R vs Python: Comparing Two Leading Programming Titans


December 7, 2022


December 21st, 2022

The world of Data Science is incomplete without its set of programming languages, Python and R being the two most popular and talked of, among them all. Both, R and Python have been in the limelight of the future, through modern-day technologies like AI, ML, data analytics, data science, etc.

When we look at R vs Python, we see that Python is a general-purpose language with a readable syntax. It is flexible in data analysis tasks and has a more general approach to data science. Whereas R is created by statisticians, focuses on statistical parts of a project, and performs statistical analysis.

There has been a constant comparison between R vs Python, based on their characteristics, pros, cons, integrations, user groups, and organizations using them. Before we go into the details of understanding the difference between Python and R, let us get introduced to them individually.

What Is R Programming?

R is a language and environment for statistical computing and graphics. It is a GNU project which is similar to the S language and environment.

Released in 1995, R was created by Ross Ihaka and Robert Gentleman, two statisticians in New Zealand. Their objective was to come up with a language that offers a user-friendly experience for data analytics and graphical modeling. Soon, R became one of the fastest-growing statistical languages in the IT world.

It is a free, extensible, and interpreted language in which there is no requirement of executing it via a compile prior to the code run. It offers an enriched and robust suite of tools for graphing, data modeling, data reporting, and statistical modeling. As we compare Python vs R for data analysis, R has been gaining traction rapidly.

R is an implementation of S – the language that was developed in the 1970s. Developers usually write and edit the R code through RStudio – the Integrated Development Environment (IDE) for coding. This simplifies reporting, visualization, and statistical analysis.

There is huge community support through user-focused documentation and mailing lists. There is a big repository called CRAN (Comprehensive R Archive Network) for curated R packages that make it simple to avail the latest functionalities.

Being a statistical and command line language, R offers a lot of statistical methods and a huge variety of libraries for coming up with static graphs, interactive and dynamic graphs. There are 10000+ packages that are supported by R.

R comes with a wide variety of statistical methods like linear and non-linear modeling, clustering, statistical tests, etc. It can easily represent mathematical formulas and notations. It works well on UNIX, Windows, and macOS.

R has been a favorite for data scientists and researchers for data cleaning and preparation, building visualizations, and creating ML and deep learning algorithms.

What Is Python?

Python is a programming language that lets you work quickly and integrate systems more effectively.

Released in 1991 by Guido van Rossum, Python has been a popular general-purpose programming language that focused on increased productivity, simplicity, and code readability. It was meant for developers who wished to apply statistical methods for data analysis and has been ranked amongst the top programming languages.
Python is a free, flexible, interpreted language that has a standardized library for simplistic programming of common activities without the need for the installation of extra libraries. There are multiple robust and sophisticated coding libraries in Python especially for data science – NumPy, Pandas, TensorFlow, Keras, PyTorch, and StatsModels to name a few.

Python has packages like PyPi that consist of multiple libraries that can be utilized for many purposes and great community support. When we compare R vs Python for data science, Python has been exponentially increasing in popularity with effective data science applications floating around.

As a multi-paradigm language, it is leveraged in web application development, system automation/scripting, software development, data science, and data analysis, executing efficiently on multiple platforms.

It offers a simple, less confusing syntax that has similarities to English Grammar which helps in increasing code efficacy. Its intuitive syntax mimics natural language and hence it is adored by developers and has a small learning curve.

It offers features such as object-oriented and high-level programming, inbuilt data structures, dynamic typing, and late binding that binds variables and methods during runtime. There is Jupyter Notebook – an open-source web application for sharing documents that contain equations, live code, and visualizations, making the data science descriptions better.

Good Read: Python Developer: Roles & Responsibilities, Skills & Proficiency

R vs Python – Pros and Cons

Pros of R:
  • A comfortable set of algorithms for machine learning, data science, and data analysis
  • Easy checking of statistical hypothesis
  • Inbuilt language functions for data analysis
  • Easy installation of RStudio (IDE) and other major packages
  • Data structures, operators, parameters with recursion, loops, arrays, matrices
  • Used for linear modeling, time series analysis, clustering, etc.
  • Effective package repository (GitHub, CRAN, etc.) and readily accessible tests
  • Multiple quality packages for clear data visualization
  • A wide spectrum of active community users
  • Users can contribute by optimizing the source code
  • Platform independent, workable on all OS – Windows, Mac, UNIX, etc.
  • Competence to convert a tricky code into a structured one
  • Visually appealing graphs with formulas and notations
Cons of R:
  • Being highly specialized, it is not easily applicable to other traditional fields
  • Code written by others is not always readable and understandable
  • More memory consumption since everything gets stored in physical memory
  • Complicated language and hence tough for novices
Pros of Python:
  • Easy sharing of IPython Notebook lessening code organization overhead
  • Simple, intuitive, and easy to grasp for data scientists, statisticians, programmers
  • Inbuilt testing framework for enhanced testing coverage
  • Dependable, multi-purpose, and reusable code
  • Well-structured, versatile, and flexible to use making data analytics easy
  • Object-oriented with great integration and control competencies
  • Active supporting groups with contributions for library enhancement
  • Multiple libraries are needed for the execution of multiple data science functions
  • Simple creation of a data processing pipeline facilitating easy access to language
  • Effective interactivity is needed for testing purposes during data science applications
  • Enhanced performance and syntax with every new update available
  • Faster evolution and rate of changes with better updates and releases
  • Supports packages like Pandas, SciPy, Scikit-learn, TensorFlow, Caret, etc.
Cons of Python:
  • Too many visualizations to choose from and that too not very attractive
  • Does not have many alternatives to R libraries making statistical analysis tough
  • The simultaneous flow of multiple functions is tough due to the Global Interpreter Lock
  • High consumption of RAM and hence slower execution

Python vs R: Companies Using Them

Companies That Use Python:

Google, IBM, Facebook, Spotify, NASA, Instagram, Dropbox, Pixar, Quora, Netflix, Industrial Light and Magic, Intel, JP Morgan Chase, The North Face, Yahoo Groups, Shopzilla, etc.

