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168 of 171 people found the following review helpful
on April 28, 2005
It's too bad that Amazon has listed reviews here which apply to earlier editions of the book. This 4th edition is a very different book than the 3rd or previous editions. (Any review you see here prior to February 2005, when this edition was printed, doesn't apply to this book.) The front cover of this book says that more than 450,000 programmers have learned C++ from previous editions. I wasn't one of them, though I bought and started to read 2 previous editions in the attempt to be. I already new C very well and the approach taken in those editions bogged me down in too much detail that I already knew.

This 4th edition is a tremendous improvement over the others. The material has been completely reorganized and updated and is much more effectively presented. The text is sprinkled with highlighted tips, notes, warnings, and best practices that not only helpful in learning the material but in applying it well. Each chapter is summarized at the end and has a glossary of important terms and concepts. Exercises at the end of each section make this book a good candidate for classroom use as well as individual study. They even knocked 300 pages off the length of the 3rd edition!

If you want to learn C++ thoroughly and well using just one book, this is the book to buy.
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143 of 146 people found the following review helpful
on October 14, 2005
Let me state up-front that this is an indispensable book for me, and, as a reference, or as a source for expanding a basic C++ capability, it's easily worth 5 stars, not 4. In fact, as an intermediate-level C++ user, this is the most indispensable book that I have. I have 15 C++ books on my shelf, and this one (the fourth edition) is the most comprehensive, even surpassing Stroustrup's tome in most areas. (Stroustrup's influence on Primer is pretty obvious in spots.) The book's depth and its style of presentation, however, will mean that it's not the best primer for newcomers, and that's why I only gave it a 4-star rating. Look at the painting metaphor expressed on the front cover of the book. This book is more than a primer: it's a full pallet of colors, and as such is more than a beginner "painter" will be able to put to use quickly. I need to clarify what I'm saying here.

You might ask how a book can be the most comprehensive available without being longer in page count. The answer comes down to style. This book rarely expends space on full-length, executable code examples. The treatment of nine out of ten subjects offers only snippets of code - not complete executable examples. Many books offer examples that take up multiple pages for the code and multiple pages for the line-by-line explanations of the code. This difference in presentation is the single biggest reason why C++ Primer can offer so much more thorough coverage of C++ language features in fewer than 900 pages. The downside is, if you intend to learn C++, you absolutely must experiment with working code - there is no other way. The fact that this book does not offer much complete working code means that you will have to spend more time getting yourself set up to experiment. This will be especially true if you are a beginner, just because it will be harder to get things working.

The conciseness of code examples is matched by conciseness of explanations. In this regard, however, I have found no downside: the vast majority of explanations are extremely clear to the point of elegance. I've found only a few flaws in clarity, which are probably left over from earlier editions.

The tremendous depth of this book will be another weakness for newcomers to C++ who need to get started quickly. In my opinion, you just can't get started quickly when every treatment of every subject has to cover all of the ins and outs of that subject. There are too many subjects and too many ins and outs. If you try to go straight through the book, you'd better be prepared to work lots and lots of problems along the way: it will take so long to get through it that if you don't practice as you go, you may find yourself forgetting almost as fast as you're learning.

The other side of the coin is this: if you really do take this book, work through it from start to finish, and really master the material, you'll have a fantastic knowledge of C++. I seriously doubt that three good college courses in C++ - assuming no prior programming experience - would teach as much. The fact that you'll have to develop your own working code to demonstrate each feature will, like the depth of treatment, make you a better programmer, even though it seriously slows you down in the process.

You can conclude, then that if you are a newcomer to C++, and especially if you are inexperienced with programming in general, this book will be a long, hard climb. I'd be willing to bet that fewer than 5 percent of purchasers of this book start at the beginning and work straight through. Even so, if you are a newcomer taking a C++ programming class or just using another book to get started, it will be valuable for parallel reading and will come in very handy when you want to do a deep dive. Finally, don't forget that if you have a basic grounding in C++ fundamentals and you want to grow from there, this is a dynamite, five-star opportunity.

I feel like I have to elaborate here a bit as well. Time after time after time, when I've wanted a better understanding of a really fine point on the language, I've turned to this book and been rewarded for doing so. Every single subject is explained fully and, in most cases, eloquently. You can learn to do a lot quickly in C++ using other resources, but C++ offers the ability to fine tune and get close to the hardware. This book will make you better understand what the compiler is doing. The authors took the time to make extensive use of cross-references, which are invaluable in a subject this complex. The explanations, bolstered by cross-references, tend to leave me more than satisfied that I've gotten a grip. When I finish a section and have some example code executing, I feel like I have a complete understanding: I rarely find myself asking, "... but what about ...." I could go on and on, but you get the message. (One reason I'm taking the time to write this is that I feel indebted to the authors!)

