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All information current as of 14:11:00 Pacific Time, Monday, 21 February 2005.

Learning Perl, Third Edition

   by Randal L. Schwartz / Tom Phoenix

    15 July, 2001


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Editorial description(s):
In this smooth, carefully paced course, a leading Perl trainer teaches you to program in the language that threatens to make C, sed, awk, and the Unix shell obsolete for many tasks. This book is the "official" guide for both formal (classroom) and informal learning. It is fully accessible to the novice programmer. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Book News, Inc.
A guide for both novice and experienced programmers who will find Perl a useful language for the tasks of manipulating text, files, and processes, superseding C, sed, awk, and the UNIX shell. Annotation copyright Book News, Inc. Portland, Or. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Book Info
A guide for Perl programmers, updated to include Perl 5.6. This new edition has been rewritten to take a ground-up approach for programmers just learning Perl. Includes an expanded and more gently paced introduction and new exercises and solutions. Softcover. DLC: Perl (Computer Program Language).

The publisher, O'Reilly and Associates
Learning Perl is designed for those who seek a rapid working knowledge of Perl. A public domain language, Perl has established itself as the premier UNIX scripting language--replacing facilities such as the shell, sed and awk. It is currently taking root in non-UNIX markets as well. Perl is a high-level, multi-purpose language. It is used in diverse system administration tasks, while also playing an endless variety of roles in other areas. These range from data reduction and report generation to distributed computing and assorted auxiliary roles in software development. Perl has even encroached upon the territory of C and other programming languages. Perl allows the programmer to combine in one script functions that previously had to be divided between the shell, sed, awk, various other UNIX utilities, and C programs. With this breadth of capability, Perl is an extraordinarily powerful and flexible language. Learning Perl, written by a leading Perl instructor, provides a systematic, step-by-step, tutorial approach to learning the language. There are numerous short code examples punctuating a relaxed, informal, and precise tour of all the main features of the language. In addition, each chapter contains exercise problems, together with their solutions. Anyone who works through the book will be capable of programming with a broad and productive range of Perl features. For a comprehensive and detailed guide to advanced programming with Perl, read O'Reilly's companion book, Programming Perl. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Book Description
Learning Perl first appeared in 1993 and has been a bestseller ever since. Written by two of the most prominent and active members of the Perl community, this book is the quintessential tutorial to the Perl programming language. The third edition has not only been updated for Perl Version 5.6, but has also been rewritten from the ground up to reflect the needs of programmers learning Perl today. After years of success teaching Perl as consultants, the authors have re-engineered the book to better match the pace and scope appropriate for readers trying to get started with Perl, while retaining the detailed discussion, thorough examples, and eclectic wit that the book is famous for. Other books may teach you to program in Perl, but this book will turn you into a Perl programmer.

Reader review(s):

Good Intro to Perl for Unix hackers only, October 31, 1999
There are 2 sets of reviewers rating this book. The first set, who compose the majority of reviewers, are experienced Unix programmers who have used sed, awk, grep and the various Unix shells. For those Unix hackers, this book is a great intro to Perl because it covers the basics of the language quickly and efficiently without belaboring the obvious (or I should say, the obvious to experienced Unix users).

The second set of reviewers (of which I am one), who have just about universally panned this book, are Windows or Mac users who had no clue what sed, awk and grep were and then attempted to tackle Perl with this book. For those people, this book is a big mistake.

When I was searching for a beginning Perl book, I flipped through the llama book and got confused not only by the first chapter, but with several of the succeeding chapters as well. I learned Perl with Laura LeMay's "Teach Yourself Perl in 21 Days" which is a much gentler intro to Perl and also covers Perl in Windows and the Mac. Now that I have some Perl and Linux experience, I went back to the bookstore and started flipping through the llama again, and this time I thought, "Hey this book is really good."

Learn from my Jekyll and Hyde experience with the llama: if you are trying to learn Perl and you have previous Unix experience, buy the book. If you don't have previous Unix experence, get something else.

I hope this explanation clears up why some people gave this book rave reviews while others ripped it.

Yes, it works for Windows 98 users too! =), August 14, 2000
Before I buy this book, I was reading the reviews in this site and I was particularly concerned about the requirement of an UNIX-based OS. Since my only workstation is a PC running Windows, I was very uncertain about buying this book, despite the great review.

Now, listen up.

-I only know the basics of C++ programming;

-I do not know anything about UNIX OS;

-I create websites using HTML and JavaScripts;

-This book help me understand enough about Perl to write my own CGI scripts and run them on the Internet!!! (I've got 3 forums running now and several voting sections!)

If you are a pure Windows user, like myself, but would like to learn the basics of Perl, get this book, period!

Now the cons: As mentioned with so many reviews, this book is very brief. Although I was stuck in chapter for 1 week (!!!), I "fly" through the rest of the chapters in 2-3 days! The biggest problem I find is the lack of adequate explanation for each operators, regular expressions, etc. When writing my own CGI, I have to continuously look for alternative sources of Perl references to clear up my queries and help me to understand a few particular properties of Perl.

