Have you ever wondered what the difference between the Python and Java programming languages are? You’re not alone! We explain a few of the key differences below, and why we steer younger programmers (8-12) in the direction of Python whereas we tend to encourage older students (13-17) to get involved with Java.
“Python’s syntax is designed to be intuitive and its relative simplicity allows newbies to quickly start writing code for a variety of applications,” explains Kasia Mikoluk, an executive at Udemy, “While Java has a steeper learning curve, it is extremely useful for developing applications that will run on any platform.”
First, let’s look at the syntax (or arrangement of characters) of two identical commands that make the screen read out the text “Hello World” in each language:
public class HelloWorld
public static void main (String args)
As you can see, the Python code is much simpler. It uses what’s called “white space” (or indentation) to separate the code into blocks, whereas Java uses curly braces.
Python and Java handle the assigning of variables differently as well. “Java forces you to define the type of a variable when you first declare it and will not allow you to change the type later in the program. This is known as static typing. In contrast, Python uses dynamic typing, which allows you to change the type of a variable, by replacing an integer with a string…” (Mikoluk)
What does this mean? Well, common types of variables like int (short for integer) are treated differently by the computer than, say a sentence (String). In a great ThoughtCo article, Paul Leahy explains, “A good analogy for a variable is to think of a bucket. We can fill it to a certain level, we can replace what’s inside it, and sometimes we can add or take something away from it. When we declare a variable to use a data type it’s like putting a label on the bucket that says what it can be filled with. Let’s say the label for the bucket is “Sand”. Once the label is attached, we can only ever add or remove sand from the bucket. Anytime we try and put anything else into it, we will get stopped by the bucket police. In Java, you can think of the compiler [or program that interprets the code] as the bucket police. It ensures that programmers declare and use variables properly.”
With this being said, the two codes will look like this when assigning the number 7 to the “number” variable:
Declaring/initializing an integer variable in Python:
number = 7
Declaring/initializing an integer variable in Java:
int number = 7;
So if dynamic typing is easier, does that make it better? Well, while the Python language is based in English and easier to learn because of its simplified syntax, it’s more prone to undetected errors when it’s compiled. Java, which again uses static typing, is much less prone to these kinds of errors.
Probably the most important reason why Java is essential is that most computers and devices have the Java virtual machine (or a system that runs Java) built in, so it has become the universally accepted language for building apps on any platform. It’s especially popular and powerful. Once you know Java, you can program anything from Android apps to elevator systems. Minecraft is even programmed with Java! Python, on the other hand, has to have a device-specific compiler downloaded to that particular machine in order to run.
So those are the main differences between Python and Java. Leave a comment to add some insight, or leave a question and we’re happy to answer it!
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