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Learning Perl Objects, References and Modules Randal Schwartz with Tom Phoenix
Published by O'Reilly and Associates
205 pages
£ 24.95
Published: June 2003
reviewed by Stephen Quinney
   in the December 2003 issue (pdf), (html)

The title of this book does a fairly good job of telling the casual browser in the book store what it is going to cover. To give you more of an idea of what is in this book I will go into slightly more detail. The authors use 5 chapters to give a thorough coverage of the whole topic of references right through from simple usage, creating complex data structures out of nested arrays and hashes, to subroutine references and the associated advanced ideas of callbacks and closures. They devote 4 chapters to the use of objects, which goes a fair way to explaining how to utilise most of the common object-orientated code design principles within your Perl. They spend a further 4 chapters looking at various different aspects of using and writing Perl modules, from simple usage through to how to package and distribute your code on CPAN. It was very good to see that one of these chapters is given over to how to make use of a few of the excellent Perl code testing modules, this is something that I think has been a little overlooked in the past.

This book is aimed directly at those who are fairly new to Perl. It has a secondary title which is ``Beyond the Basics of Learning Perl''. The authors have also written the excellent ``Learning Perl'' book and this new book is designed to be a followup to cover the topics missed out of their previous book. As such the experienced Perl programmer is not going to get a lot out of this book although I did find some sections which really helped to improve my understanding of a topic.

The authors benefit greatly from being involved in teaching Perl programming skills on a regular basis, and are certainly capable of ``Making Easy Things Easy & Hard Things Possible''. Having recently taught an introductory Perl programming course based on the Learning Perl book I can say that the authors have a very good style and approach to separating out and explaining individual topics. They are able to break problems down into small enough chunks that the interested reader does not have difficulty in getting to grips with each new topic. This new book certainly lives up to the expected standard they have set for themselves. The examples are clear and well chosen and the explanations help the reader to gain a deeper insight into each topic. They also have an amusing writing style and a slightly odd theme to each book - this time it is Mr Ed and Gilligan's Island - which helps to make sure things do not get boring.

This book is not intended to be a replacement for ``Programming Perl'' or ``Advanced Perl Programming'' but it does provide a much easier way into the advanced topics than either of these two books. It will particularly suit those who are fairly new to Perl but most Perl users will find something of interest. I would definitely recommend this book for those interested in teaching courses as well as those wanting to learn. I cannot really find fault, except maybe to say that it looks a little thin for the price. A mere 200 pages for the same price as the 300 page Learning Perl, but that said there is a lot crammed into this book.

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