Perl vs Python: What’s the Difference?

perlvspythonPerl and Python are both scripting languages. Although they can be used for similar purposes, the philosophies behind the two languages are very different. Whereas Python almost forces coders to adhere to certain coding conventions, there are said to be as many different ways to solve a problem in Perl as there are Perl programmers. So if you are just starting out with learning a scripting language, should you choose Perl or Python? To answer that question, let’s look a little closer at the key differences between these two languages.

Need a quick introduction to Perl or Python? You can begin your journey with Perl online, or take a Python for beginners course that starts from scratch. Even if you have no previous programming experience, you can get started quickly in either language.

Clarity vs Flexibility

The most obvious thing that strikes experienced programmers the first time they use Python is that the way you lay out your program matters enormously. Indenting blocks of code to make loops and functions clearly visible is good practice in all programming languages, but a Python program simply won’t work if you haven’t used the correct indentation. Perl takes a more traditional approach, using braces to enclose the body of a function or loop, so you are free to lay out your code however you like.

Some programmers feel frustrated at being made to lay out their Python code in a particular way in order to make it work, but if you are learning to code for the first time, you will be thankful later that you were forced to lay your code out clearly. Perl allows you to get away with many bad habits, not only in terms of program layout but also by using inefficient or confusing programming practices. Whether you use Perl or Python, you can develop good programming habits by taking a course in flowcharting and pseudocode to help you structure your programs more logically and clearly.

Usability vs Power

Rather than re-inventing the wheel every time you want to solve a programming problem, you can borrow publicly available code that has already been developed and simply import it into your program. Because Perl has been around for much longer than Python, there are a great many more modules available for you to use. Perl is therefore extremely powerful and versatile.

On the other hand, Python may be a better choice for the novice programmer who wants to accomplish simple tasks. Python commands and keywords are intuitively related to their functions, which makes the language easy to learn. Once you learn the basics of Python, you can quickly progress to writing programs that are useful or fun. For example, this free Python game development course can teach you how to build simple games using the Python programming language.

Perl vs Python Summary

Here are a few key points to bear in mind when deciding whether to use Perl or Python.

  • Python code is easy to use for beginners due to its intuitive design.
  • Python is unlike other programming languages in that it uses indentation to identify blocks of code.
  • Perl is a much older language with a wider range of modules available.
What factors are important to you in deciding whether to use Perl or Python? Share your decision process in the comments below!