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March 20, 2006

Intermediate Perl: Beyond the Basics of Learning Perl

Sebastopol, CA--Over the years, working through the "Llama Book" (formally known as Learning Perl) has become a necessary rite of passage for would-be Perl programmers. Its pages have instructed many a novice in the use of Perl for writing short and medium programs, which have traditionally accounted for much of the programming done in Perl. But more and more often, the language is being used for larger programs and Perl programmers are working as members of programming teams. So, having mastered the material in Learning Perl, it's quite natural for programmers to ask, "How do we get from here to there?" The answer can be found in Intermediate Perl (O'Reilly, US $39.99) by Randal Schwartz, brian d foy, and Tom Phoenix. Written by same team of authors that produced the renowned Llama Book, this sequel that picks up where the first book left off.

Once regarded as merely a handy scripting tool, Perl is now seen as versatile, powerful language used in a variety disciplines ranging from system administration to web programming to database manipulation. It's often said that Perl makes easy things easy and hard things possible. "Perl is a big language with a lot of power," agrees coauthor foy.

"We’re writing for the people who know a little bit of Perl and need to learn more," foy adds. "In Learning Perl we gave readers enough Perl to write small programs. In 'Intermediate Perl' we cover the skills the reader needs for large programs and systems as well as working as part of a Perl programming team."

Intermediate Perl has also been updated for the latest release of Perl. The authors have expanded the section on references to include filehandle references, and they've included new chapters on testing Perl code, a topic that has grown in importance for group projects."

"References are the next big hump to get over for intermediate-level Perl programmers," says foy. "References are the keys to complex data structures, programming efficiency, and more importantly, are the basis for Perl's object system."

Intermediate Perl follows the same winning format as "Learning Perl" with each chapter small enough to be read in just an hour or two, ending with exercises designed to help readers practice what they've learned. Topics include packages and namespaces, references and scoping, manipulating complex data structures, object-oriented programming, writing and using modules, and much more. As coauthor Phoenix observes, once readers have they've worked through the exercises, they'll be able to, "team up with other Perl programmers on large projects or use modules from CPAN to get 'virtual assistance' from other programmers. By leveraging code from CPAN, you can get your program running faster, with fewer bugs, than if you had to write it all yourself.

"Randal, brian, and I have taught Perl to literally thousands of students over more than a decade," says Phoenix. "We've been able to see where students tend to have difficulties, and as a result we've been able to give them a smoother ride on the Llama and Alpaca.*

"But we're not the only ones who use the Llama and Alpaca in our Perl courses," adds Phoenix. "There are any number of other people who teach with these books, and we're glad to see that. We've tried to make a book that will help someone who already knows Perl learn to use it better, as well as a book that will be good as a classroom textbook. Not to mention that it can be a handy reference to have nearby or a colorful addition to any bookshelf."

*The "Alpaca" refers to the animal on the cover of Intermediate Perl. Following the tradition established by its predecessor, it is sure to be known as the "Alpaca Book."

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