Considering migrating to Python from Visual Basic 6 for engineering applications

Steven D'Aprano steve at
Thu Feb 18 20:06:47 EST 2016

On Fri, 19 Feb 2016 02:35 am, wrong.address.1 at wrote:

> I am almost eager to do this but want to be sure that I know the pitfalls
> in using Python for my purposes. Thanks for your encouraging response.

Honestly "wrong.address.1", the ONLY pitfall you need to be aware of is to
beware of trying to write VB code using Python's interpreter. Python has
it's own way of doing things, and if you insist on doing them "just like
VB" you will end up with horrible, slow, inefficient, unusable code. That's
not to say that VB is worse, or Python is worse, just that they are
different. You don't use a hammer the same was a screwdriver.

Python is a 20+ year old language used by millions of professionals all over
the world for everything from quick scripting, scientific computing, web
applications, long-running server applications, and everything in between.
The answer to every one of your questions "Can Python do X?" will be one

(1) Yes it can.

(2) No, but instead it will do Y which gives you the same result.

I'll be frank, to come here and ask a bunch of questions like:

"Is it necessary to read one character at a time...?"

is a little bit rude. I don't want to discourage you from asking questions,
but think about *how* you ask them. What you're doing is a little bit like
going to a car dealer, looking at the cars, then asking a bunch of

"So... does this car have a reverse gear or can it only go forward? Do the
doors open for entry, or do I have to squeeze through the windows? Can I
use the radio while driving, or is there only enough power for one at a

In most programming communities, if you start asking questions like that,
you can expect to be ignored or abused. Good thing we're a friendly
bunch :-)

Instead, a good question is:

"How do I read a bunch of numbers from a text file?"

I'll show you, not only how to read a bunch of numbers, but how to write
them first.

Of course there are a million different ways you can do this, and for
serious use you will probably want to use something like a CSV (Comma
Separated Values) file like Excel produces, but for a quick idea of how
Python works, let's write some numbers to a file, one per line. Comments
start with # and have no effect. Remember that indentation is meaningful:
you must use the same number of spaces as shown in my code.

Copy and paste this code into the Python interpreter:

# ===== cut =====

# Define some numbers.
numbers = [1, 45, 38, 99, 1002, 83025, 234, 55, 273, 2]
# Open a file for writing.
with open("myfile.txt", "w") as f:
    # Write each number to the file, one per line.
    for number in numbers:
        print("Writing %d to the file." % number)
        f.write(str(number) + "\n")

# ===== cut =====

And that's done. Five lines of code, ignoring comments. Now let's read them
back and see if they're the same:

# ===== cut =====

# Prepare a list to hold the numbers.
data = []
# Open a file for reading.
with open("myfile.txt", "r") as f:
    # Read each line.
    for line in f:
        value = line.strip()  # Get rid of trailing newline.
        print("Read %s from the file." % value)

# Confirm the numbers read in are the same as those written out.
if data != numbers:
    print("mismatch in values")

# Print the sorted values.

# ===== cut =====

Does this help?


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