[Tutor] Difference between Perl and Python

Steve Willoughby steve at alchemy.com
Sun Nov 4 23:11:03 CET 2007

Varsha Purohit wrote:
> Hello everyone,
>        I wanted to know what are the differences between perl and
> python, since both of them are scripting languages...

There is plenty of difference between them and between all the other 
scripting languages.  Look beyond the notion of "scripting" and look at 
the programming language and the paradigm it supports.

Personally, I don't see Python as much of a scripting language in the 
sense that Perl is, where Perl is the "king of the quick hack"... 
powerful, easy to throw together a script to get a job done in a hurry. 
  Not so easy (but undeniably possible) to keep a disciplined, careful 
approach to writing a sizable application which will be maintained over 

Python, on the other hand, feels more to me like a solid, disciplined 
object-oriented (dare I say "real") programming language which happens 
to be high-level, dynamic and compiled to bytecode at runtime (much as 
Java is).  It takes a little more work to make a program in Python than 
Perl, but the code tends to be more solid and easier to maintain.

Those are gross generalizations, and depend on programmer skill, but the 
languages approach programming from such different angles, and encourage 
such different mindsets that it's worth considering as a difference.

Each language has separate strengths.  Python is less ambiguous about 
what expressions mean (Perl tries hard to "guess" at an appropriate way 
to interpret almost anything to do *something* while Python rejects 
things that are not clear and explicit as to your intent).  Python is 
*far* stronger at OOP support than Perl.  Perl has more convenient 
short-cuts for many things, but I've found the completeness of the 
Python standard lib and the flexibility of the methods and functions 
inside it to ultimately give me more power even if I can't do it in 
three characters.

The list could go on and on, but it really comes down to what you want 
to accomplish.  I'd use Perl for a lot of "scripting" kinds of needs, 
one-off scripts, simple data reformatting, process automation, but would 
prefer Python for creating more complex applications.  Likewise, TCL and 
Ruby have their own particular domains they do well within.

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