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Elements of Programming with Perl

24 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-1884777806
ISBN-10: 1884777805
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Editorial Reviews Review

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 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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Product Details

  • Paperback: 362 pages
  • Publisher: Manning Publications (October 1, 1999)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1884777805
  • ISBN-13: 978-1884777806
  • Product Dimensions: 7.4 x 0.7 x 9.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.3 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (24 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #365,964 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

68 of 69 people found the following review helpful By B. Digger on January 6, 2000
Format: Paperback
'Elements of Programming with Perl' by Andrew Johnson is simply the best introductory Perl book on the market. It is patient in pace and rich in content. Concepts are introduced and explained in error free code. Diagrams are effectively utilized to reinforce understanding.
Having read Larry Wall's 'Programming Perl' and Tom Christiansen's 'Learning Perl' I was already acquainted with the basic constructs of the language. However as Perl is my first programming language I lacked the skills necessary to write effective reusable programs. 'Elements of Programming with Perl' early on presented the process of program design, and reinforced good design practice through well-organized code examples presented throughout all of the topical chapters.
Each chapter builds on & reinforces topics presented in previous chapters. I often found myself reading about a function I had been introduced to elsewhere, and upon following the book's example code finally discovering it's practical potency. As an example, prior to reading this book I had been capable of sorting lists of hostnames by domain only by inefficiently using a regular expression to copy the domain & pre-pend it to the beginning of the hostname. Then using the default 'sort' function followed by a loop to discard the pre-pended domain. Now I can tailor the sort function to serve my needs efficiently replacing that tangle of code with just three lines.
The book is well written with few wasted words and unlike most other authors this one understands & makes an effort to teach users of Active State Perl on Windows platforms as well as those using MacPerl. There are no sections or examples exclusive to Unix.
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22 of 23 people found the following review helpful By Gary M. Gordon on July 13, 2000
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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19 of 20 people found the following review helpful By "cnar77" on June 16, 2002
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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17 of 18 people found the following review helpful By PHO on January 26, 2000
Format: Paperback
I am pleased to recommend this book. As another reviewer wrote, I have also read Learning Perl and looked through Programming Perl, but while I was able to learn a fair amount from them, I kept feeling a bit lost when it came to things like how exactly do I use regexes and the types of data structures etc. I took a programming course in Pascal and Fortran too long ago (21 years), I think. At any rate, this book helped me feel a lot more confident with Perl - how to use CPAN, the abundant Perl documentation etc. I don't think that it would be the best book for a first-time programmer without an instructor, but if you have the stamina and perserverance to learn on your own, then this book is a must. Further, the book reads well. In addition, all errata in the first edition can be found at the publishers website, and are generally minor corrections.
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