Many projects require the use of the Python scripting language. Python comes in a few major versions - 2.7, 3.5, and 3.6. Python 3.X is not entirely backwards compatible with 2.7, and there are issues between the point releases (eg. 3.5 to 3.6). Some software is still not compatible with any version of Python 3, so we need to make provision for a range of releases. In addition there are a wide range of scientific Python modules which users may require, and installing them all as needed is inconvenient.
To address these issues we point users at the Anaconda Python distribution, which provides self-contained versions of all major Python releases (2.7, 3.5, 3.6) and a range of pre-installed science packages. The Anaconda distributions are available for macOS, Windows, and Linux, simplifying cross-platform development.
The Anaconda distributions need to be installed in your home directory. For convenience the installer for the Miniconda version of Anaconda is available under
/opt/miniconda/ and can be run by typing
Miniconda3 defaults to using Python 3 but can equally well create Python 2.7 environments if needed.
The final step of the Anaconda install will ask about prepending their Python to your PATH variable so it replaces the system Python. Do not enable this - there are various potential issues which it's best to avoid. Instead use the miniconda3 module which will accomplish the same thing in a more controlled manner.
For further information on using Anaconda, and how to configure various Python environments, you should Read The Fine Manual.