To Ruby From Python

Python is another very nice general purpose programming language. Going from Python to Ruby, you’ll find that there’s a little bit more syntax to learn than with Python.


As with Python, in Ruby,…

  • There’s an interactive prompt (called irb).
  • You can read docs on the command line (with the ri command instead of pydoc).
  • There are no special line terminators (except the usual newline).
  • String literals can span multiple lines like Python’s triple-quoted strings.
  • Brackets are for lists, and braces are for dicts (which, in Ruby, are called “hashes”).
  • Arrays work the same (adding them makes one long array, but composing them like this a3 = [ a1, a2 ] gives you an array of arrays).
  • Objects are strongly and dynamically typed.
  • Everything is an object, and variables are just references to objects.
  • Although the keywords are a bit different, exceptions work about the same.
  • You’ve got embedded doc tools (Ruby’s is called rdoc).
  • There is good support for functional programming with first-class functions, anonymous functions, and closures.


Unlike Python, in Ruby,…

  • Strings are mutable.
  • You can make constants (variables whose value you don’t intend to change).
  • There are some enforced case-conventions (ex. class names start with a capital letter, variables start with a lowercase letter).
  • There’s only one kind of list container (an Array), and it’s mutable.
  • Double-quoted strings allow escape sequences (like \t) and a special “expression substitution” syntax (which allows you to insert the results of Ruby expressions directly into other strings without having to "add " + "strings " + "together"). Single-quoted strings are like Python’s r"raw strings".
  • There are no “new style” and “old style” classes. Just one kind. (Python 3+ doesn’t have this issue, but it isn’t fully backward compatible with Python 2.)
  • You never directly access attributes. With Ruby, it’s all method calls.
  • Parentheses for method calls are usually optional.
  • There’s public, private, and protected to enforce access, instead of Python’s _voluntary_ underscore __convention__.
  • “mixins” are used instead of multiple inheritance.
  • You can add or modify the methods of built-in classes. Both languages let you open up and modify classes at any point, but Python prevents modification of built-ins — Ruby does not.
  • You’ve got true and false instead of True and False (and nil instead of None).
  • When tested for truth, only false and nil evaluate to a false value. Everything else is true (including 0, 0.0, "", and []).
  • It’s elsif instead of elif.
  • It’s require instead of import. Otherwise though, usage is the same.
  • The usual-style comments on the line(s) above things (instead of docstrings below them) are used for generating docs.
  • There are a number of shortcuts that, although give you more to remember, you quickly learn. They tend to make Ruby fun and very productive.
  • There’s no way to unset a variable once set (like Python’s del statement). You can reset a variable to nil, allowing the old contents to be garbage collected, but the variable will remain in the symbol table as long as it is in scope.
  • The yield keyword behaves differently. In Python it will return execution to the scope outside the function’s invocation. External code is responsible for resuming the function. In Ruby yield will execute another function that has been passed as the final argument, then immediately resume.
  • Python supports just one kind of anonymous functions, lambdas, while Ruby contains blocks, Procs, and lambdas.