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Practical OCaml 2007th Edition
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Top Customer Reviews
Trying to learn OCaml from this book is a very bad idea; you will end up discouraged and confused at best. Please don't buy it.
Since I am relatively new to functional programming, I can't judge the technical content. I can tell you that other beginners should stay away from this book.
The writing style is surprisingly bad, considering the author has a degree in English and this book had a professional editor. Much of the book looks like a bad cut & paste job. The author often describes a concept in very general terms, dumps a dozen lines of code and moves on without ever explaining what the code is doing (strange for a programming language book).
There are free OCaml tutorials on the web which do a much better job of explaining the language. The publisher did a good job with Practical Lisp, how come this book doesn't have the same quality? At $50, this book will be going right back to Amazon.
OCaml is a sexy language that combines the expressiveness and terseness of scripting languages with the static type checking and performance of languages like C++ and Java. A book may be a good investment to learn a new language, and this is one of the few books available on the language. How does it fare?
This book has received very harsh criticism overall, and it mostly deserves it; it is somewhat of a mess. But it is not uniformly bad: some chapters are very bad, others are acceptable or interesting, depending on your background. The problem seems to be that the worst chapters come first; although it shows signs of bad editing throughout, the first few chapters are especially bad. And I mean really bad: bad text, bad editing, bad examples, lots of senseless repetition, conceptual errors, using language features not yet introduced (and that go unexplained), the list goes on. Later chapters are considerably less irritating.
Clearly inspired by Peter Seibel's terrific book Practical Common Lisp, the chapters on this one are divided in two types: the ones that explain the language, and the "Practical" ones, containing extended examples. This is a great idea, and even badly executed as it may be in Practical OCaml, it still results in interesting chapters.Read more ›
One gets the feeling that the author was learning OCaml while writing this book. He makes reference to several concepts that he does not explain. Monadic computation and polymorphism are two terms used that I feel the author did not actually understand while composing the book. In fact, if a book spends several paragraphs (badly) addressing the topic of polymorphism in a particular language, it should not leave it off with,"OCaml has polymorphic classes similar to C++ and Java, but the polymorphism at the type level in OCaml is parametric polymorphism instead of object polymorphism. The subtleties of the differences are well beyond the scope of this book..." and go on to direct the readers to a Usenet group.
There are also a number of forward references in the book -- rather than presenting only concepts that have been presented to that point in the book, there are numerous concepts mentioned or used and then annotated with,"This will be discussed in a later chapter," sometimes with no real reference allowing a read ahead.
Other complaints revolve around the typography of the book. It's bad enough to be misleading and confusing rather than just annoying. Critical characters are left out, which in the descriptions of the toplevel imply that certain things that should be marked as input will appear as output. If you didn't already know a little OCaml before picking up this book, you might think that you had typed something incorrectly, or were using the wrong version of the language environment, or have the wrong modules loaded.
I would recommend not buying this book and reading one of the online tutorials along with as many open source utilities as possible. A good book is inevitable, but this book doesn't even have a good page.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
OCaml is a language from an alternate-dimensional universe, even among its peers of Haskell and Lisp. Read morePublished on April 24, 2011 by Dan'l Miller
The book is poorly written, disorganized and jumps around kind of like the author is on crack or something. I got about 2 chapters in and couldn't even go further. Read morePublished on May 8, 2009 by zbrown
The online documentation is far more helpful than this book which I found quite disorganized. As other reviewers mentioned, this book uses concepts of the language well before it... Read morePublished on November 16, 2008 by Erik A. Onnen
Disjointed and disorganized. Ocaml is a language with much to offer but this book does it a disservice regardless of the experience level of the reader - those looking for another... Read morePublished on August 29, 2008 by Greg Wuller
i spent a couple hours reading this book carefully, without having seen any Amazon reviews. I haven't done any OCaml coding, most of my work is in ruby, python and C, but i have... Read morePublished on January 27, 2008 by pounding on the keyboard
I really tried to like this book. I've been meaning to learn Ocaml for months, and more or less on a whim picked up this book while I was in a brick and mortar bookstore. Read morePublished on June 17, 2007 by Mark Vandewettering
This book is a more comprehensive introduction a functional programming language, OCaml, than many tutorials you can find online. Read morePublished on June 2, 2007 by A Reader
I am a couple of chapters in and I am trying to like this book but it just isn't that approachable.
Compard to Practical Common Lisp (Same series I assume) there is... Read more
One of the previous reviewers described this book as being "only for the experienced". Sadly, this gives the book credit it simply doesn't deserve. Read morePublished on January 27, 2007 by Amazon Customer