The book builds up a consistent set of semantics - more so than any other book I've read. One example is their thorough explanation and consistent use of the terms "declare" and "define." Another is example is "argument" and "parameter list." Unambiguous semantics are essential to unambiguous communication, and, as you know, programming is one of the most unforgiving disciplines there is; ambiguity is intolerable. This attention to detail pervades the entire book, beyond just semantics.

Also, like with Stroustrup's book, I don't have to worry about whether the authors got it right or wrong or only half-right. This is an authoritative work: these guys know their subject as well as they know how to communicate it.

I especially like the dark page summaries and glossaries that act as chapter boundaries. I like the highlighted notes, tips, "bewares," and best practices. I like the blocks of text that address "cautions." These features are value-multipliers for me.

I also appreciate that there is absolutely no subconscious assumption that you already know C. That assumption seems to creep into so many other books, even though the authors deny it.

I agree with other reviewers that this edition is a huge improvement over previous editions. (I have the second edition beside me as I write this.) Frankly, I don't like the earlier editions. My guess is that the new authors, who came on board for this edition, should get a lot of credit. (I know an absolutely brilliant guy who has done some real innovation with C++. For example, he wrote a C++ library that allows you to write C++ in Python style, while getting C++ performance. This same guy was so intimidated by an earlier edition of Primer that he put off trying to learn C++ for several years! I'm still trying to convince him to get the fourth edition!)

So the fourth edition is a vast improvement, but, assuming that we don't try to make it all things to all readers and stick with the objective of compact comprehensiveness, how could we improve it further? The code examples could be simpler. I think Schildt is the master of communicating through code examples, just because his examples do the best job of isolating on the subject at hand. C++ is an extremely broad language, and when I read about a concept, I don't want to be expected to know everything, especially code examples, that preceded it in the book. Primer could do a better job - at least for me - in that respect. Examples should not be codependent: each example should lean only on the preceding material as much as is necessary to get the point across. Stated another way, OO programmers are big on encapsulation; OO tutorial writers should use the same rigor in encapsulating modules of tutorial text. All experts agree that the best code is code that is easily readable. In a tutorial, the meaning of the code examples should jump off the page. Primer is not bad in this regard, but it could be better. Some will argue that leaning on previous material reinforces the learning of the material, and they will be right. In my opinion, however, that argument applies mostly to course textbooks where the learning of diverse features can be forced into a tightly channeled sequence. I often use Schildt and Holtzner for reference when I need a quick answer. (As an aside, Stroustrup's book is the worst, for me, in terms of code examples being unnecessarily complex and codependent, even though I consider his book second only to this one as an indispensable reference.)

Bottom line: C++ Primer is an amazing accomplishment. The authors have done the best job to date of sorting out and presenting in lucid fashion a vast and complex network of features. I speak from experience as a technical writer as well as a student of C++. I feel guilty for assigning only four stars, but I'm concerned about the newbie who sees a 5-star rating on a "primer," and rushes to spend his limited budget on this book as a sole reference. C++ Primer is a very wise investment if you are really serious about C++, whether newbie or expert, but most newbies will also need a primary resource that is more beginner-oriented. Other books I recommend, in addition to the ones mentioned previously, include Prata (a good tutorial and a good resource for complete code examples, although there is significant codependence of examples); Lafore; Josuttis' classic STL book (definitely not for beginners); Schildt's STL book, also for its code examples; Keough and Gray (for quick reference only); and Safir and Brown (which does assume that you know C).
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56 of 57 people found the following review helpful
on February 16, 2007
This is a great book for anyone who want to enhance his/her knowledge

on C++, but this is by no means a primer book. If you are new to C++,

read the book "C++ primer plus" first. It is so funny that the book

"C++ primer plus" (which is also a great book) is really an introductory

book. The names of these two books should be swapped because this book

introduces more advanced topics and the topics that an experience programmer should know but a student does not need to. From my teaching experience in a state university, I would suggest students to read C++ books in the following order:

C++ primer Plus

C++ Primer

Thinking in C++ (great book, free on the internet)

The C++ Programming Language (by Stroustrup)

Then you may want to read some books on special topics such as Visual C++, Database, etc.
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13 of 13 people found the following review helpful
on March 6, 2010
As pointed out in other reviews: compared to previous editions, the 4th edition of the "C++ Primer" is considerably different (and shorter). For this edition, Barbara E. Moo (co-author of "Accelerated C++"), a long-time programmer and writer, vastly revamped and enhanced Stan Lippman's (and Josee Lajoie's) classic.

