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Perl in a Nutshell: A Desktop Quick Reference [Paperback]

Nathan Patwardhan , Ellen Siever , Stephen Spainhour
3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (24 customer reviews)
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Book Description

June 13 2002 0596002416 978-0596002411 Second Edition

This complete guide to the Perl programming language ranges widely through the Perl programmer's universe, gathering together in a convenient form a wealth of information about Perl itself and its application to CGI scripts, XML processing, network programming, database interaction, and graphical user interfaces. The book is an ideal reference for experienced Perl programmers and beginners alike.With more than a million dedicated programmers, Perl is proving to be the best language for the latest trends in computing and business, including network programming and the ability to create and manage web sites. It's a language that every Unix system administrator and serious web developer needs to know. In the past few years, Perl has found its way into complex web applications of multinational banks, the U.S. Federal Reserve, and hundreds of large corporations.In this second edition, Perl in a Nutshell has been expanded to include coverage of Perl 5.8, with information on Unicode processing in Perl, new functions and modules that have been added to the core language, and up-to-date details on running Perl on the Win32 platform. The book also covers Perl modules for recent technologies such as XML and SOAP.Here are just some of the topics contained in this book:

  • Basic Perl reference
  • Quick reference to built-in functions and standard modules
  • and mod_perl
  • XML::* modules
  • DBI, the database-independent API for Perl
  • Sockets programming
  • LWP, the library for Web programming in Perl
  • Network programming with the Net modules
  • Perl/Tk, the Tk extension to Perl for graphical interfaces
  • Modules for interfacing with Win32 systems
As part of the successful "in a Nutshell" book series from O'Reilly & Associates, Perl in a Nutshell is for readers who want a single reference for all their needs."In a nutshell, Perl is designed to make the easy jobs easy, without making the hard jobs impossible."-- Larry Wall, creator of Perl

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Perl in a Nutshell strives to be a perfect set of socket tools for the active Perl programmer. By and large, it succeeds, providing endless and well-thought-out lists and tables on the language's modules, flags, and extensions. The authors briefly address basic learner's questions--such as the difference between a hash and an array--but these concepts are not the purpose of the book. (Those new to Perl would be better off with others in the O'Reilly Perl series, such as Learning Perl, while programmers making the switch to Perl can pick up the nuances of the language with Programming Perl.) This book is pure Perl reference, briefly covering Perl/Tk (for GUI Perl programs on Unix and Windows 95/NT) and Perl for Win 32.

The authors do start at the very beginning, and even in a self-described "desktop quick reference" find the time to comment on less urgent--but still interesting--Perl-related matters (like how to find online help amidst the "Perl culture"). The format of the book makes sections on topics such as Perl debugging easily understandable, illustrating how to make an interactive and timesaving environment.

Of particular convenience is the outstanding section on the standard Perl modules. A four-page "quick look" allows you to easily scan through short definitions of all the modules and find the entry you're looking for. An index with full definitions for each module follows, showing you how to use each module and providing a more in-depth explanation (and often, examples). Perl in a Nutshell concludes--as you might expect--with an excellent and well-cross-referenced index. --Jennifer Buckendorff --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.


"In a nutshell, Perl is designed to make the easy jobs easy, without making the hard jobs impossible." -- Larry Wall, creator of Perl

