Naturally, in the mind of a beginner, a question arises: should I learn Python or Java? What’s better – a fast-grower or a stable winner? In this comprehensive Python vs. Java comparison, we will try to help you make your decision based on arguments and facts, rather than simply going with your gut.
Table of Contents
The syntax advantages of Python over Java
The first difference between Java and Python that most people notice lies in the number of code lines used for the same thing. Python is much more compact, which also makes it a lot easier to read. While you may think you will always be able to read your own code just fine, it’s a different story with collaborations, teamwork, and open-source projects.
Chances are, you’re already aware of the ‘Hello World’ exercise. It’s a very basic program with only one functionality: to print out the phrase ‘Hello World’. Any coding language can do this without the need for complicated code. Therefore, teachers often recommended it as the first thing to try when learning a new language. In the Python vs. Java case, it also helps to illustrate the difference in the complexity of syntax between these two languages.
public class Main
public static void main (String args)
print "Hello World" # Python < 3.0
print("Hello World") # Python ≥ 3.0
As you can see, Python resembles plain English at first glance. This makes it easier not only to read but to interpret as well, as it’s not necessary to know a ton of technical terms beforehand. This is also one of the reasons why Python is a common recommendation for a beginner’s first coding language. It is also where a lot of schools start the programming curriculum (some are even using Raspberry Pi computers for this in primary classes).
One more thing that makes Python easier to read is mandatory indentations. While a lot of programming languages ignore whitespace, Python actually uses it for nesting. Unlike Java, it also doesn’t require wrapping blocks in curly braces to define them and using semicolons to end statements. Each new line represents a new statement. Python also has a very clear and well-written style guide called PEP 8, which can be extremely helpful for anyone who’s unsure how to format their code.
Static and dynamic typing explained
Comparing Python vs. Java, we must also mention that Java is a statically typed language, and Python is typed dynamically. What does that mean? Let’s find out.
Aside from Java, good examples of statically typed languages could be C and C++. Basically, this means every name of a variable has to be declared (bound to a certain type). As you assign an object to such a variable, it must match the said type as well. Try assigning an object of a different type, and you’ll have a type exception.
At first, a dynamically typed language might seem easier to use, as there are less harsh rules you need to follow. Some actually believe this allows a coder to be from five to ten times more productive than when using Java. However, when we compare Python vs. Java, the former has a few rather significant disadvantages as well. The flexible nature of Python makes it harder to track and fix issues, plus, it slows down the performance somewhat. Java might make you sweat a bit more, but as you finish your code, you are less likely to encounter problems with its execution.
The compilation–interpretation pickle
Two more groups the programming languages can be divided into are compiled and interpreted. These terms refer not to languages themselves but to their implementations: technically, any language can be compiled or interpreted with certain programs. However, it’s common for most or all implementations of one language to fall into the same category. With Java, it’s rather simple: it is compiled in two steps. First, the Java compiler turns the source code into bytecode. Then, the Java virtual machine turns that into machine-readable instructions and executes them.
As for Python, things get a bit more complicated. There are a lot of tutorials that will tell you it is an interpreted programming language. Is it? Yes and no. Just like in Java, the code is first compiled to bytecode… And then the confusion begins.
The most common Python implementation called CPython doesn’t require you to use a compiler: all you need to do is to run the file with a .py extension. Not only there is no explicit step of compilation, but you also have interactivity, which allows you to type statements for immediate execution. The PyPy implementation, however, uses a just-in-time compiler. According to performance tests, this gives a much faster execution.
Choosing Java or Python for a particular project
If you have a very clear field of interest, the best way to choose between Python vs. Java is by the type of projects you’re going to be writing. While they’re both general-purpose languages, the distinctions between them can definitely help you choose one or the other.
The majority of projects Python is used for today have something to do with web development: you can create simple and complex applications using web frameworks, such as Django, Flask, and others. You can create desktop applications with it as well, however, Python is not an option for mobile development.
Python is also great for working with information, be it a task as simple as scraping data, or analyzing it for scientific purposes. This language is also a very popular choice for machine learning algorithms. A great example of a Python-using system could be Netflix. It can recommend you what to watch next based on the shows you liked before. The fun doesn’t end with comedies either: you can use Python for game development as well.
With Java, you can write applications for desktop and online use as well. However, this language is a far better choice for mobile development. Statistics show almost more than eight out of every ten smartphones in the world use Android software, which is completely Java-based. Java is also widely used for financial and scientific applications, such as natural language processing.
Choosing between Python vs. Java will be even easier if you wish to create embedded technologies. The WORA (Write Once, Run Anywhere) principle of Java is perfect for running the code on external hardware. A simple example of such technology could be Java cards: most of us own more than one without ever thinking about it, as they are used in SIM and ATM cards.
Python vs. Java: time for conclusions
We hope this comprehensive Python vs. Java comparison helped you collect your thoughts on which language to choose. The decision is tough. Both of these programming languages are popular for a reason, and both will be immensely useful when looking for a job as a developer.
However, we do have one piece of advice. If you decide to learn both, you don’t have to worry about making the right choice AND you’re a higher-sought developer with a ton of skill soon! BitDegree’s courses on Python and Java can truly become great first steps to something big. Talk about a win-win situation!