For example, I have to use the s///; and the tr///; many times in my scripts, but without extensive understanding of all their properties, I find it "crippling" to my work.

Enough said. For an introduction to Perl, I would give this book 5 stars. If you hunger for much more information, like myself, get this book first, before trying out the lastest Programming Perl (3rd Edition).

Buy the camel, but read the llama first, December 4, 1999

I came to this book knowing next to nothing about Perl, and with a few misconceptions to boot (that Perl's syntax is 'write-only', it's primarily a CGI tool, etc.), and now I am not sure that epiphany would cover it. In 12 years of learning and using programming languages, I don't think I have come across anything so enchanting.

One of the best parts of the book: the authors. Add Schwartz & Christiansen to Elliotte Rusty Harold, Petzold, and a very few others who are truly effective technical writers. Classic O'Reilly easygoing style, never condescending, and eerily consistent in presenting just the right amount of information on the given topic.

Every programmer (even non-Perl ones) should read 'Programming Perl' by Larry Wall. But to learn Perl, and take the first step down a long and magical road, buy this book.

I had a few nits, but by the time I finished the book, I had forgotten most of them. As close to 5 stars as I will ever give for a technical book.

Excellent first step, January 18, 2000
This book is an excellent way to ramp up on Perl quickly. It takes you through the in's and out's of Perl at a wonderful pace and covers most of what you need to know. This is the book to get if you're new to Perl and need to learn it quickly. The 200 or so pages are readable in less than a week.

However, there are a few important things to note. This is not a standalone book. You will need to get the Programming in Perl book as well to serve as a reference guide. Also, this book assumes basic Unix knowledge. If you have no exposure to Unix, a couple of things (very minor though) might be a bit baffling. If you've played with Unix, then this book is a breeze.

I managed to ramp myself up on Perl and start writing some sweet scripts within a week. I also bought the Programming in Perl book and now I turn to that book for the more heavy duty stuff.

The long and short of it: this is the best beginners book around for Perl.

Way overrated, February 2, 2002
I hate to slam a book that is considered such an essential book in the community. But I feel compelled.

First, the good points: It has great reference sections. Very, very important for such a book. It is also reasonably comprehensive. Sure, you'll probably also want Perl Cookbook to really know what you are doing, but it's too much to ask for Learning Perl to contain such practical uses. It crams so much more in than most programming books.

As for the bad, I could rant for a long time, but I will try to be brief. First, the book's organization leaves much to be desired. While the macro-organization is perhaps reasonable enough, a trial lawyer would have a field day with the objection, "Facts assumed not in evidence." There are numerous code snippets in this book that are only understandable at even the most basic level by flipping ahead 100 pages, then cross-referencing to the appendix and then flipping back to a different chapter. A novice programmer shouldn't have to deal with terms like "grep" or the like until the definition of "grep" is actually given since, after all, the last time I checked, "grep" was not a standard phrase in the English language that is understandable to all.

The book is written for people with a broad background in programming. For example, the reference section, which is supposed to describe the functions in depth describes how the command "printf" works as follows: "This is similar to the C library's printf(3) and fprintf(3) functions." While there was some other gobbledygook in his listing, none of the gobbledygook explained how the function worked. Last time I checked, the book was titled Programming Perl, not Programming C, Volume II. Why its only description for how the function actually works is a reference to another language is typical of the breezy arrogance of the authors. This was more egregious than most other examples, but in general, the authors were telling their story to insiders who needed a refresher course, not people who wanted to hear the story from the beginning.

In retrospect, after reading other books about programming, most horrifying to me is the utter lack of disregard for good programming standards at the most basic level. The authors seem to glorify the "Obfuscated Perl" approach, which is to write the language in as tightly wound and obfuscated a way as possible. This is simply bad programming, even it does take a very smart person to understand what's going on.

Ideally, good code should be readable like a novel, if you have a basic understanding of the language. In a good novel, you don't flip back and forth between pages trying to remember who or what something was. Variables and subroutines should have clear, unambiguous names. Variables should be clearly spelled out, as opposed to the way the authors (and most Perl programmers) seem to think is best, which is to refer to such constructs as $_[1], requiring one to flip pages to where the subroutine was called to understand what information is being passed to the the subroutine.

Rather than taking the attitude -- almost universally held in the Perl community -- that There Is More Than One Way To Do It, the authors should have emphasized, You Might Want To Think About The Option That Will Make It Easier For You And Others To Understand Your Code When You Look At It 3 Months From Now. Journalists don't score points for writing obscure text. Yes, they can write things any way they like, but they have professional standards - codified in the AP Style Guide, among other places - that say that certain ways of doing things are better for readers. Programmers should adopt a similar way of thinking - both about the readibility and workability of code -and this book does everything to undermine this notion.

A retrospective from a Unix user and casual programmer, May 29, 2000
I've been a Unix user for seven+ years, and have some programming experience, although I am by no means really knowledgable about either. When I entered my most recent job, I needed to learn Perl fast, and so I used this book to help me get started.

