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Perl for Dummies (Fourth Edition)

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Spotlight Customer Reviews

Average Customer Rating: 3.88

Customer Rating: 4
Summary: A very good place to start
Comment: For those who frown upon Dummies books, you should ease up a bit and give this one some serious thought. Perl for Dummies is strictly for beginners. When I say beginners, I mean people with absolutely no programming experience in any language. I compared this book to Learning Perl and found that Learning Perl is written primarily for seasoned non-Perl programmers who are trying to learn Perl for the first time. If you are like me, with no programming know how, this is a more appropriate beginning. It explains such simplicities as scalars, arrays, adding and removing list elements, conditionals, etc. It even goes (lightly) into CGI and regular expressions. It does so in a language which understands that the reader is a "dummy" when it comes to programming and most importantly, it keeps it simple. Simplicity is the primary teaching strategy when dealing with a topic at the novice level, and Perl for Dummies does this well. The weakness of this book is that it does not do a good job of teaching you how to install Perl from the CD provided. In fact, the instructions provided were downright wrong. I had to ask a Perl programmer how to install and run Perl programs on my Windows 98 system. Another weakness, if you can call it that with a book at this level, is that it lacks program examples which would allow me to see what exactly can Perl do in the real world, such as system administration in a UNIX environment. I recommend this book as the starting point, with Learning Perl and Elements of Programming Perl as your next logical step. After you have mastered these books should you go on the Programming Perl and the Perl Cookbook.

Customer Rating: 4
Summary: Nice Intro to Perl
Comment: This book seems to follow the pattern of most Dummies books I've read...give a good overview of the major considerations of the topic at hand, provide a few examples to help give the reader a feeling of empowerment, and indicate that there is much more to learn.

I came to this book needing to learn perl well enough to write some simple text modification programs for work. While this book does not replace a semester-long university course on the language (which is what I'm used to), it does give the reader enough information to jump in and start writing some simple perl programs...if your comfortable with the OS you're dealing with and if perl is already installed (I'm not sure I really could have accomplished those tasks with only the knowlege from this book).

I guess my take on this book and other Dummies books are like those infamous Cliff Notes from high school...simply reading these books won't make you an expert, but they can give valuable insight and pointers that you might not easily gain on your own. As an additional tool coupled with a little bit of programming experience and the provided perl documentation, Perl for Dummies has helped me get up to speed quickly and complete several important projects...which I don't think I would have been able to do otherwise.

Customer Rating: 2
Summary: Leaving me with more questions than answers.
Comment: My definition of a good dummies book is one that answers questions rather than raise more of them. I've read up to chapter 5 so far in this book and already my mind is swarming with dozens of questions. And it's frustrating knowing that they aren't answered, or at least, not at this point.

I'm reading this book from cover to cover - I'm not using it as a reference. I really want to learn Perl. Therefore, I was hoping to truly understand WHY certain things are the way they are in this language... not just that "this does that." That's only 1/2 of the battle in programming. We have to know how these functions/variables relate to each other. That's what programming is all about - relations... but relationships aren't defined clearly (so far) in this book.

For example, the author goes through 2 examples of perl programs in Chapter 4. He illustrates what each part of the script does, but this is only partially satisfactory. Half of the displayed functions are definitions, instead of explanations. I found myself asking "Okay, so why is that part important? How does it relate to the other parts? Why does that need to be included? The chomp variable? Why include that here? Sure, I know what it DOES, but why include it here? Which variables are native to Perl and which aren't?" Many, many questions.

It feels like Chapter 4 belongs towards the end of the book, after we understand all of the basic functions/variables, etc. I skimmed through the book and found answers to questions I had at the beginning - which isn't very efficient.

I understand why something is important about 50% of the time with Perl for Dummies. The other 50% is spent looking in other chapters for answers, doing mental gymnastics in my head, or just moving on, hoping it will be explained in the next page or so.

Perhaps he does explain it, but not enough to my satisfaction. Or maybe it's all cleaned up in later chapters. It sounds like he wrote this assuming we would be able to figure out any missing parts. The book needs more clarity. I'm left more confused than enlightened.

It was only after applying a bit of my own computer know-how that I finally got a script to work - frustrating when the author doesn't make it clear you can make paths to the files you want to use Perl on. I eventually figured it out... but aren't Dummies books supposed to explain these things?

I'm not reviewing this book out of ignorance or disrespect for the author's knowledge and experience. He obviously knows what he is doing. I've programmed in Java before and it's easy to see the similarities. I'm also an experienced web developer.

I just wonder how I could be scratching my head so many times when this book is supposed adapt to the fact that I am a dummy. Good start, but gets confusing quickly.

If the book gets any better as I read, I will re-review it and adjust its rating accordingly.