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Elements of Programming with Perl Paperback – Oct 1 1999

4.3 out of 5 stars 20 customer reviews

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 362 pages
  • Publisher: Manning Publications (Oct. 1 1999)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1884777805
  • ISBN-13: 978-1884777806
  • Product Dimensions: 18.8 x 1.9 x 23.9 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 590 g
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars 20 customer reviews
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #1,404,057 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Product Description

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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


"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

4.3 out of 5 stars
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Top Customer Reviews

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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Format: Paperback
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. So I turned to this book and finally started learning Perl. The author doesn't assume you have any programming experience at all ; hence the title. A person who has never programmed before could probably get through this book( but not without some effort) but they will be well rewarded.What is really excellent is that the author has a home page where you can post questions, concerns, whatever and he will respond within 24 hours (almost always) with clear, concise answers. For others who come from other languages and need to learn Perl quickly, this is an excellent tutorial and they will be up to speed in no time. I had to learn Perl quickly for a project I was on at work - within 2 weeks after starting this book I was well on the way to writing scripts using regular expressions.
This book should be thought of as an initial stepping stone on the path to Perl knowledge , so its not as encyclopedic as say the famous Camel book(Programming Perl). After going through this book, doing the exercises, reading and posting on the authors website, you will be very well prepared for more advanced topics in Perl. After this book, I picked up "Object Oriented Perl" by Damian Conway (from same publishing company) and I had no problem at all thanks to the fine intro this book provided me.
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Format: Paperback
I agree with the statement that this book is a great intermediate step between the Llama (Learning Perl) and the Camel (Programming Perl). It is written in a very different style than the O'Reilly, and I am sure I will find myself using both. The O'Reilly is great for quick reference on syntax but Johnson goes into more depth, in a more narrative style, on how to *use* Perl in real software development situations. It is a great book to read cover to cover - it is less than 350 pages - because it teaches Perl through building a story from beginning to ... well, it's open ended. For intelligent beginners, it doesn't just teach programming in Perl but also concepts of planning a program and using best practices, including documentation. For programmers experienced with other languages (which is where I fit), it teaches Perl by weaving it into a "story" that we already know well, so it's easy to follow along with the flow and - surprise! - by the end, you know Perl.
The only criticism I would have is that, because of the narrative style, the book does not facilitate easy reference, and the index is poor, so if you need to find a nice piece of code you remember reading, you might have to dig a while.
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Format: Paperback
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. (I do know HTML and I am a website developer. I just thought I would tell you this so you would realize where I might be coming from.)
I have purchased most of the books on the market that relate to getting started as a new programmer using Perl. Everything from 'Learn Perl in 24 Hours' .. to the Camel books (which are great for refenece purposes), etc. And if you've tried them, and felt frustrated, let me explain what made this book different for me.
First of all, this book is not written 'perfectly' clear. But then ... I haven't found one that is. But, what makes this book special is the offer and accessibility of the AUTHOR to each of the readers who purchase the book. The author, Andrew Johnson, is everything you could want in a teacher and coach.
With that being said, ... learning to program is not easy. (So, expect to work hard, read a lot, and practice writing code.) And, if you had your preference, you'd probably rather be in a classroom where you could ask questions of your teacher everytime you didn't understand something that was going on.
Andrew Johnson acts like your teacher and personal coach. He does an excellent job of laying out the information in the book ... as if you were in a classroom. Then, as you read through each chapter ... you will (and let me repeat ... YOU WILL) have questions.
I must say, I go to his online forum often, where I can ask anything I want (relating to the book) that I have a question on.
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