Companies That Use R:

Uber, Facebook, Google, Airbnb, Bank of America, Twitter, HP, Ford, Microsoft, ANZ, IBM, Novartis, Roche, BCG, The New York Times, Mckinsey, Accenture, Capgemini, etc.

R Language vs Python: Key Alternatives

R Alternatives:

Ruby, Python, MATLAB, Python, Java, Golang, Julia, SAS, Rust, Mathematica, Scilab, SciPy, Numpy, etc.

Python Alternatives:

PHP, Ruby, NodeJS, Rust, Golang, Java, Kotlin, Elixir, Scala, C#, R, Lua, Perl, Haskell, Nim, Clojure, etc.

R vs Python: The Similarities

As we compare Python and R, we see that there are certain attributes that are present in both. Here are the similarities that can be observed in R and Python:

  • Free to download and use
  • Open-source programming languages with a huge community support
  • Favored languages in Data Science, Data Analysis, Machine Learning, etc.
  • Continual addition of new libraries and tools
  • Wide range of libraries and packages
  • Can manage huge sizes of database


R vs Python: An Interesting Evaluation

Though both look similar and have a lot in common, there are interesting characteristics that are observed in both that separate their usage criteria and help us analyze the difference between R and Python.

Parameters R Python
Overview A statistical language for analysis and visual representation of data, with powerful libraries. Used when data analysis needs standalone computation. A general-purpose language for the deployment and development of projects. Used when data analysis needs to be integrated with web applications.
Inspired By S programming language Modula-3, ABC, and C languages
Suitable For Ideal for data exploration, statistical processing, specialized analysis, representation Ideal for deep learning, machine learning, embedded systems, large-scale web apps
Utilization For modeling, simulation, complex data analysis in data science, visualization, music production, etc. Streamlined approach for data science, scientific computing, games, user interfaces, scripting, client-side AJAX apps, etc.
Key Objective Data analysis, graphical models, and user-friendly statistics Deployment and production with code readability and productivity
User Base Research teams, scientists, etc. Developers, programmers, etc.
Learning Curve Easy to learn in the start but develops complexities as you go ahead, tough for novices Linear and smooth learning curve because of its readability and simplicity, easy for novices
Libraries and Packages Hosts packages like caret, dplyr, tidyr, zoo, ggplot2, stringr, R-forge, randomForest etc. Has lesser libraries than Python. Hosts packages and libraries like pandas, SciPy, NumPy, Scikit-learn, Matplotlib, seaborn, statsmodels etc.
Applied When Majorly applied when analysis needs independent computing and independent servers Majorly applied when data must be integrated with a web app or statistics to be used in production
Development Can be used to develop simple web apps, REST APIs, ML models, statistical summaries, data visualization, etc. Can be used to develop apps from the beginning like desktop/mobile/web apps, web servers, etc.
Data Collection Can import data from Excel, CSV, and text files Supports CSV, JSON, SQL tables, and data from online datasets
Syntax Relatively difficult syntax and hence tough to learn Simple and easy syntax and hence preferred by developers
IDE RStudio, StatET, RKward, R Commander etc. Jupyter Notebook, Spyder, Atom, Eclipse+PyDev, etc.
Code R code demands more maintenance Python code is robust and easy to maintain
Programming Style Supports procedural programming for a few functions and object-oriented programming for others Supports multiple programming styles like object-oriented, functional, aspect-oriented, structural
Data Exploration Optimized for statistical analysis of huge datasets Optimized for exploration of data with Pandas
Data Modeling Supports Tidyverse, easy to manage Supports NumPy, SciPy, scikit-learn, etc.
Repository Comprehensive R Archive Network (CRAN) contributed by the users PyPi, Python’s software repository and package index accompanied with libraries

Python Or R: When to Use What?

Python is recommended for –

  • Management of massive amounts of data
  • Creating deep learning models
  • Working on non-statistical activities
  • Beginners because of its easy-to-understand syntax
  • Industry, engineering workflows, and research
  • Machine learning and large-scale applications

R is recommended for –

  • Creation of graphics and data visualizations
  • Wide range of statistical functions
  • Designing statistical models and statistical learning
  • Academics, scientists, engineers
  • Data exploration and experimentation
  • Standalone computing and analysis on individual servers
Python vs R – The Final Say

Whenever you must choose the better out of the best, it is a tough call. The same is the case while comparing R vs Python. Both have their own popularity quotient and fan base across the globe, as one of the best programming languages. Both possess multiple features that can be of great advantage to businesses.

Yes, when we compare Python and R, they do have their own share of typicality in terms of the execution of work as mentioned above. Hence, the final call is in the hands of the organization on which one to choose – Python or R.

It depends upon major parameters like key objectives of your projects – be it statistical analysis or deployment, organizational skills in the selected technology, project timelines, number of resources readily available, etc. Evaluating these parameters helps us choose between Python vs R.

There are differences between Python and R. But, on a general note, based on the above-detailed study, you will see system developers, software engineers, web developers, and system admins choose Python and scientists, data engineers, academicians, and researchers choose R.

Finally, both, R and Python, are par excellence and carved a niche for themselves in the industry. Based on the applications and use cases, businesses must choose either, depending upon the need, functionality, and objectives. Be it R language vs Python, either way, you are at a winning point!


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