Anaconda, CPython, PyPy, and more: Know your Python distributions

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When you choose Python for software development, you choose a large language ecosystem with a wealth of packages covering all manner of programming needs. But in addition to libraries for everything from GUI development to machine learning, you can also choose from a number of Python runtimes—and some of these runtimes may be better suited to the use case you have at hand than others.

Here is a brief tour of the most commonly used Python distributions, from the standard implementation (CPython) to versions optimized for speed (PyPy), for special use cases (Anaconda, ActivePython), or for runtimes originally designed for entirely different languages (Jython, IronPython).

CPython

CPython is the reference implemenation of Python, the standard version that all other Python incarnations look to. CPython is written in C, as implied by the name, and it is produced by the same core group of people responsible for all of the top-level decisions about the Python language.

CPython use cases

Because CPython is the reference implementation of Python, it is the most conservative in terms of its optimizations. This is by design. Python’s maintainers want CPython to be the most broadly compatible and standardized implementation of Python available.

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