Perl is an extremely powerful language that is used on thousands of Web servers for Common Gateway Interface (CGI) scripts, principally because of its unmatched text manipulation capabilities. However, mastering the syntax of Perl is legendarily difficult with its Unix legacy, which favors cryptic--though efficient--syntax. Jon Orwant's Perl 5 Interactive Course
is an excellent tutorial for learning the basics of Perl quickly. It lays a foundation and then builds on it to make you a Perl expert.
First, the book outlines the basics of creating and running Perl scripts. (Though this is a Unix-centered approach, the examples will run on Windows NT as well.) Early in the text, the author introduces variables, both scalar and arrays, and basic programming statements (such as conditional statements and looping). He presents the rudiments of using regular expressions and basic Perl metacharacters and commands for searching and replacing text in manageable increments. The author also does a good job of showing how Perl can work together effectively with other Unix commands, such as files and pipes, and operating features, such as processes.
The book is less successful at exposing the intricacies of object-oriented Perl (a difficult topic). However, it is good at explaining some of the pitfalls of Perl programming, including debugging. Other interesting chapters explain topics such as where Perl programming fits into the Internet and why Perl will likely continue to play an important role on the Web. Chapters throughout this book are short and sweet and include simple exercises so that readers can try out Perl on their own. Although no single book can make you into a Perl guru, this tutorial can start you on your way to becoming a competent Perl developer.