C# vs Python: Summary of Differences and Similarities
In short, C# is statically typed, can do more, is faster, but takes more time to learn and type. Python is dynamically typed, garbage collected, and easy to learn and type. Both languages are object oriented and general purpose.
C# (‘C-Sharp’) and Python are both object-oriented, high-level, and easy languages to learn and code. They offer fast development and good performance and are both highly relevant languages in most fields.
So if you only plan on picking one, which is better: C# vs Python? We’re going to break down both languages and compare them to see why they are relevant and when each should be used.
Python was released in 1991 by Guido van Rossum. Python was to serve as a successor to the ABC language and is a general-purpose, object oriented programming language. It was developed by an individual and is completely open-source and has been for a while. Python code was also designed for readability, with increased whitespace and an object-oriented approach.
Python also doesn’t have a compile step. It’s an interpreted language, so its debugger is built in; with bad code or input causing the interpreter to raise an exception, print a stack trace, and feed a source-level debugger. This makes Python a very good choice for quick testing and debugging. Python is also a dynamically typed language, as well as a scripting language.
Benefits of Python
Python comes with some outstanding features. It’s easy to program in Python, and the language’s readability is high. It’s open-sourced (even for commercial projects) under the GPL license. It has many perks, including a rich standard library and garbage collection. And Python can easily integrate with many other languages and platforms using third-party modules from the Python Package Index (PyPI).
C#, pronounced ‘C-sharp’ (like the musical note), is also a very powerful language. It was developed by Microsoft as a modern alternative to C and C++. Because of that, C# is structurally similar to those languages, while gaining updated features and a more gentle learning curve. C# is a high-level, structured, object-oriented, static language (that is, it’s statically typed). It can be compiled on different platforms.
A program coded in C# has a similar basic structure to C++: You get a namespace declaration, a class definition for variables and methods, and then a main method.
Benefits of C#
C# is a robust language that also retains simplicity. It’s a structured language that features fast compilation and can be compiled on many different PC platforms. Like Python, it has a rich standard library and automatic garbage collection. It also prevents unsafe casts so the code is type-safe.
Another big plus is that C# integrates with the powerful .Net Framework.
Comparing C# vs Python
For comparing these two languages it will be helpful to break down our analysis into a few categories: speed, readability, performance, application, and cost. Let’s take a look.
C# vs Python: Speed
When we talk about speed, here, we mean your speed, not the program’s speed (we’ll get to that in performance). To start, Python was designed to be coded. That might sound odd (as all languages are meant to be coded), but Python really takes the programmer into account. Python has a lot of whitespace and easy readability.
It also has a much simpler syntax than C#. For example, printing out your name in C# takes around ten lines of code. The same task can be accomplished in two with Python. Also, Python doesn’t require you to end every line with a semicolon as C languages do.
The differences are mostly small things, but they are a huge help when writing code.
On the flipside, C# is familiar. If you know Java or any other C language then learning C# is only a step to the left. While Python operates on many similar structural principles—Like being object-oriented and a high-level language—the syntax is a lot different than C# or other C languages. If you’re not familiar with Python, its syntax might slow you down as you learn it.
Another thing to note is that Python is dynamically typed, while C# is static. This means that when you call a variable in Python, it generally doesn’t matter what it is, the Python will figure it out at runtime. It could be a float, a string, or an integer; they will all print as what they are when the program is run.
For C# all the types must be known before runtime. If you try to use a float like a string, C# will get mad at you. The variables must be converted to work. This means extra time ensuring that all of your (type) ducks are in order which, in turn, means more time spent programming.
Python is also quicker when it comes to running your code. Since Python doesn’t have a compile step, it runs immediately–unlike C#, which does have a compile step. While compile steps aren’t always long, it can significantly increase the amount of time needed for testing and debugging: you’ll have to wait for a compile step every time you try to run the code, even when you are just making small changes.
C# vs Python: Readability
I mentioned before that Python is readable (maybe more than once), but there’s a good reason why. C# uses what many languages use to delineate its blocks of code: nested curly braces and brackets. While this kind of code can be made readable, it doesn’t have to be. The interpreter doesn’t require any indentations. So you could end up with lines and lines of brackets and braces; like a painfully unreadable coding hellscape.
Python, on the other hand, has whitespace built into its DNA. It uses whitespace to delineate blocks of code. This means that instead of a grassy field of curly braces, you either code with neat indents or your code just won’t run. So, while both languages can make for neat, readable, code, Python basically forces it. Whether Python is more attractive without the curly brace fringe is up to the reader, but many prefer it over C#.
Python vs C#: Performance
When it comes to performance there is a clear distinction between C# and Python. C# is a compiled language and Python is an interpreted one. Python’s speed depends heavily on its interpreter; with the main ones being CPython and PyPy. Regardless, C# is much faster in most cases.
For some applications, it can be up to 44 times faster than Python. This is for a number of reasons—from Python’s garbage collector to its dictionary lookups. It’s also partly due to C# being a compiled language: it takes a bit more work to write but runs more efficiently because of it.
C# vs Python: Application
C# and Python are both general-purpose languages. They can be used for anything from game development to machine learning. But that doesn’t make them equal on all fronts. Machine learning might be the best example of how they differ.
Python is machine learning royalty. Python has an enormous number of software choices for a machine learning programmer: Numpy, SciPy, TensorFlow, PyTorch, Apache Spark, Keras, and more. Because of this gold standing in machine learning, Python also has a wealth of videos, tutorials, and tried and true examples of function.
When it comes to machine learning in C#, you get ML.NET, and some older libraries like Accord.Net, and bindings for TensorFlow. Microsoft’s Cognitive Toolkit (CNTK) has support for both C# and Python, but it’s Python API is much more polished. There just isn’t a lot available for C# programmers when it comes to this field. Popularity has its perks, and being a more popular language for machine learning brings Python more support for that field.
As I mentioned before, Python is fully open-source. It sits under the GPL license and it’s available to everyone to use and contribute too. In the same vein, most of its accouterments are also open-source; from packages to IDEs.
C# is also (mostly) open-source, but this is a fairly new development. Microsoft has been making C#’s source available little by little to the public. However, this doesn’t mean everything C# touches is open-source or free like Python. For example, the official IDE for C languages is Visual Studio, which has a free version for individuals and small companies but isn’t open-source. While there are open source alternative IDEs for C#, the average workflow for C# developers will be using Visual Studio. In this sense, C# can be more expensive than Python, even if you could potentially use it for free.
C# vs Python: Conclusion
C# has a more clear and organized structure. Like an OOP language, there are no inconsistencies in the formatting rules or syntax. Because of this, C# is just a bit slower to learn and to code. C# can also do almost anything that Python is able to do, and C# is much faster at runtime partly because of all the extra effort you put into it.
Python is easy to learn (certainly easier to learn than C#) and easy to write. Python is so good at getting you into coding with good practices, that it’s usually recommended as the first language you learn (and it doesn’t have the phalanx of curly braces as we see in C#). Python also has extensive standard libraries and is easier to use for machine learning.
In the end, both C# and Python are excellent languages, and picking one over the other isn’t picking wrong. Both languages are free, they both have mature tooling, active communities, and a number of frameworks and libraries. They both have extensive applications in many programming fields. They both have their own strengths and weaknesses when it comes to user input, programming speed, and runtime performance. And best of all? They both look good on a resume.