Both Python and Perl are mature, open-source, general-purpose, high level, and interpreted programming languages. But the usage statistics posted on various websites depict that Python is currently more popular than Perl. Hence, a software developer can enhance his career prospects by switching from Perl to Python.
A beginner can further learn and use Python programming language without putting extra time and effort. However, you must not switch to a new programming language just because of its popularity and usage. You must keep in mind the major differences between the two programming languages while deciding about migrating from Perl to Python.
12 Points You Must Keep in Mind while Switching from Perl to Python
1) Design Goal
Perl was originally designed as a scripting language to simplify report processing capabilities. Hence, it comes with built-in text processing capability. On the other hand, Python was designed initially as a hobby programming language. But it was designed with features to help programmers build applications with concise, readable and reusable code. The two programming languages still differ in the category of features and performance.
2) Syntax Rules
The syntax rules of both Python and Perl are influenced by several other programming languages. For instance, Perl borrows features from several programming languages including C, shell script, sed, AWK, and Lisp. Likewise, Python implements functional programming features like Lisp. But Python is hugely popular among modern programming languages due to its simple syntax rules. In addition to being easy to use, the syntax rules of Python further enable programmers to except many concepts with less and readable code.
3) Family of Languages
Perl belongs to a family of high-level programming languages that includes Perl 5 and Perl 6. The versions 5 and 6 of Perl are compatible with each other. A developer can easily migrate from Perl 5 to Perl 6 without putting extra time and effort. The programmers have the option to choose from two distinct versions of Python – Python 2 and Python 2. But the two versions of Python are not compatible with each other. Hence, a programmer has to choose from two distinct versions of the programming language.
4) Ways to Achieve Same Results
Python enables programmers to express concepts without writing longer lines of code. But it requires programmers to accomplish tasks or achieve results in a specific and single way. ON the other hand, Perl enables programmers to accomplish a single task or achieve the same results in several ways. Hence, many programmers find Perl to be more flexible than Python. But the multiple ways to achieve the same result often make the code written in Perl messy and application difficult to maintain.
5) Web Scripting Language
Perl was originally designed as a UNIX scripting language. Many developers use Perl as a scripting language to avail of its built-in text processing capabilities. However, many web developers complain that Perl is slower than another widely used scripting language. Python is also used widely by programmers for web application development. But it lacks built-in web development capabilities. Hence, developers have to avail various frameworks and tools to write web applications in Python efficiently and rapidly.
6) Web Application Frameworks
Most developers nowadays avail of the tools and features provided by various frameworks to build web applications efficiently and rapidly. Perl web programmers have the option to choose from an array of frameworks including Catalyst, Dancer, Mojolicious, Poet, Interchange, Jifty, and Gantry. Likewise, web developers also have the option to use several Python web frameworks including Django, Flask, Pyramid, Bottle, and cherrypy. However, the number of Python web frameworks is much higher than the number of Perl web frameworks.
As mentioned earlier, both Python and Perl are general-purpose programming languages. Hence, each programming language is used for developing a variety of software applications. Perl is used widely for graphic and network programming, system administration, and development of finance and biometric applications. But Python comes with a robust standard library simplifies web application development, scientific computing, big data solution development, and artificial intelligence tasks. Hence, developers prefer using Python for the development of advanced and mission-critical software applications.
8) Performance and Speed
Several studies have shown than Python is slower than other programming languages like Java and C++. Hence, developers frequently explore ways to enhance the execution speed of Python code. Some developers even replace default Python runtime with their custom runtime to make the Python applications run faster. Many programmers even find Perl to be faster than Python. Many web developers use Perl as a scripting language to make web applications faster and deliver enhanced user experience.
9) Structured Data Analysis
At present, big data is one of the hottest trends in software development. Many enterprises nowadays build custom applications for collecting, storing, and analyzing the huge amounts of structured and unstructured data. The PDL provided by Perl enables developers to analyze big data. The built-in text processing capability of Perl further simplifies and speeds up the analysis of the huge amount of structured data. But Python is used widely by programmers for data analysis. The developers further take advantage of robust Python libraries like Numpy to process and analyze huge volumes of data in a faster and more efficient way.
10) JVM Interoperability
At present, Java is one of the programming languages that are used widely for the development of desktop, web, and mobile applications. In comparison to Perl, Python interoperates with Java Virtual Machine (JVM) seamlessly and efficiently. Hence, the developers have the option to write Python code than runs smoothly on JVM, while taking advantage of robust Java APIs and objects. The interoperability helps programmers to build an application by targeting the popular Java platform while writing code in Python instead of Java.
11) Advanced Object-Oriented Programming
Both Perl and Python are object-oriented programming languages. But Python implements an advanced object-oriented programming language in a better way than Perl. While writing code in Perl, programmers still need to use packages instead of classes. Python programmers can write high quality and modular code by using classes and objects. Many developers find it difficult to keep the code simple and readable while writing object-oriented code in Perl. But Perl makes it easier for programmers to accomplish a variety of tasks simply by using one-liners on the command line.
12) Text Processing Capability
Unlike Python, Perl was designed with built-in text processing capabilities. Hence, many programmers prefer using Perl for report generation. Perl further makes it easier for programmers to perform regex and string comparison operations like matching, replacement, and substitution. It further does not require developers to write additional code to perform exception handling and me/O operations. Hence, many programmers prefer Perl to Python while building applications that need to process textual data or generate reports.
On the whole, a large number of modern software developers prefer Python to Perl. But there are several programming languages – Java, C, C++, and C# – which are currently more popular than both Perl and Python. Also, Python, like other technologies, has its shortcomings. For instance, you will be required to use Python frameworks while writing applications in the programming language. Hence, you must keep in mind the pros and cons of both programming languages before migrating from Perl to Python.