Book Reviews

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Perl Books

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Perl in a Nutshell (2nd Edition)
Title:Perl in a Nutshell (2nd Edition)
Author(s):Patwardhan, Siever, Spainhour
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

What can I say? This is a nutshell book, and thus the quality is excellent. Being a regular user of the 1st edition of Perl in a Nutshell (does that say more about the book or my Perl programming I wonder ...) I fully expected this to be as good if not better. I was not disappointed.

Basic Summary of the Contents

First off, there is quite a good 'getting started' section, covering the 'why's and 'how's of getting Perl. This includes things like installing modules (including ActiveState's PPM utility) and a list of the Perl reference documentation (I didn't realise there were so many man pages!).

Then we are into the reference section proper, covering the basics of the language itself, including standard functions and debugging.

One of the largest sections is the part of the book devoted to modules. Its starts with some of the principles behind modules (OO techniques, namespaces, etc). Then comes the mammoth listing of the standard modules and what they do. The descriptions are fairly terse, but then this is meant to be a reference.

Finally, there are a series of large sections detailing some of the common subject areas where Perl is often used. This starts with details of using Perl for CGI, but then includes databases, XML and SOAP, a large section on networking and another large section on the LWP related modules.

Next, there is a detailed section about Tk, finishing off with a large section about the Win32 modules and extensions to Perl (although the small section about PerlScript is no longer present ...).

Should I get this book?

I would like to consider this book on 2 fronts. First of all, from being in the position of someone who doesn't already own the first edition, and then from the position of being someone who does.

If you have no copy of the first edition, then this is an invaluable reference for the Perl language. Even if you have other titles about Perl, this is still one of the best references around, and I would expect it to be well used if you got yourself a copy.

If you already own the first edition, then I guess it really comes down to how much you use it, and how up to date your distribution of Perl is. There is a fair bit of new material (XML, LDAP, Win 32 OLE to name a few completely new additions) and much updated material. If you are using Perl 5.8 or just find yourself reaching for your 1st edition on a regular basis, then it is probably worth an update.

I suspect that whatever your reason for getting this book, it would soon prove its usefulness.