The Good: This book is over 800 pages long, and it is quite complete in its coverage, but it is highly readable. The "C++ Primer" can be used as an introductory text: the authors have interspersed a myriad of code snippets throughout the text (which they also integrated into complete working programs; these are provided on the publisher's website, packaged for different platforms). Similarly, there are exercises at the end of most sections; these are well thought out, and greatly facilitate the reader's learning (unauthorized solutions exist on the web in the form of a wiki). Furthermore, throughout the book parts of the text have been highlighted to call attention to common pitfalls, good programming practices, and important concepts. Finally, each chapter concludes with a summary and a glossary of defined terms. In contradistinction to many other popular volumes, this book teaches real C++, not "C with classes", i.e., it contains extensive treatments of the standard library containers and algorithms, of object-oriented programming, and of generic programming. For example, the coverage of the standard library in this book is much more extensive than in "C++ Primer Plus" by Stephen Prata, a book that is often compared with (or confused with) the "C++ Primer". Even so, the "C++ Primer" also covers a number of older topics such as C-style character strings, lower-level bit manipulation of integral values, and old-style casts. The material in this book is thematically organized (pointers, expressions, functions, classes, constructors, object-oriented programming, template programming, etc.). This, along with the many forward and backward cross-references, makes it a great reference both for people who have never read it, and for those who read it a while back.

The Bad: Object-oriented programming is covered in approximately 60 pages. The coverage is solid, just like in the rest of the book, but it is condensed. For the sake of comparison: Josuttis's book "Object-Oriented Programming in C++" devotes 170 pages on more or less the same topics. In other words, an object-oriented design background, while not strictly necessary, would make reading this book easier. This aspect of "condensedness" is a more general feature of reading the "C++ Primer": even though the book is quite long, there is no filler material. This slows the reader down, so it might interfere with one's progress when using this as a first C++ book. For example, the first 300 pages (perhaps mention but) do not discuss in detail the standard library algorithms, smart pointers, object-oriented or generic programming, and other aspects of professional C++ development. A related point: I mentioned above that the book works as a reference since it is complete and contains many cross-references. A side-effect of this is that some of the earlier chapters make repeated mention of topics that have not yet been covered; that's great if this is your second C++ book (since it means every chapter is complete), but is potentially too much information for a total newbie. Finally, this book was intentionally limited to Standard C++. As a result, it doesn't talk about TR1 (a specification for functionality being added to C++'s standard library) or boost (a collection of libraries offering TR1 implementations and much more), or threading in C++. A 5th edition of the "C++ Primer" will probably appear after the new standard (still known as C++0x) comes out.

Despite the few drawbacks that I have noted above, I believe that this is a wonderful book which deserves 5 stars.


Here are my suggestions on related reading.

Recommended prequel:

* Accelerated C++, by Andrew Koenig and Barbara E. Moo

An excellent first book on C++. Goes through many topics quite fast, but is highly readable. Covers essentially all of standard C++ in under 300 pages (see also my review of it on amazon).

Recommended follow-up:

* Effective C++, 3rd edition, by Scott Meyers

This assumes you have already come across all of the material contained in the "C++ Primer". It offers solid advice on numerous aspects of effective C++ development. Meyers also describes a few design patterns as well as more modern topics like TR1.

Alexandros Gezerlis
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11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
on March 24, 2006
I've been programming in C for 25 years. In the last 15 years, I've read a number of C++ books (I even read the first half of Stroustrup's 3rd edition. This was the first treatment I've read which I really absorbed (part of the fact is I had to learn c++).

While the treatment is thorough, I found far too many typos in a 4th edition. I really abhor typos in a technical book where the characters in an example MUST be right for it to work.

Barbara Moo gave me a copy of the errata (I submitted a number of errors I found). But one of the MAJOR shortcomings is why do I have to look up the author's to get an errata? Shouldn't the errata be on Addison's web site? (I just looked -- its not there -- I sent them a message). Also, be able to find the answers would be valuable (For a reader, examples without answers don't
necessarily help much).

I don't think its an introductory programming book. I just looked up the word "primer" -- this book goes far beyond what a
"primer" would contain. It covers C++ in depth. A number of subjects are covered in a way so a range of solutions ot problems
are presented from bad to good to introduce new features.

