Book Reviews

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Perl Books

Static Link: http://birmingham.pm.org/reviews/13

 
The Perl CD Bookshelf (3rd Edition)
Title:The Perl CD Bookshelf (3rd Edition)
Author(s):Various
ISBN:0-596-00389-7
Publisher:O'Reilly Media
Reviewer:Kevin Taylor

Please note this review has previously been published online, and appears here courtesy of it's author and Northants LUG

This provides the complete text of 7 O'Reilly books about Perl, on a single CD ROM, in HTML. The books included are:

  • Perl in a Nutshell, 2nd Edition
  • Programming Perl, 3rd Edition
  • Perl & XML
  • Mastering Perl/Tk
  • Learning Perl, 3rd Edition
  • Perl Cookbook
  • Perl & LWP

You also get a paper copy of 'Perl in a Nutshell' (3rd Edition) too (which has already been reviewed in these pages). This really is everything you need to know about Perl in one small package! If you already have v2 of the CD ROM, then you have lost 2 books and gained another 4 (plus getting the 'nutshell' book updated on the way). In all, that's probably a good upgrade ... Its a shame that the 2 lost books from v2 are not preserved as a sort of 'bonus' on the CD, as there could be cases where people will have to keep their v2 CD around just for these ...

When reviewing on-line packages like this, I don't aim to review the contents of the books themselves (I would be here for weeks reviewing 7 books!), but try to see how useful and usable the collection is. Having reviewed several 'bookshelf' CDs in the past, I can say that this lives up to O'Reilly's usual high standards.

Presentation

As always, the translation from paper to HTML is about as good as it could be. You could imagine you are reading the printed book, presentation wise.

Pages are clearly presented and there are good navigation facilities both within a single book, and between books. Titles are clear and basic styles ensure a clean presentation throughout. The only problem is that sometimes you lose track of where you are (for example, if a title has scrolled off the screen). This is really a common problem with the web. It is not a big issue, as sections are rarely more than a screenful of text without a header.

Figures also appear to have translated across well.

I had a quick look at the book in lynx, and was amazed at how accessible it was (minus the figures of course)! The clean style obviously pays off from a compatibility point of view.

Navigation and Searching

As already mentioned, navigation links are provided everywhere. There are links to all other books, the 'whole collection front page', as well as the specific books index, contents and search pages. Each page also has 'previous' and 'next' navigation.

A minor gripe, is that there is no link to search the whole collection from individual pages, just a link to search that specific book - this makes a 'search all' 2 clicks away instead of just 1.

Searching is provided using the same Java applet (as provided for all other 'bookshelf' CDs I've seen). It works pretty well, presenting a pseudo 'web search' type view.

The only thing I miss is the ability to open the link in a new window - something I always get my browser to do when searching. Presumably, the Java applet is doing the linking somehow, rather than the browser. At least it keeps your place when you hit 'back' (well it did for me, using Netscape 4.7 anyway).

One other minor grumble, is that now and again, a page appears in the search results list as 'prf2_04.htm' (or similar), which is the page filename, rather than a title. Presumably one or two pages slipped in without getting a proper section title ... There are only a few of these, compared to the total number of pages, so I didn't find it a problem.

Note: When viewing in lynx, the search 'button' is not visible as a link, then then I wouldn't expect the Java applet to be of much use in lynx ...

Summary

You get a lot of information for your money. If you already have some of the books on paper, I'm not sure how much it would be worth getting this too ... it depends how much you carry the books around with you I guess.

It is implemented well, giving you very easy access to all the information. As usual, it includes disclaimers about this information being provided for use by one person only. I would be interested to know how they license it for use by multiple users in a networked environment ... as obviously, a company can easily buy the book for sharing ...

In summary, another good implementation by ORA.