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Elements of Programming with Perl [Paperback]

Andrew L Johnson
4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (20 customer reviews)
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Book Description

Oct. 1 1999
Teaches the basics of programming right along with the particulars of Perl syntax as well as good style and structure and maintainability of the code.

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From Amazon

Andrew L. Johnson's new Elements of Programming with Perl is titled in such close proximity to two classic texts--Strunk & White's Elements of Style and Kernighan & Plauger's Elements of Programming Style--as to beg comparison. Best not, and more is the pity.

Perl strives to be both a natural language like English and a structured language like C, but Johnson evidently does not see the value in writing a prescriptive book as the other "Elements of" authors have. Rather, he has written a review of basic Perl for the converted and initiated. But just as an inexperienced carver cannot learn good carving practice with neither a Swiss Army knife nor a chain saw, a neophyte coder cannot learn good programming with a tool that has been called the "Swiss army chain saw" of programming languages. Can anyone learn good programming style from Perl at all? Better we should learn style elsewhere and bring what we already know to the notoriously laissez-faire language.

Perl was developed by linguistic enthusiasts to model a natural language, viz., an idiom consisting of a redundant vocabulary, syntax, and grammar with flexible rules, learnable by example or trial and error. Awk programmers can convert awk scripts to Perl with a utility, then learn Perl by fathoming the output. But where is the centrality of cold, inflexible logic in the design of supportable code? The essential tension in Perl for programming beginners lies between the natural language aspects of Perl (redundancy and flexibility) and the crucial need for discipline in writing programs.

Johnson draws his hoe into this fertile terrain but ends up plowing old ground. He adopts a didactic voice and follows a predictable pedagogical path from programming illiteracy through technical proficiency. He introduces task groups--processing text, lists, input/output, modules, debugging--and stops at introductions to modules and object-oriented code.

The book is studded with examples, exercises, tips, and tricks gleaned from years of "speaking Perl," but it avoids being prescriptive, and his casual advice is sometimes disconcerting. He discusses white space in formatting code, but he breezes past error handling. He teaches recursion without warning that it is a support nightmare. Often he hides behind Perl's creed that "there is more than one way to do it" to avoid advocating what the newbies need: one better-than-average way to do it. Johnson cannot be both advocate of Perl and teacher of beginning programming, though he has tried: had his experiment been bolder, it would deserve wider attention within the Perl and computer science communities. --Peter Leopold

Review

"I found the writing to be extremely interesting. The book covers a broad spectrum of Perl topics.the reader will find himself well-versed in the breadth of Perl. It definitely delivers. If I was to start learning Perl now I would be delighted to make this my first Perl book. It is extremely well-written and informative. I give it my highest recommendation." -- Java Metroplex User Group Web Site

...the best Perl book for neophytes that I've found. ...Make no bones about it, this book is good. Damn good. -- Nathan Torkington, The Perl Journal

If you are seeking a book to help you learn programming... this would be an excellent place to begin. -- Ed's Internet Book Reviews

Johnson has a gift for notations and diagrams, and his depictions of variables, references, and scope are unusually clear... -- Ken Bandes, The Perl Journal

an extremely ambitious ...book that not only introduces programming and its concepts using Perl but that introduces an orderly software... -- Sam Hobbs, The Perl Journal