One thing I missed was full examples of working programs, being dissected. There are a lot of snippets. not whole programs. I find larger examples would be a good teaching tool.

Overall, this is a very positive review -- the best, most thorough treatment I've read -- with some caveats.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
on March 29, 2005
The previous editions (including the 3rd) of the book are all obsolete! This edition presents the language from a modern C++ perspective (post C++/98 standard), with emphasis on applications of the standard library, primarily the standard containers and algorithms. The standard library is still very under-utilized till this day, with many programmers still keep reinventing the wheels and laboring on things already provided by the library. With the C++/03/0x standard on the horizon, one is definitely much better served by upgrading to this edition and switching to the better way of programming C++ in terms of the standard containers and algorithms. By taking adantage of them, one writes more concise, more elegant, more robust, and in most cases more efficient code.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
on April 16, 2008
First, I own the 2nd, 3rd and 4th editions of this book. I originally learned C++ from the 2nd edition in the early 90's (it's out of date). Later I bought the 3rd edition when the C++ standards were updated. Now, after a few years away from C++, I find that I have to catch up with the latest and greatest C++ idioms, methods, convential wisdoms, whatever.

I started reading the 3rd edition and after 300 pages it became very obvious the 3rd edition was very encyclopaedic in its coverage and with its examples. The 3rd edition is an excellent reference, but for learning you need a month or more to read through the 1100+ pages. I don't have that much time. I needed something more concise -- so I bought the 4th edition.

The 4th edition is still 800 pages in length, but the information density per page is less. The examples are cut back, but they are still good, and tables are used to summarize different choices or variants to C++ syntax or libraries. These changes make the book vastly superior for learning C++ (relearning?). The examples demonstrate how to use the language and the tables convey the required information precisely. What a fantastic difference.

The 4th edition does have a different organization, that is, the order the language is introduced has changed. The emphasis is on introducing templates and generic programming much earlier than before. The section on OO design and programming is excellent, but the emphasis on templates changes its relative importance.

This may sound strange, but use the 4th edition to learn and use the 3rd edition as a reference.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
[A review of the 4th EDITION 2005]

This is perhaps one of the most distinguished of the numerous books on C++. Its authors have a long involvement with the development and teaching of the language. The book presents itself as a definitive text on C++, much like Kernighan and Ritchie's C manual is for C. So it teaches exhaustively on the attributes of C++ and also on what you can do at the preprocessor and compiler level.

The presentation style seems to echo K&R and is roughly at about the same level of difficulty, in terms of how concepts and syntax are explained. No flashy multihued graphics in the book. The authors have eschewed these in favour of a few schematics to illustrate key ideas like pointers, where you really do need some diagrams.

As a very useful aid, they have included many exercises, sprinkled through each chapter. Some exercises are rather simple. Which is perhaps deliberate; to give you confidence in items you can easily tackle.

Not having seen an earlier edition, I am unsure how substantive the differences between this text and its predecessors really is. C++ has been pretty stable for several years. Unlike still changing languages like Java and C#. So if you have an earlier edition of the book, you may not necessarily need to upgrade to this edition.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
on April 14, 2007
I had been programming in C for a long time already when I read this book. I had mucked around with C++ - reading other peoples' code - before reading it. So, I was not completely clueless, but clueless enough. I knew little about OOP, and had never seen templates before.

This book does an excellent job of teaching C++. The book is organized beautifully. The first part gets you going with the basic sytax, but at the same time introduces some library containers almost right at the start. This makes it easy to play with non-trivial code even as you are just starting. The next part is an excellent coverage of containers and algorithms. Then comes a detailed discussion on OOP, which is well worth the price of the book itself. Finally, there is a section on advanced topics.

The book is well written, and despite being discouragingly huge, is a breeze to read. Further, the organization above helps in quickly getting familiar with the key ideas of C++ and then zooming in.

I have been told by C++ gurus that there are certain flaws in the book, and that at one or two points it may be misleading. I am no C++ guru, and I did not find anything amiss with the book. C++ is not an easy language to learn, but it is not as hard as it is made out to be either. It helps to have an approach to teachin the language that does not start with C, does not build on C, but starts fresh from scratch. This book does that. For me, this book is sufficient as the only C++ book I need to have on my shelf.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
on October 31, 2007
This book is quite different than Deitel's "How to Program" series. Deitel's books are all the same: they presume you are stupid. They tipically start to write about control structures at page 80-90 and end at 160. Lippman starts at page 11 and ends at page 20. So there is more pages dedicated to details and things that worths.
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