From a self-teaching perspective, I found this book to be exactly what I needed. I'll admit that the first chapter (a general description of the Perl language) was not very helpful, but I found the division of the rest of the book by small pieces of the syntax (scalars, arrays, hashes, regular functions, i/o, etc.) to suit my needs, which tended to be along the lines of: I need to do x right now. I learned the easy stuff really quickly, and I still use the book as a constant reference.

Now, it is just a beginner's text, so it is not an ideal complete reference, and you won't learn anything particularly nifty. However, if you need to both learn how to program and actually do some programming at the same time (i.e. not in a class-room setting), Learning Perl can be a wonderful text.

Poor organization and inconsistent tone, March 2, 2001
I'm surprised to see so many positive reviews for _Learning Perl_. As another reviewer said, I think these comments represent more enthusiasm for the language than for the book. Randal Schwartz has a great reputation in the open-source community, and I have no experience with him as a trainer or consultant, but judging from this book I wouldn't hire him.

The book has a serious problem in that the tone is totally inconsistent. Difficult concepts are explained in terms that assume in-depth knowledge of C, C++, and UNIX; and simple concepts are run into the ground in page after page of trivial examples. The authors also make the serious mistake, all too common in technical books, of providing jokey examples that obscure the main point---identifiers that form puns on statements, irrelevant jokes in comments, and so on. To some people this comes across as a light, friendly tone; to me it smacks of condescension and clannishness.

I made the mistake of trying to use this book as a textbook for an introductory Perl class of students with a variety of levels of programming experience. The C-savvy students were bored, and the beginners felt they were being teased and condescended to.

Summary: This book isn't up to O'Reilly's usual high standards. If you want to learn Perl, and you already have some programming experience, start with _Programming Perl_ and _Perl Cookbook_ (the Camel Books). If you have no programming experience, start with Simon Cozens' _Beginning Perl_.

a must have for beginner, July 17, 2000
I look for a beginning perl book that teaches me Perl in a programmer to programmer tone, assuming I already have basic programming skills. After many books, finally, I got learning perl which helps me learn as well as appreciate Perl as a programming language.

I always think that perl is only useful as a CGI scripting language. But it actually is a very good language to work with UNIX and to do text formatting. This book presents different topics of Perl, including Regular Expressions, Filehandles, Formats, Directory Access, Database Access, CGI. I particularly love the regular expression chapter, it's concise and simple. though you may find there are not enough details on some topics e.g. CGI, please remember this book is only 302 pages for beginners. If you want more specific details on a particular topics. you should go to another book. The examples in the book are not just naive and useless in the real programming world, but they are really useful and handy for you to cut and paste to your perl projects.

One of the best features of the book is the exercises after each chapter. Those questions are really testing what you have learn in each chapters. From the questions, you will know whether you already master the chapter or not. the answers provided are not just answers, the authors explain the them too!

As a beginner's book, "Learning Perl" does a good job to teach readers to write useful perl programs and scripts.

Four stars if you know UNIX or are already a developer, May 5, 2000
This is not a bad book, but I'm still surprised by the generosity of the reader reviews. Perl is something of a cult, so I think in a lot of cases a positive review means "I like Perl" more than it means "I like 'Learning Perl.'" People hesitate (understandably, I think) to insult a book that's closely associated with a great open-source language.

I myself think Perl is great, but I have some serious problems with the way this book was written and edited. The authors can't seem to decide whether this should be an easy book for programmers, a difficult book for non-programmers, or even (at times) an easy book for non-programmers. That is to say, the tone, style, and assumptions about the audience change throughout, sometimes from page to page. Key concepts are glossed over with a minimum of explanation (the chapter on hashes, particularly, is a disgrace); then, defying all reason, very simple concepts are overexplained for two or three pages. The authors have been too close to their subject for too long, and they seem to have forgotten what they learned and the order in which they learned it. Maybe a newbie co-author might have helped.

If you are an experienced developer or are comfortable with UNIX, you'll get a lot of benefit from "llama." Otherwise, though, start with another book, or learn something about UNIX first. Then return to this book, and you should have an easier time of it.

Good book for every one who is programming in Perl, December 29, 1999
This book is perfect for what the title says: Learning Perl. I own this book, the Programming Perl book, and the Advanced Perl book. All three are great for different things. If you've never written a line of Perl before this is the book to get. It will show you how to do most things related to Perl, and will even get you started in CGI and Database access. The authors often point toward valuable web resources like CPAN. In addition, the book is fun to read- not drab and dull like other programming books (this seems to be an O'Reilly thing, and maybe why I buy so many of their books). I've written a lot of Perl code over the last year or so and I still often refer to this book for little things that I forget (like syntax for certain things, etc). This book sees the most use out of the three Perl books I own (although Programming Perl is pretty worn too).

Definately a must-have for anyone serious about programming in Perl. Especially if you write in a lot of languages like I do and don't have the brain capacity to memorize every nuance of every language. This book is easy to find information in.

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