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Customer Reviews

Most helpful customer reviews
Exactly as advertised, "Perl in a Nutshell: A Desktop Quick Reference" is a great reference book if you already have a basic understanding of Perl. Although it does have a section that it refers to as an "Introduction to Perl" it is actually a pretty cursory introduction and there are better books for learning the basics of Perl.
The book does have an excellent section on installing Perl including installation on both the Unix and Windows platforms. I've worked with both platforms and the installation process is well documented including how to install modules. This brings us to the large chapter on getting and installing Perl modules. I have spent hours sometimes trying to find an appropriate module for a special situation. This chapter lists all the most common modules and includes descriptions of what they do. This alone makes it a valuable resource for anyone involved in Perl.
The authors also include a lot of technical information including command line options and environment variables as well as a section on program structure, data types, special variables, operators, expressions, subroutines, filehandles, and just about anything else that you might need a quick refresher on.
Functions are listed both by category and by alphabetical order with descriptions and syntax information. I had a couple of problems on a large project recently and it took three days to get an answer through the forums on the Internet. The answers to all of them are right here and I could have saved myself a lot of trouble if I had had this book then.
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My 2-star review is from the perspective of an intermediate Perl user. From my exp. with 'Unix in a Nutshell', I expected this book to be all I needed in my briefcase at work. As it turns out, I'll take the "Camel" (Programming Perl) and leave this uninspiring book at home.
Let me give you an example: I was poring over a (slightly) complicated regular expression, trying to figure out what was going on...there seemed no rhyme or reason to it.....there were way too many spaces and yet the pattern was matching!! I then noticed the "x" option on the end of it: /reg-ex/x Thinking this could be the culprit, I broke out Perl:NUTSHELL...I found the appropriate table and it said: this option used to Enable Extended regular expressions. Ah-ha! But wait, what are Extended regular Epressions, and what is the deal with all these extra spaces in my reg-ex? I forwarded a bit and found the section about Extended Regular Expressions. And I found.........nothing. As it turns out (after looking in the Camel), the "x" means that all whitespace in the pattern is ignored, hence all the darn spaces. I made a point to look (again) for this bit of syntactic info in Perl:NUTSHELL, and it is not there. So what is the use of this book then, considering it is missing such a BASIC SYNTAX rule? Good question.
Another gripe: where's the freakin examples? While I don't expect NUTSHELL books to EXPLAIN the examples tutorial style, I do expect some basic usage examples to help me with commands I havn't used (again, see Unix in a Nutshell)!!
Another quick example for you Perl non-gurus (like myself): I came upon the Perl "filetest" operator "-t"....but the test had no following argument (e.g. the file's name), so I was confused. Off to the Nutshell. Oops.
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By TomG
I'd been occasionally writing perl for a few months without a decent reference, and have always relied on O'Reilly's _In A Nutshell_ series, so got this book. I think this did not live up to standards..
After an introduction to CPAN (online perl archive) and installing perl, the basic constructs of the language are explained in reasonable (for programmers) detail - data types, statements, special vars, operators, regex, subroutines, pod and the perl debugger. Some of it reads like a tutorial rather than reference, using paragraphs where tables would suit, slowing down ability to access info.
On advanced topics such as object orientation (3 pages), it faded into "throw a few paragraphs together". Occasional usage notes (e.g. anonymous subroutines for closures) would have been nice too.
A full function reference and alphabetised list of standard modules is given, with specific sections on databases, network programming, perl/tk, CGI and win32. With the exception of the CGI section (maybe thanks to its duplication in _Webmaster In A Nutshell_) they are usually little more than a list of methods/subroutines.
I'd advise buying the Camel book, and sticking to the online docs for modules and functions.
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1.0 out of 5 stars Annoyingly Inconsistent and Incomplete Aug. 10 2000
This was one of my first books after Learning Perl, and I have to say after using it for about a month that I'm having to go and buy other books. Nutshell does not equal incomplete in my mind, and something that purports to be a reference should be at least as complete as the documentation. A short list of what I've been ticked of by so far:
1) Less than 2 pages devoted to object oriented perl. I realize that probably less than 20% of all perl people will ever write anything object oriented, but I'm find OO essential for breaking down complicated problems.
2) Missing library calls; for example, in the DBI library: prepare_cached, connect_on_init really do exist.
3) Incomplete documentation of each and every library call; what are the possible values of an attribute hash? You better RTM, because usually you won't find it here.
4) Inconsistent documentation of library calls: sometimes they tell you what type the function wants, and sometimes they don't.
5) Lack of example usage in the libraries.
This is not nitpicky stuff. A comprehensive reference book should answer the purpose at least 60% of the time, or it becomes a waste of time. But, if you use this book first, you will *still* have to look at the documentation or another book, guaranteed.
This book bears all the hallmarks of having been hurriedly compiled from information available online, without expert review, and poorly edited. I realize documentation is a boring thankless task (better than Sominex for me), but nevertheless this book does not hit the mark.
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Most recent customer reviews
3.0 out of 5 stars A handy reference, but...
This is a handy reference, but if you have a limited budget you should probably go with Programming Perl and the Perl Cookbook before this one. Read more
Published on Dec 13 2003 by Jack D. Herrington
5.0 out of 5 stars Great reference!
I am not a beginning programmer nor am I what you would call an expert. Having a background in PHP made Perl easy to learn, so I didn't need a book that would "teach"... Read more
Published on Sept. 6 2002 by J. Trelfa
1.0 out of 5 stars High Level Descriptions with Few Samples
This book is full of alphabetical high level descriptions (which are always ambiguous) of Perl language statements with few or no illustrative examples (which always help clear up... Read more
Published on July 24 2002 by Kenneth J. Freed
4.0 out of 5 stars Lots of Material But No Examples
This book consists of a 150-page Perl manpage, plus a big, fat catalog of Perl packages. It's great for finding out what's available, but once you've spotted your prey and want to... Read more
Published on May 1 2001 by Thomas Hundt
5.0 out of 5 stars Perl in a Nutshell : A Desktop Quick Reference
Simaply the best reference book for Perl, I highly recommend this book to new users. Over all this is a nice book to read and I recommend this to all of my collegues and friends.
Published on Sept. 11 2000 by S. Ng
4.0 out of 5 stars Perfect for the basics, not as good for the advanced feature
Like all of the "Nutshell" series, this book is a detailed language reference with little or no "how to" value. Read more
Published on March 2 2000 by Joseph E. Swanson
4.0 out of 5 stars A generally good desktop reference
Like the other books in the O'Reilly Nutshell series, this is a very good desktop reference to have around. However, I have some small gripes with the book. Read more
Published on Jan. 10 2000 by Douglas Welzel
4.0 out of 5 stars For Twice the Price Go Buy The CD With All 6 Books
If you want a quick reference, try the CD on for size, speed, and thoroughness.
Published on Nov. 29 1999 by "cyberdr"
5.0 out of 5 stars Great Reference
This book is a good reference to programm PErl using Modules.
Published on Oct. 31 1999
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