It’s either a blessing or a curse when choosing to learn Python or C++ because there couldn’t be two more opposing languages to compare.
On the one side, we have Python, a high-level, multiparadigm, general-purpose language most known for its strength and security, and on the other, C++, a high-level, object-oriented, general-purpose language, which is popular for its fast, lightweight capabilities.
Python supports procedural, object-oriented, and functional programming and is often described as “batteries included” because of its comprehensive standard library. It was designed by Netherland-based Guido van Rossum in 1991 and embodies the Zen of Python philosophy, which effectively states a programming language should be straightforward, readable, and easy to use.
Alternatively, C++, originally an extension of C, was developed by Danish computer scientist Bjarne Stroustrup in 1985 and was created with the idea that a language should mold to the programmer, not the other way around. Being a high-level language with low-level control emphasizes the creator’s wish for users to code in a way that feels natural to them.
And to further highlight the differences between these two languages, Python is dynamically typed and interpreted, while C++ is statically typed and compiled.
So how do you choose between these clashing languages? Let’s start by breaking down which language is best for beginners, then focus on salary, performance, different applications, and which one is best for you!
Python vs C++ Which Is Best for Beginners?
Deciding between Python and C++ as a beginner language is one of the few times there’s a clear, definite answer, and I believe it’s best told by each language’s own ethos.
In the Zen of Python , there are 20 guiding principles, but here are the three that I believe sum up Python’s core fundamentals nicely:
- Beautiful is better than ugly.
- Readability counts.
- There should be one – and preferably only one – obvious way to do it.
C++’s philosophy, on the other hand, looks a bit different. Where Python values aesthetics and simplicity, C++ upholds a code of flexibility, believing that:
- Every programmer should be able to pick their own coding style.
- User-created types should have just as much support as built-in types.
- Every feature should be implementable.
The tones set by these values show the inherent differences between the two languages and highlight Python’s edge as a beginner’s language.
Python personifies simplicity, readability, and straightforwardness. The idea that there should only be one way of doing something makes it easier for beginners to engage with the language and learn efficient coding habits. This also makes it easier for you to pick up the language and write fewer errors.
C++, however, wants a language to accommodate the programmer.
Its multiparadigm support and ability to code the same task in multiple ways make the language completely malleable. As a beginner, this flimsy structure is confusing and hard to grasp and risks you learning inefficient C++ coding habits.
Ease of use isn’t the only beginner quality a language needs though. It also needs versatility and resources. Python and C++ are definitely versatile, since they’re both general-purpose languages and used across multiple fields, but they’re also chock-full of resources from being in the industry for 30 years or more.
However, Python comes with the nickname “batteries included” for a reason. The amount of support Python’s standard library comes with is staggering, giving it a slight edge on C++ when it comes to resources.
Overall, Python comes recommended as a beginner language because it’s readable and supportive, while C++ comes recommended as an intermediate language and for those who already understand the basics of computer science.
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Python vs C++ Salary
As far as salary goes, you can’t go wrong with either language.
Both Python and C++ sit at the higher end of the spectrum, with developers earning $120k a year . However, salary isn’t the only work-life aspect to consider.
According to the same survey, C++ ranks in the top 10 of the most dreaded programming languages by developers, while Python sits in the top of three of the most loved languages and number one for most wanted.
Overall, Python seems to have a more desirable repertoire amongst developers and earns just as much as C++. It’s important to note though that these languages are not interchangeable, so you need to consider the job you want to do as well.
Python vs C++ Performance
There’s no point in skirting around the fact that Python is not a fast language, and C++ was quite literally built with a need for speed (cliché intended). But seriously, C++, and C languages in general, are some of the fastest programming languages available.
You can see here in this sample where Python and C++ are challenged to generate all the possible DNA K-mers. Python was able to generate 67 million 13-mers in 61.23 seconds, but C++ generated them in a mere 2.42 seconds, making it 25 times faster in this case.
The same results are seen here in this popular benchmark test , where out of all 10 challenges C++ beat Python every time, often by a significant amount.
Why is it so much slower? Well, for one, Python has a garbage collector. Garbage collectors are amazing for memory management, but it’s a death sentence for performance time. Python’s also interpreted, which takes longer than C++’s compilation, and it’s dynamically typed, meaning a higher chance for errors at runtime.
However, I don’t believe performance is synonymous with speed, and where C++ is faster, Python handles bigger loads.
Python’s robust structure may weigh down speed, but it allows it to handle big data and huge programs with ease. Its performance advantage lies in its strength and security, whereas C++’s lies in flexibility and speed.
You see this in their applications as well, where Python is typically used for handling CPU-intensive programs and C++ is used more for graphic-heavy software.
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Python vs C++: Which Is Best for Building Web Servers
Web servers are computer software and hardware that store websites component files and accept and respond to HTTP or HTTPS requests. They’re like the brain behind websites, and their seamless operation is critical to the web.
