Bash vs. Python: Which language should you use?

Bash vs. Python: Which language should you use?

Both programming languages have pros and cons that make them better for some tasks than others.

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Bash and Python are most automation engineers' favorite programming languages. Both have pros and cons, and sometimes it can be hard to choose which one you should use. The honest answer is: It depends on the task, the scope, the context, and the complexity of the task.

Let's compare these two languages to get a better understanding of where each one shines.

Bash

  • Is a Linux/Unix shell command language
  • Is great for writing shell scripts that use command line interface (CLI) utilities, utilizing output from one command to another (piping), and executing simple tasks (up to 100 lines of code)
  • Can utilize command-line commands and utilities as-is
  • Has better startup time than Python but poor execution time performance
  • Does not come preinstalled in Windows; your script might not be compatible with multiple operating systems, but Bash is the default shell on most Linux/Unix systems
  • Is not fully compatible with other shells (e.g., csh, zsh, fish)
  • Piping ("|") CLI utilities like sed, awk, grep, etc. can slow its performance
  • Lacks many functions, objects, data structures, and multi-threading, which limits its use for complex scripting/programming
  • Lacks good debugging tools and utilities

Python

  • Is an object-oriented programming (OOP) language, so it's more general purpose than Bash
  • Can be used for almost any task
  • Works on most major operating systems and is also installed by default on most Unix/Linux systems
  • Is very similar to writing pseudo code
  • Has simple, clear, easy-to-learn, and easy-to-read syntax
  • Has lots of libraries, documentation, and an active community
  • Provides better error handling features than Bash
  • Has better debugging tools and utilities than Bash, which makes it a great language for developing complex software applications involving many lines of code
  • Applications (or scripts) can contain many third-party dependencies that must be installed before executing them
  • Requires writing more lines of code for simple tasks than Bash does

I hope these lists give you a better understanding of which language to use and when to use it.

Which language do you use more in your day-to-day work, Bash or Python? Please share in the comments.

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About the author

Archit Modi - OpenStack enthusiast. Linux and Networking guy. Just trying to give my two cents in this billion-trillion dollar "Open Source" world.