O’Reilly’s Programming Perl 4th Edition by Tom Christiansen, brian d foy & Larry Wall w/ Jon Orwant ‘Unmatched power for text processing and scripting’ Review

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Programming Perl 4th Edition

Adopted as the undisputed Perl bible soon after the first edition appeared in 1991, Programming Perl is still the go-to guide for this highly practical language. Perl began life as a super-fueled text processing utility, but quickly evolved into a general purpose programming language that’s helped hundreds of thousands of programmers, system administrators, and enthusiasts, like you, get your job done. 

In this much-anticipated update to “the Camel,” three renowned Perl authors cover the language up to its current version, Perl 5.14, with a preview of features in the upcoming 5.16. In a world where Unicode is increasingly essential for text processing, Perl offers the best and least painful support of any major language, smoothly integrating Unicode everywhere—including in Perl’s most popular feature: regular expressions.

Languages fascinate me. My Father is a computer programmer as well as several of my friends and one of the languages I picked up a bit from is Perl. Don’t get me wrong! I am not a Perl guru, I’m not able to understand and manipulate the language enough to pass as a novice. However, that didn’t keep me from accepting the review for Programming Perl 4th Edition because it is the Perl Bible and as I love nothing more than expanding on my skills, I wanted to further understand the language that has always been around me.

If you already have one of the earlier editions, then let me show you the new Important Features that are covered in this update.

  • New Keywords and Syntax
  • I/O Layers and Encodings
  • New Backslash Escapes
  • Unicode 6.0
  • Unicode Grapheme Clusters and Properties
  • Named Captures in Regexes
  • Recursive and Grammatical Patterns
  • Expanded Coverage of CPAN
  • Current Best Practices 

So why is Perl so important as an Language? Well, Perl runs anywhere, on everything, it is one of the most portable programming languages out there. It’s easy. Which is something when we are talking about programming. It avoids many of the issues that other languages have and yet contains all the benefits.

Tom Christiansen is a freelance consultant specializing in Perl training and writing. After working for several years for TSR Hobbies (of Dungeons and Dragons fame), he set off for college where he spent a year in Spain and five in America, dabbling in music, linguistics, programming, and some half-dozen different spoken languages. Tom finally escaped UW-Madison with undergraduate degrees in Spanish and computer science and a graduate degree in computer science. He then spent five years at Convex as a jack-of-all-trades working on everything from system administration to utility and kernel development, with customer support and training thrown in for good measure. Tom also served two terms on the USENIX Association Board of directors. With over thirty years’ experience in Unix systems programming, Tom presents seminars internationally. Living in the foothills above Boulder, Colorado, Tom takes summers off for hiking, hacking, birding, music making, and gaming. 

brian d foy is a prolific Perl trainer and writer, and runs The Perl Review to help people use and understand Perl through educational, consulting, code review, and more. He’s a frequent speaker at Perl conferences. He’s the coauthor of Learning Perl, Intermediate Perl, and Effective Perl Programming, and the author of Mastering Perl. He was an instructor and author for Stonehenge Consulting Services from 1998 to 2009, a Perl user since he was a physics graduate student, and a die-hard Mac user since he first owned a computer. He founded the first Perl user group, the New York Perl Mongers, as well as the Perl advocacy nonprofit Perl Mongers, Inc., which helped form more than 200 Perl user groups across the globe. He maintains the perlfaq portions of the core Perl documentation, several modules on CPAN, and some standalone scripts. 

Larry Wall originally created Perl while a programmer at Unisys. He now works full time guiding the future development of the language. Larry is known for his idiosyncratic and thought-provoking approach to programming, as well as for his groundbreaking contributions to the culture of free software programming. 

Jon Orwant founded The Perl Journal and received the White Camel lifetime achievement award for contributions to Perl in 2004. He’s Engineering Manager at Google, where he leads Patent Search, visualizations, and digital humanities teams. For most of his tenure at Google, Jon worked on Book Search, and he developed the widely used Google Books Ngram Viewer. Prior to Google, he was CTO of O’Reilly, Director of Research at France Telecom, and a Lecturer at MIT. Orwant received his doctorate from MIT’s Electronic Publishing Group in 1999.

Let’s break this down easy for you. Essentially a programming language communicates instructions. Now imagine that you have to learn a new language and some of them have all these little idiosyncrasies to them, like French has la’ and Spanish has el’ which have male and female properties and can change when placed against other words; but then there is also English which is just pretty broadly spoken and can be used anywhere in the world and most people would understand without having to interpret anything. You can give your instructions and not worry (too much) about whether the other party will be able to pick up on them. Perl is like English. It can be used anywhere, it’s very portable and it’s incredibly easy to understand when you give it a chance and actually want to learn.

The last version of Programming Perl came out 12 years ago, so it’s really about time they updated it! The nice things about Programming Perl for newbies is that the book is complete and when I say this I mean that it starts you off with an Overview, the understanding of Natural and Artificial Languages, Expressions, etc. and then brings you along to Common Goofs for Novices (I liked this chapter a lot.) in Perl as Culture. It is pretty A – Z and if you are confused about anything, you are going to find the answer in the book somewhere. There is also a List of Tables, Glossary and an Index in case you need to look up something or skip around.

This is a great Beginner Book for all the information about Perl and an incredible reference that you will always return to. It is well worth picking up if you are serious about programming or are looking for a new skill.

Connect: You can connect with O’REILLY on their Facebook Page and/or @OreillyMedia on Twitter.

Purchase: You can purchase O’REILLY’s Programming Perl 4th Edition on Amazon for $32.99.

I received a sample to review. Opinions are my own and/or my families and are not influenced by any form of compensation. 

About 

Amanda is a stay-at-home Mom of two boys, a teen and a tot. She loves to share stories, talk about education, movies, books and coffee. A big supporter of community building and outreach, Amanda shares many activities, entertainment and events in her local area of St. Louis.

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