And this happens to be where a lot (but not all) of Python’s popularity stems from as a server-side scripting language. It’s important to note that scripting and programming are not the same. Programming is writing full-fledged compiled code, while scripting generally means the code runs inside other programs, which makes the coding process easier and faster.
Python itself is a very secure language, which is perfect for building servers housing and processing data, and it’s structured to handle fast prototyping and writing servers effectively.
Even though you can build web servers from scratch with Python’s standard library alone, it has loads of frameworks and libraries that help support these functions, like Django and Flask.
Python’s readability comes in handy here since its intuitive syntax and “one way to do something” motto means all the programmers working on the project will mesh together seamlessly and interact with the code the same way.
There’s also the fact that Python is a popular choice for this type of work, and the community is invested in advancing the language’s server-side capabilities.
C++ is capable of building web servers, incredibly fast ones at that, but C++ is less secure and more complex to work with than Python. It’s also easier to make mistakes in C++, especially with multi-person teams since it encourages programmers to code in their own style.
However, it still has powerful tools like the Techempower and Drogon web frameworks for building web servers.
All in all, speed is not as much a priority when designing web servers as security is, and to build with C++ you need to be incredibly confident with the language. Plus, if you want to work in this field learning Python is an automatic way into the industry.
Python vs C++: Which Is Best for Machine Learning & Data Analysis
Based on my previous descriptions of Python, it should come as no surprise that it fits naturally into machine learning and data analysis.
Being a strong, secure language also means being built to handle data. Its simple syntax and strong typing give it consistency in a largely experimental field, and its fast coding and prototyping allow you to quickly develop and implement new projects.
Python’s also perfect for flexible integrations since it can integrate with systems coded in a different language.
Along with possessing a natural knack for ML work, Python has lots of extra resources in the field. NumPy, SciPy, scikit-learn, TensorFlow, Apache Spark, and MatPlotLib are just a few of the tools that help with Deep Learning, AI, data analysis, data visualization – the whole enchilada.
C++ holds its own in the industry though, offering superb run time and fast, reliable feedback, processing machine learning algorithms more quickly than Python.
It also has a wide range of support and resources with libraries like TensorFlow, Caffe, and the Microsoft Cognitive Toolkit.
What holds C++ back in the field is the language’s complexity. A lot of professionals working with machine learning or data science may not be programmers but need a language to manipulate the data. Python is much easier for say academics or traditional engineers to pick up quickly and use efficiently than C++, which requires a deeper understanding of computer science.
However, there are often hybrid systems that use both Python and C++.
All in all, C++ is best when the structure is already in place after the experimenting portion of the project is finished since the language is a bit flimsy, while Python brings well-rounded support the whole way through.
Python vs C++: Which Is Better for Game Development
As a programmer in game development, your job is essentially to create the glue that holds the game together.
You’ll write the code that powers every feature and system and design the pipelines that allow other developers, like animators, to integrate their content into the game. Needless to say, power and speed are vital and are requirements C++ has fulfilled for years, supporting three-dimensional and two-dimensional video game development.
C# and C++ are actually key languages in the field and are used by leading game engines like Unreal and Unity, as well as others.
Perfecting graphics-heavy programs, C++ allows you to override certain important performance bottlenecks, like memory allocation, offers various performance-enhancing optimizations, and compiles directly into machine code.
As a high-level language with low-level features, like memory management, it’s ideal for building these detail-specific games.
C++ was used to create big-name games like Assassins Creed, The Witcher, and Elder Scrolls, impressive open-world games that require significant detail and a unique level of power for their world-building graphics.
Like I mentioned above, C++ can help boost Python machine learning projects, Python scripts are often threaded through C++ codes, but it can also be used for game development by itself.
Partnered with tools like Pygame, its most popular set of game development modules (which are partly written in C), PyKyra framework, and Pyglet, Python’s been used to craft games like Battlefield 2 and Pirates of the Caribbean.
Python’s real value in the field, however, comes from prototyping. Designing prototypes quickly means getting to the end-stage that much faster. It’s too heavy of a language though to produce the speed needed for large games that C++ can provide.
The Final Verdict: Which Language Should You Learn?
Now that we know about the pros and cons of each language, which one should you learn?
Python is the perfect all-around language. From computer scientist professionals and aspiring programmers to those working outside the industry, Python offers stability and support, whether it’s for back-end development or machine learning.
Alternatively, C++ is an exemplary intermediate language. Its powerful and flexible nature is an excellent tool for optimizing your programs. It’s also one of the leading programming languages for game development and a must for anyone looking to work in the field.
Regardless of what I say, the most important aspect is you learn a language that suits your goals. No matter which you choose, both languages will provide a high salary, careers in a lucrative industry, and the chance to work in an innovative field.