What Are the Advantages of Python Over Ruby?

by HSG on Apr 03, 2014 in Articles from Software Fans

Python and Ruby, each with roots going back into the 1990s, are two of the most popular interpreted programming languages today. Ruby is most widely known as the language in which the ubiquitous Ruby on Rails web application framework is written, but it also has legions of fans that use it for things that have nothing to do with the web. Python is a big hit in the numerical and scientific computing communities at the present time, rapidly displacing such longtime stalwarts as R when it comes to these applications. It too, however, is also put to a myriad of other uses, and the two languages probably vie for the title when it comes to how flexible their users find them.

A Matter of Personality...


That isn't to say that there aren't some major, immediately noticeable, differences between the two programming tongues. Ruby is famous for its flexibility and eagerness to please; it is seen by many as a cleaned-up continuation of Perl's "Do What I Mean" philosophy, whereby the interpreter does its best to figure out the meaning of evening non-canonical syntactic constructs. In fact, the language's creator, Yukihiro Matsumoto, chose his brainchild's name in homage to that earlier language's gemstone-inspired moniker.

Python, on the other hand, takes a very different tact. In a famous Python Enhancement Proposal called "The Zen of Python," longtime Pythonista Tim Peters declared it to be preferable that there should only be a single obvious way to do anything. Python enthusiasts and programmers, then, generally prize unanimity of style over syntactic flexibility compared to those who choose Ruby, and this shows in the code they create. Even Python's whitespace-sensitive parsing has a feel of lending clarity through syntactical enforcement that is very much at odds with the much fuzzier style of typical Ruby code.

For example, Python's much-admired list comprehension feature serves as the most obvious way to build up certain kinds of lists according to initial conditions:

a = [x**3 for x in range(10,20)]
b = [y for y in a if y % 2 == 0]

first builds up a list of the cubes of all of the numbers between 10 and 19 (yes, 19), assigning the result to 'a'. A second list of those elements in 'a' which are even is then stored in 'b'. One natural way to do this in Ruby is probably:

a = (10..19).map {|x| x ** 3}
b = a.select {|y| y.even?}

but there are a number of obvious alternatives, such as:

a = (10..19).collect do |x|
x ** 3
end

b = a.find_all do |y|
y % 2 == 0
end

It tends to be a little easier to come up with equally viable, but syntactically distinct, solutions in Ruby compared to Python, even for relatively simple tasks like the above. That is not to say that Ruby is a messy language, either; it is merely that it is somewhat freer and more forgiving than Python is, and many consider Python's relative purity in this regard a real advantage when it comes to writing clear, easily understandable code.

And Somewhat One of Performance


Python also tends to perform better than Ruby in most real-world applications. Both are very dynamic languages, but Ruby tends more toward preserving that dynamism even in the face of negative performance implications. Python has also benefited more from intense, performance-focused tweaking of its various interpreters, although Ruby has caught up in this regard somewhat in recent years. Both languages have a lot to recommend them, however.

 

Related:

How Can Business Analysts Use Python?

How to check if a directory exists in Python

How does Google use Python?

What Are The 10 Most Famous Software Programs Written in Python?

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