Most helpful positive review
37 of 42 people found the following review helpful
on September 26, 2002
I bought this book on a whim, mainly because I try to buy (and read... ugh!) a hard-core technical book every month or so, but mainly because my UNIX scripting abilities have become rusty with disuse. I used to be able to write a tight, 10-line csh script to mangledit thousands of files at a single time. Now I hack away at files manually with vi. The other day, I even forgot how to search & replace. My kung fu isn't nearly what it used to be.
It usually takes me about a month to slog through a new book (especially academic texts, which are great but make you want to have a stiff martini before each new chapter) but I tore through Friedl's book in a few days. It's an outstanding reference for understanding & learning to use regular expressions.
Regexes can be cryptic to say the least, but Friedl offers many examples, broken down into step-by-step instructions and explanations of how each regex works (in many cases, right down to the individual character level). He covers a variety of platforms and languages - the hardcore Perl enthusiast will enjoy this book greatly, but he offers fairly equal time to alternative languages like Java and the "grep" family.
All that said, this book is an outstanding technical reference, pure and simple, for two reasons:
- Friedl uses an interesting new typesetting convention to illustrate which sections of text are regular expressions, and which sections are not. It's hard to describe (and impossible to reproduce here) but they look like 90-degree braces at the upper-left and lower-right corners. This is a FANTASTIC approach and I for one would love to see this extended to other technical books.
- Speaking of other things I would love to see extended to other technical books, THIS BOOK HAS ALMOST NO ERRORS! This is even more impressive considering the fact that, with regular expressions, screwing up EVEN A SINGLE CHARACTER is significant. Nothing [upsets]memore than spending $50-100 perfectly good dollars on a sloppy, error-laden, grammatically-challenged, poorly-edited, ill-reviewed and badly-structured book (which pretty much describes 90% of all the technical books out there). He made a few mistakes, the vast majority of which are extremely trivial in nature, and all of which were quickly posted to his website as errata. If only the other 90% of the technical authors out there were even half as diligent.
All told, this book belongs on your bookshelf.