Python vs. C++: A Comprehensive Comparison

The debate between Python and C++ has been hot in the programming world for as long as anyone can remember.

Both languages have valuable use cases. When it comes to choosing between them, one must be aware of the syntax, usage and overall programming approach of each language.

There are many factors that will weigh on the Python vs. C++ debate. In this article, I will discuss both languages and highlight the key differences between Python and C++ that should make it easy for you to pick the right language for your project.

Table of Contents

You can skip to a specific section of this blog post using the table of contents below:

What is C++?

C++ is a general-purpose programming language that has its origin in C language. It is widely applied in the development of large, complex systems. C++ is known to be the most portable among programming languages because it allows you to include both high-level and low-level language features. Unlike Python, the code for C++ is specific to the operating system that it runs on.

C++ was created by Bjarne Stroustrup as an extension to C language. It was an object-oriented form of C - also known as C with classes. Over time, C++ language has expanded. It was standardized by ISO and five revisions to this policy been published so far. The next revision is in progress.

The two main components of C++ are a direct mapping of hardware features provided primarily by the C subset, and zero-overhead abstractions based on those mappings. C++ supports four types of memory management, including static storage duration objects, thread storage duration objects, automatic storage duration objects, and dynamic storage duration objects. C++ introduced the object-oriented programming (OOP) features to C.

What is Python?

Python was created in 1991 by Guido van Rossum. It is a general-purpose programming language that his known for its ease of readability. Since inception, Python was designed to be simple to use. In fact, it is mostly known for the simplicity of its code, which makes it easier to work with. Python uses much more whitespace than most other programming languages.

Like C++, Python is an object-oriented programming language. It supports multiple programming paradigms including functional, imperative, object-oriented, structured, and reflective.

The idea for Python came up in the 1980s as a successor to the ABC language. Python is an interpreted language, which means that it is not converted to machine-readable at runtime. The syntax for Python is simpler than C++ and most other contemporary programming languages.

An Example of the Syntax for a Simple Program

C++:

#include
#include
using namespace std;
int main() {
string name;
cin >> name;
cout << "Welcome " << name << endl;
return 0;
}

Python:

name = input()
print("Welcome " + name)

Both the above programs have the same output. Therefore, if you enter the name ‘John’ on the prompt when the program is run, the output will be:

Welcome John

Features of C++

  • C++ is a simple object-oriented language that is quite easy to understand.
  • The development of a program in C++ requires a robust and secure environment.
  • Code needs to be portable and must follow a predefined architecture.
  • It is a multi-paradigm language that supports generic, imperative and object-oriented programming.
  • It offers excellent performance and memory efficiency.
  • The code can be reused and is also compatible with C.
  • It has high-level abstraction.

Features of Python

  • Python is simple and easy to read and understand.
  • It is not platform-specific and can run on various hardware platforms.
  • Low-level modules can be included in the Python interpreter.
  • It supports interactive testing and debugging.
  • Python can be integrated with Java, C, and C++.
  • It offers high-level dynamic data types and supports dynamic type-checking.

Where is C++ Used?

  • Being closer to the hardware, C++ is used to develop all kinds of embedded systems like medical machines, IoT sensors, smartwatches, multimedia systems in automobiles, etc.
  • C++ allows the development of servers and high-performance microcontroller programs.
  • C++ is the key language in the development of games. It is used to create powerful games like CounterStrike, Doom, and Red Dead Redemption.

Where is Python Used?

  • Python is used extensively in machine learning. Therefore, it has significant applications in insurance, retail, banking, and aerospace. Machine learning is very useful in generating insights and making predictions.
  • Python is used as the main programming language by most data analysts. It is very useful in handling huge amounts of data in the most cost-effective way.
  • Python is very helpful in backend web development. Django is one platform that allows the use of Python in web development. Although raw python can be used to develop a website too, that is rare.

Key Differences

There are a number of key differences between Python and C++.

First, C++ code needs complex syntax to work like curly brackets and semicolons. Python, in comparison, is simpler and depends mainly on the indentation of the code as each level of indentation creates a new structure. Many developers consider Python to be more readable than C++ because of htis.

Second, in C++, a semicolon marks the end of the statement. However, in Python, the end of the line is counted as the end of the statement. If a statement needs to continue for several lines, backslash (\) is used.

Third, boolean expressions are different in both languages. In C++, false or true is returned based on the value. For instance, 0 is false and other numeric values are true. In Python, there are other possibilities.

Fourth, variables in C++ are required to have a type like int or float since it is a statically typed language. Python, on the other hand, is dynamically typed and does not require a predefined data types. This provides useful flexibility but can also lead to problems from using variables in inappropriate contexts.

Another key area of difference is memory management. While in C++ memory management happens manually, Python does not have any such feature. In Python, memory management occurs automatically through a daemon known as a garbage collector.

Mapped data structures are also different in each language. A C++ map is contained that stores values indexed by a key. In Python, the same function is performed by a dictionary but is comparatively more flexible.

When it comes to performance, C++ is better than Python since C++ is compiled, and Python undergoes interpretation. Also, because the variable type is predefined in C++, it cannot cause an error during the runtime.

C++ is generally considered better for creating hard-core graphics and heavy games. However, Python is preferred for artificial intelligence features in games.

Factor Python C++
Garbage Collection Supports Garbage Collection Does not support Garbage Collection
Coding Easier to write code Not easy in contrast to Python due to complex syntax
Compilation Run through interpreter C++ is a pre-compiled
Rapid Prototyping Rapid Prototyping is possible due to the small size of the code Rapid Prototyping not possible due to larger code size
Installation Python is challenging to install on windows box No difficulty in installation
Scope of the Variables Variables are accessible even outside the loop Variables’ scope is limited to within the loops
Functions Functions do not have restrictions on the type of the argument and type of its return value The function can accept and return the type of value which is already defined
Efficiency Easier to maintain, object-oriented and simpler to use Less clean and manageable in comparison to python
Nature Dynamically typed language Statically typed language
Speed Python is slower C++ is faster than Python

{:.blueTable}

Integration of C++ and Python

Developers in Python often combine it with C++ modules with it to make up for the less robust features that Python has. Specifically, accelerator modules of C++ are used to fix the performance issues with Python.

The integration of Python and C++ leads to better performance with increased speed and simplicity. To be able to embed Python in C++, a C++ program has to be created, compiled and linked. Visual Studio is used for embedding.

Disadvantages of C++

  • There is no security for your code in C++.
  • C++ is used for platform-specific applications mostly and a different application needs to be developed for different platforms.
  • C++ is complex and difficult to debug when used for web applications.
  • C++ does not support garbage collection.
  • There is no built-in support for threads in C++.
  • C++ is not very portable in comparison with other high-level languages.

Disadvantages of Python

  • Python is used on relatively few platforms.
  • Being a dynamic language, it shows more errors when it is run.
  • It lacks commercial support.

Conclusion

The research into factors concerning Python vs C++ leads to the conclusion that Python is easier to learn for beginners. The code is easy to read and syntax is simple. Also, it is better for web development (especially on the backend).

Python is also more popular with those dealing with data analysis and machine learning. While C++ can be used for machine learning, it is not a good idea. Python has a great support system for artificial intelligence and machine learning frameworks.

C++ is the obvious choice when it comes to game development. Although Python can be used to develop simpler games, sophisticated games require C++. Performance-wise too, C++ is the clear winner since it is compiled language.

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Written on May 12th, 2020