Java and Python are versatile programming languages used for thousands of projects – so, which one should you learn for your projects?
Below, I’ll look at what Python and Java are, what they’re best at, and who’s using them – so that you can decide for yourself.
What is Python?
Python is a general-purpose programming language that can be used for everything from scripting to building full-blown web and desktop applications.
It’s designed to be easy to read, easy to learn, and easy to write. It’s been in development since 1991, the current version being Python 3, which is under active development.
Python bills itself as ‘batteries included’ – many libraries for common tasks are included, reducing the amount of code you have to write to get a project up and running.
Because of its focus on simplicity and the useful included libraries, Python has become one of the most popular programming languages for both those looking to learn and experienced developers looking to focus on the problem they are solving rather than re-inventing the wheel.
What is Python Good For?
Python is excellent for beginners due to its clear syntax and focus on readability. This makes it easy to figure out what your code (or someone else’s) is doing at a glance – making it easy to learn and understand.
It’s really good for just about any scenario where performance isn’t an issue. Python is an interpreted language rather than a compiled language. Compiled languages are converted to machine code which is tailored to run directly on your computer’s hardware – making it super fast. Python isn’t compiled, so there’s a bit of extra time for the code you’ve written to be interpreted into a language your computer can understand.
Practically, performance probably won’t be a big hurdle – modern computers are well equipped for running interpreted languages, and Python is popular in a lot of fields where performance does matter, so unless you’re looking to tailor your code to run on specific hardware, it’s probably not going to be a problem.
Who Uses Python?
Python is popular with beginners, data scientists, web and app developers and can even be used for scripting and building desktop applications.
What is Java?
Java is a programming language developed by Sun Microsystems, which first appeared in 1995. Java is still under active development and is well supported.
Like Python, Java is also a general-purpose programming language, which was written with a focus on portability and being object-oriented.
Java’s focus on portability and flexibility has made it long-lived. It can run on just about everything because it’s run inside a virtual machine – you can write code on one platform, compile it, and it’ll run on any other platform with a compatible Java Virtual Machine (JVM) with little to no modification.
As Java is a compiled language, it’s also fast (or as fast as the JVM on the platform it’s running on). Due to the portable nature of apps written in Java, it’s popular with those developing or maintaining networked client/server-based applications.
What is Java Good For?
Again, like Python, as Java is a general-purpose programming language, it’s good for just about anything.
Many popular applications are written in Java. LibreOffice is the most popular open-source office software suite and is written in Java. So is the world’s best-selling game Minecraft.
One thing you’ll notice about both OpenOffice and Minecraft is that they are available on just about every platform and architecture around – Windows, Mac, Linux, Mobile – that’s because of the highly portable nature of Java. Write your app, then run it on any platform that supports the Java virtual machine.
Who Uses Java?
Java is still frequently taught as the primary language in University Computer Science courses and is popular with professional organizations looking to build large networked applications where stability and performance are a factor. Many legacy commercial codebases are written in Java, so it is a sought-after skill in some sectors.
Which Should I Use – Java or Python?
Comparing programming languages is always difficult. It’s both a personal and practical choice.
If your friends are all using one language and can help you learn, it makes sense to pick that language.
Python is immensely popular with beginners due to its simplicity, so there are many online resources to help you get started.
Java is frequently used in professional settings, so there are thorough tutorials and courses available to help you get you comfortable with the slightly more complex syntax and structure.
In 2022, Python is continuing to increase in popularity as the language used for building and sharing code and tutorials online, whereas Java remains mainly the domain of larger institutions that require more stability and legacy support. If you’re looking to enter an industry that uses pre-existing software written in Java, it makes sense to focus your efforts on getting to know it.