logging. These features make IPython a preferred choice among developers, data scientists, and researchers. IPython notebooks have evolved into Jupyter notebooks, expanding on IPython's capabilities by combining code execution, visualizations, and markdown explanations within a single interactive document. Jupyter notebooks have gained widespread popularity as a versatile tool for data analysis, exploration, and collaboration, allowing users to create and share executable code along with compelling data narratives.

Use cases

Python notebooks provide an interactive computational environment where code, visualizations, and documentation can coexist seamlessly.

Unlike a simple script that typically follows a linear execution flow, notebooks allow for non-linear exploration, enabling users to execute code cells individually and modify them iteratively. This iterative workflow is particularly beneficial when performing data analysis, prototyping algorithms, or documenting research workflows. With the ability to execute and visualize code in real-time, Python notebooks facilitate rapid experimentation and provide an excellent platform for data exploration and visualization. 

Additionally, notebooks offer the advantage of including markdown cells, allowing for the integration of rich documentation, explanations, and visualizations alongside the code. This combination of code, documentation, and visualizations within a single interactive interface makes Python notebooks a powerful tool for both learning and professional use cases, promoting collaboration, reproducibility, and presenting a comprehensive narrative around the code and its results.

Challenges of Python Notebooks

While Python notebooks offer numerous benefits, they also present certain challenges that users should be aware of. One challenge is the potential for non-linear and non-sequential execution. Since notebooks allow cells to be executed in any order, it can lead to confusion and errors if the cells rely on specific dependencies or assumptions. It is crucial to execute cells in the correct sequence to ensure the desired results.

Another challenge is the lack of strong encapsulation. In traditional programming, variables and functions defined in one code block are not accessible outside of it. However, in notebooks, variables defined in one cell can be accessed and modified in other cells, leading to potential side effects and unexpected behavior. It is essential to be mindful of variable scoping and take extra care when working with shared variables.

Finally the last main problem of Notebooks is the sharing and execution of notebooks among a large number of users who may not have access to your kernel. In addition, security is a concern as notebooks have the capability to execute code, making them susceptible to both malicious code on the front-end and code injection attempts by notebook users. It is important to address these challenges to ensure the safe sharing and execution of notebooks while maintaining the integrity and security of the underlying system.

The Future

Looking into the future, we anticipate a growing trend of building data applications on top of Python notebooks. These data apps leverage the interactivity and flexibility of notebooks while providing a more user-friendly and streamlined experience for non-technical stakeholders. Data apps can take the form of interactive dashboards, data pipelines, or even collaborative data science platforms.

In this evolving landscape, MINEO emerges as a leading platform for building and deploying these data apps. With MINEO, you can leverage your existing Python notebooks and transform them into interactive and scalable data pipelines or deploy them as visually appealing dashboards. Our platform offers a user-friendly interface, empowering you to build, customize, and share your data apps with ease.

MINEO provides a range of features and functionalities that enable you to enhance your Python notebooks. You can integrate interactive widgets, incorporate rich visualizations, and seamlessly connect to various data sources. The platform also offers collaborative features, allowing teams to work together on data apps and share insights in real-time.


Python notebooks have revolutionized the way we work with code, enabling a seamless integration of code, documentation, and visualizations. By understanding the behind-the-scenes workings of notebooks, we can overcome the challenges they present and fully leverage their power. With ongoing advancements and innovations in the field, the future of Python notebooks looks bright, promising a more collaborative and versatile environment for data scientists, researchers, and programmers.

At MINEO, we enhance Python notebooks for data professionals, aiming to streamline workflows and unlock their full potential. We develop tools to transform notebooks into powerful data pipelines and interactive dashboards, bridging the gap between exploration and production systems. Our solutions enable seamless conversion of notebook code into scalable pipelines, automating tasks and handling large datasets efficiently. We also focus on transforming notebooks into visually appealing dashboards, allowing stakeholders to explore data and gain insights without coding knowledge. Our mission is to empower data professionals and deliver innovative solutions that maximize the impact of Python notebooks in data-driven workflows.

Together, let's revolutionize the way we work with Python notebooks and unleash the true power of data analysis and visualization.

Happy coding!


  • Jupyter Project. (n.d.). Jupyter Notebook. Retrieved from https://jupyter.org/
  • Kluyver, T., Ragan-Kelley, B., Pérez, F., Granger, B., Bussonnier, M., Frederic, J., Kelley, K., Hamrick, J., Grout, J., Corlay, S., Ivanov, P., Avila, D., Abdalla, S., Willing, C., & Jupyter Development Team. (2016). Jupyter Notebooks – a publishing format for reproducible computational workflows. In IOS Press BV (Ed.), Positioning and Power in Academic Publishing: Players, Agents and Agendas (Vol. 31, pp. 87–90). Amsterdam, Netherlands: IOS Press BV.

Further reading

By clicking “Accept All Cookies”, you agree to the storing of cookies on your device to enhance site navigation, analyze site usage, and assist in our marketing efforts. View our Privacy Policy and our Cookies Policy for more information.