I am an experienced Perl developer with some degree of experience and/or familiarity with other languages (working experience with C/C++, school experience with Java and Scheme, and passing familiarity with many others).

I might need to get some web work done in Python (most immediately, related to Google App Engine). As such, I’d like to ask SO overmind for good references on how to best learn Python for someone who’s coming from Perl background (e.g. the emphasis would be on differences between the two and how to translate perl idiomatics into Python idiomatics, as opposed to generic Python references). Something also centered on Web development is even better.
I’ll take anything – articles, tutorials, books, sample apps?


I’ve recently had to make a similar transition for work reasons, and it’s been pretty painful. For better or worse, Python has a very different philosophy and way of working than Perl, and getting used to that can be frustrating. The things I’ve found most useful have been

  • Spend a few hours going through all the basics. I found the official tutorial quite good, if a little dry.
  • A good reference book to look up basic stuff (“how do I get the length of a string again?”). The ones I’ve found most useful are the Python Pocket Reference and Python Essential Reference.
  • Take a look at this handy Perl<->Python phrasebook (common tasks, side by side, in both languages).
  • A reference for the Python approach to “common tasks”. I use the Python Cookbook.
  • An ipython terminal open at all times to test syntax, introspect object methods etc.
  • Get pip and easy-install (to install Python modules easily).
  • Learn about unit tests fast. This is because without use strict you will feel crippled, and you will make many elementary mistakes which will appear as runtime errors. I recommend nose rather than the unittest framework that comes with the core install. unittest is very verbose if you’re used to Test::More.
  • Check out Python questions on Stack Overflow. In particular, Python – Things one MUST avoid and Python 2.x gotcha’s and landmines are well worth a read.

Personally, I found Dive Into Python annoying and patronising, but it’s freely available online, so you can form your own judgment on that.

Being a hardcore Perl programmer, all I can say is DO NOT BUY O’Reilly’s “Learning Python”. It is nowhere NEAR as good as “Learning Perl”, and there’s no equivalent I know of to Larry Wall’s “Programming Perl”, which is simply unbeatable.

I’ve had the most success taking past Perl programs and translating them into Python, trying to make use of as many new techniques as possible.

Check out the official tutorial, which is actually pretty good. If you are interested in web development you should be ready at that point to jump right in to the documentation of the web framework you will be working with; Python has many to choose from, with zope, cherrypy, pylons, and werkzeug all having good reputations.

I would not try to search for things specifically meant to help you transition from Perl, which are not to be of as high of quality as references that can be useful for more people.

This is the site you should really go to. There’s a section called Getting Started which you should take a look. There are also recommendations on books. On top of that, you might also be interested in this on “idioms”

If what you are looking at is succinct, concise reference to python then the book Python Essential Reference
might be helpful.

I wouldn’t try to compare Perl and Python too much in order to learn Python, especially since you have working knowledge of other languages. If you are unfamiliar with OOP/Functional programming aspects and just looking to work procedurally like in Perl, start learning the Python language constructs / syntax and then do a couple examples. if you are making a switch to OO or functional style paradigms, I would read up on OO fundamentals first, then start on Python syntax and examples…so you have a sort of mental blueprint of how things can be constructed before you start working with the actual materials. this is just my humble opinion however..