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Customer Reviews

Most helpful customer reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars Great book for true beginner Jan. 9 2003
Format:Paperback
This book does a good job of teaching "how to program" to a person with little or no experience in programming. I think it is one of the better books for green programmers. I also like the thorough explanations that teach the concepts of programming "step by step" rather than rattling off lots of code with weak explanations. This book also does a good job in not assuming you speak "computerese" by explaining a lot of terms commonly used like "scalar", "lists", "interpolation", etc. This book was a great stepping stone for me to be able to get into the meatier O'Reilly series.
Here's a couple of extracts: "Programming is about solving problems...Computers are mindless devices capable only of doing what they are told...When a method for solving a problem is reduced to a series of simple, repeatable instructions, we call that set of instructions an algorithm."
"...scalar variable, meaning it can only hold a single value."
"If you think of a variable as a storage bin with a name and an address, then you can think of a reference as a forwarding address. When you store a reference to another variable in a scalar variable, you are not storing that variable's value, but the address where its value is stored."
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Format:Paperback
I recently got a job at a telecoms company because of my experience with linux. I have no experience whatsoever in programming and they knew that and I was encouraged to learn Perl.
I bought this book after reading many reviews on it both good and bad. It was the bad reviews that told me this was the perfect book for a beginner. I like to think of myself as a person who likes to understand why I do things rather than just doing something because thats how it has always been done. This book did that for me.
Precise explanations of Perl style, syntax and regular expressions more experienced programmers take for granted were a welcome sight. Even though there isn't really a right or wrong way in perl this book teaches you the right way to do things along with the full explanations I required to understand why I was doing something one way and not the other.
The exercises following the chapters are challenging but not daunting. They allow you to use the knowledge you've learned in the previous chapters, even if at first it seems impossible, but to quote the author, "Programming is a matter of practice."
I recommend this to all who are new to programming in general and wish to make Perl their first language. Now all I need is a book on C programming that does the same this one is doing for me.
Yes, I have not read this book completely, yet I have done 3 useful scripts for work and I'm amazing myself. Perl is making my life and my co-workers' much easier.
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1.0 out of 5 stars Do not buy if you search for CGI skills March 19 2002
By A Customer
Format:Paperback
Funny how different opinions people may have about a book here. I bought this book having read a number of praising comments and tried to use the book for my needs (elements of Perl and CGI).
First, the book gets very, very, very lengthy with the elements (well, the very name of the book is "Elements of...") and it never gets very far beyond a "hello world". Being a programmer I would certainly understand most of the stuff in tenth of the amount of
pages.
What is Perl most famous for? CGI, you might say. So would I.
This book has only 4 (four) pages on CGI programming and ONLY 20 pages about the use of modules! The book does not even mention databases!!!! As it says, it is only about the elements, not the use of the language. No CGI, believe me!!!
The index of the book is next to useless. I have searched for several keywords without success and come accross them in the text when quickly scanning for them in various contexts. Is indexing really this hard???
The book has got just about everything wrong for anybody who knows at least a bit about programming and/or is accustomed to using a normal book with a normal index.
It may be good for a rookie programmer who reads it page to page from the front cover to the end cover. I am an adult reader and want to have a book with ORGANIZATION of data.
If you are planning to write CGI programs, buy ANYTHING but this book.
As my budget was limited to one book I had to use the Internet for
tutorials which - surprise surprise - covered the same topics in a tenth of the space and included CGI programming stuff as well.
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Format:Paperback
There are an enormous amount of self-taught programmers that program with perl, especially in the areas of system administration and web development. If you are one of these people you must read this book.
When I bought this book I considered myself a capable intermediate level perl and javascript programmer. I had read a number of O'Reilly books including Learning Perl and Programming Perl, and use as references the Perl Cookbook and Perl in a Nutshell. I had realised that the slowing of my progress in learning more advanced perl was due to my lack of understanding of general programming principles, so I was looking for a book that could (gently) teach me this in the context of using perl.
Elements of Programming With Perl was the book I really needed, and I don't think there is another book out there that meets the same need.
If you are a self taught perl programmer, you should read this book, if not for your own sake, for the sake of the other people that have to deal with your code after you!
I won't try and say that the book is perfect because it's not, but it is excellent, and one of a kind.
It also provides a good introduction to object-oriented perl, and an ideal primer before moving on to the other Manning publication Object Oriented Perl by Damian Conway (which I also recommend).
Have fun programming perl :-)
(b.t.w. take no notice of the Amazon review, it completely takes the book out of context, the other reviews testify to the book's quality. Great book, thanks Andrew!)
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Most recent customer reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Great book to start learning Perl and Programming
This book is a great way to teach yourself Perl and Programming in general. Coming from a background as a dabbler in C and JavaScript, this book was an excellent starting point... Read more
Published on Dec 31 2001 by Mr. Dietrich
5.0 out of 5 stars THE book to start path to Perl enlightenment
I tried "Learning Perl" by Randal Schwarz and got bored after about 5 chapters ; too many cutesy references to 60's cartoons and not enough relevant info. Read more
Published on Sept. 26 2001 by Mark
5.0 out of 5 stars Outstanding for newcomers to programming
I started a new job after college in the field of bioinformatics and have to learn Perl because of its wide use. Read more
Published on June 12 2001 by Joshua Orvis
5.0 out of 5 stars Best book (and support) on Perl!
I purchased this book, and like most - there are parts of it that are confusing. But, Andrew (the author) provides a forum by which he is there to answer all your questions. Read more
Published on Feb. 3 2001 by Gary M. Gordon
4.0 out of 5 stars A nice complement to the Llama - but different, essential
I agree with the statement that this book is a great intermediate step between the Llama (Learning Perl) and the Camel (Programming Perl). Read more
Published on Jan. 26 2001 by Kathleen Brennan
5.0 out of 5 stars As a book it's good. As a tutorial, it's the best!
Let me explain ...
I have no programming background other than the fact that I've picked up and tried reading several books on the subject of programming in Perl. Read more
Published on July 13 2000 by Gary M. Gordon
4.0 out of 5 stars This book will take to you to a new level of competence
Four or five other reviewers said this book "fills the gaps" between the O'Reilly books (Learning Perl & Programming Perl). Read more
Published on June 13 2000 by Anthony Boyd
5.0 out of 5 stars Great Emphasis Programming
I own all the O'Reilly Perl books, and this definitely filled the gap between the Llama and the Camel. Read more
Published on May 16 2000 by Scott K Purcell
3.0 out of 5 stars Too much spread out too thin
This book doesn't feel like a Perl book. It feels like Johnson is a C programmer at heart, trying to write a book about Perl. Read more
Published on April 5 2000 by Andy Lester
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