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Learning Perl, Fourth Edition: The Llama is Back--Revamped for Today's Nascent Perl Programmers

August 1, 2005

Among Perl programmers, the classic instruction books are affectionately referred to by the animals on their covers: the Camel book (Programming Perl), the Llama book Learning Perl, and a relative newcomer, the Alpaca book (Learning Perl Objects, References, and Modules). By no means do these books make up the entire sum of knowledge about Perl; each animal merely represents a step on the path to mastery of the language. The Llama book serves as the traditional starting point for the programmer looking to learn Perl. Newly rewritten by Randal Schwartz, Tom Phoenix, and brian d foy, three prominent members of the Perl community, Learning Perl, Fourth Edition (O'Reilly, US $ 39.95) has been updated to reflect recent changes in the language (through Perl 5.8) and the way the language is used by programmers today.

Learning Perl is not a beginning programming book, but a guide to applying one's existing programming skills to Perl. As brian d foy, lead writer for the new edition, explains, "We aimed Learning Perl at the programmer who does not know Perl. We assume the reader understands the basics of variables, subroutines, and other features found in most programming languages, but needs to know how Perl does it. We're not a complete reference on Perl--you'll need Programming Perl for that," he adds. "But we cover the eighty percent of the language that most people use over and over again."

Like many others, foy began his own study of Perl with the Llama book. "I learned Perl from the first edition of the book," he recalls. "You can even see the receipt online. The careful viewer will notice that I bought it a week after I got Programming Perl . A couple of years later, I started teaching Perl with Randal Schwartz. Soon after that, Tom Phoenix re-jiggered most of our courseware and turned it into the third edition of Learning Perl. Now we're on the fourth edition, and I was the lead writer on the book that started it all for me."

The fourth edition of the book includes new exercises with solutions so readers can practice what they've learned while it's still fresh in their minds. Readers will learn about data structures, minimal matching, threading, data parsing, references, objects, modules, package implementation, and more. The authors have reengineered the pace and scope of the lessons with today's Perl student in mind, while retaining the detailed discussions, examples, and eclectic wit for which the book is famous. Although Perl was first known as the "toolbox for Unix," knowledge of Unix isn't required; the lessons in the new book apply equally well to most modern implementations of Perl. As foy says, "Previous editions of the book had a bit of a Unix bias, but we've removed as many traces of that as we could find. You can use Learning Perl no matter which operating system or environment you're using."

If you ask Perl programmers today which book they relied on the most when they were learning Perl, you'll find that an overwhelming majority will point to Learning Perl. Other books can teach you to program in Perl, but this book will turn you into a Perl programmer.

Praise for the previous edition:

"...this book really is a masterpiece. An easy to follow syntax, brilliant organization, and well thought content really give this book its edge. Overall this book gets five out of five stars from me."
--Adam Fortuno, M.U.D.slinger (Macintosh Users of Delaware Newsletter)

"This is the book to measure all others against."
--Richard Mateosian, IEEE

"It is easy to learn just enough Perl for a particular purpose, but if you want to understand Perl, this is where to start. Highly recommended"
--Major Keary, Book News

"This is the best tutorial for experienced programmers who want to learn Perl."
--Dave Cross, www.perlmonth.com

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  • Additional Resources

    Learning Perl, Fourth Edition
    Randal L. Schwartz, Tom Phoenix, and brian d foy
    ISBN: 0-596-10105-8, 283 pages, $39.95 US, $55.95 CA
    1-800-998-9938; 1-707-827-7000

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