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Is Programming Perl still relevant as a reference book?

by w-ber (Hermit)
on Mar 02, 2007 at 17:40 UTC ( #602916=perlquestion: print w/ replies, xml ) Need Help??
w-ber has asked for the wisdom of the Perl Monks concerning the following question:

Honoured Monks,

I have recently found new zeal in discovering what is left to discover on my personal journey towards Perl Enlightenment. I have been programming in Perl for a full seven years now, albeit I have made several excursions to other languages. Last year was first spent in the sweaty jungle of C++, then the Monad City of Haskell, and lastly on the austere and barren plains of Lisp. The year before that saw me travelling the fine line between Perl and C, laced with short vacations in the nearby forest of Tcl.

It is truly a modern miracle that I have survived this far unaided by the holy scripture, The Camel Book; I have never read it nor owned a copy. I am currently burning with a desire to learn the intricate details of every construct in the language, every detail in the syntax. The man pages are there, yes, as is PerlMonks, but these sources are electronic only. I need a concrete, paper book which I can browse at leisure.

My question is now, is The Camel Book still relevant as a reference book? The third edition is soon seven years old, and Perl is a moving target. Which version of the language does it refer to? What has changed? How will I know which parts have?

Should I wait for the fourth edition, which supposedly covers Perl 6?

The book is appealing for its price as well, for I have been low in funds for two years. Higher Order Perl is another very appealing book, but it must wait at the bookstore until the finances allow its acquirement. Not only that, but I am familiar with the many functional programming idioms it describes. What I seek now is deep knowledge in the language itself.

Thank you for your patience.

--
print "Just Another Perl Adept\n";

Comment on Is Programming Perl still relevant as a reference book?
Re: Is Programming Perl still relevant as a reference book?
by Moron (Curate) on Mar 02, 2007 at 17:57 UTC
    All it takes is for something demanding in your work that is best resolved by reading one of chapters 10-20 and there you have it - you can't wait!

    -M

    Free your mind

Re: Is Programming Perl still relevant as a reference book?
by ysth (Canon) on Mar 02, 2007 at 18:43 UTC
    My question is now, is The Camel Book still relevant as a reference book? The third edition is soon seven years old, and Perl is a moving target. Which version of the language does it refer to? What has changed? How will I know which parts have?
    Yes. 5.6. See perl58delta, perl581delta, perl582delta, ... perl588delta.
Re: Is Programming Perl still relevant as a reference book?
by agianni (Hermit) on Mar 02, 2007 at 18:46 UTC

    While most of what I find useful is available through perldoc, I have copies of the first, second and third edition sitting on my shelf, and I'll likely own a copy of the fourth edition when that comes out. There are topics in the book that are simply easier to find information on by skimming the index and finding the content I need.

    Besides the camel book, the two most valuable Perl books on my shelf are probably Freidel's Mastering Regular Expressions and Conway's Perl Best Practices

      Looks like our taste in perl books is very similar! Those two are my faves as well! (Not so much the topic of this thread, though I do own it)

      I like computer programming because it's like Legos for the mind.
Re: Is Programming Perl still relevant as a reference book?
by monarch (Priest) on Mar 02, 2007 at 18:47 UTC
    As I'm getting older I'm starting to realise there are some texts out there that are still very relevant, even if they are years old. Would the original K&R book be of value to me as a C programmer after 15 years? Definately.

    The Camel Book is a great read; I thoroughly recommend it and have found myself turning to it time and time again in the last 5-6 years. There are some interesting chapters to browse through from time to time, such as optimised methods of coding for speed, terseness, maintainability, etc.

      I can attest that K&R is still relevant and it is an excellent book; I have a hardcopy. However, the case is different: C is standardized, Perl is not. The C language, save unofficial vendor extensions, remained the same for a good ten years or so (from C89 to C99). No new keywords, same semantics. Even the standard library stayed the same. Also, most common C compilers still fail to support the full C99 standard, which means most C code is still C89. Reading perl58\d?delta, as linked by ysth, indicates that Perl has indeed changed in seven years.

      --
      print "Just Another Perl Adept\n";

        Yes, perl has changed. Nigh-on all those changes have been *additions*, not deletions or changes in old functionality. Therefore the Camel book is still relevant.
Re: Is Programming Perl still relevant as a reference book?
by philcrow (Priest) on Mar 02, 2007 at 19:34 UTC
    I still use my camel and mine is only a second edition. Since others are suggesting other books, I'll add Perl Cookbook to the list. It was after reading the majority of that book that I moved from using Perl in my own way to using it in a Perlish way.

    Phil

Re: Is Programming Perl still relevant as a reference book?
by tedv (Pilgrim) on Mar 02, 2007 at 19:47 UTC
    A true programming book describes more than syntax. It's really about the heart of the language. At it's core, the heart of perl is, "the programmer knows best". (Contrast this with, say, Java, which says "the language knows best".) Even if the syntax will soon be outdated, the philosophy described in the original camel book is a great introduction to the language. The first edition version of the book is particularly humorous as well, an uncommon trait in a programming book


    -Ted
Re: Is Programming Perl still relevant as a reference book?
by Argel (Prior) on Mar 02, 2007 at 20:44 UTC
    I cannot imagine not having Programming Perl on my shelf, along with Perl Best Practices. It would be like claiming to be a Christian even though I did not own a copy of the Bible. The Camel Book is our bible. Get a copy and stop wasting our time with these blasphemous questions! :-)

    All joking aside, the fundamentals haven't changed except maybe in a few more advanced areas. The book is still extremely relevant today, to the point that I think a Perl 5.8.x companion book would make more sense than a Perl 5.8 based Fourth Edition. If you can get it at a good price then by all means do so!

Re: Is Programming Perl still relevant as a reference book?
by TGI (Vicar) on Mar 02, 2007 at 20:45 UTC

    If you are short on funds, and don't mind ebooks, the Perl CD Bookshelf (some prefer the 3rd edition) is a good value.

    I bought the first edition when I first started with perl, and it was invaluable.


    TGI says moo

      I have to agree with the earlier poster, who said most everything can be found in perldoc (and 'man perl***'). I have an early copy of the camel, but I _never_ use it. The main reason is that I feel the text rambles. I must admit reading it is entertaining, but barely what I would want to use as a reference. Also, why use a printed book as a reference when the electronic documentation is updated along with the perl version? The book is destined to become hopelessly out of date, while perldoc/man perl*** is almost always current. Your money is better spent elsewhere.

        My beef is exactly this: I only have electronic documentation. Information is up to date, certainly, but reading long passages of text from the screen is uncomfortable. Call me old-fashioned, but a book is a book.

        Thank you everyone for opinions. I will visit the library (although they likely do not have a copy) or a bookstore and read a few pages before buying, though, simply to ascertain the quality.

        --
        print "Just Another Perl Adept\n";

Re: Is Programming Perl still relevant as a reference book?
by j3 (Friar) on Mar 03, 2007 at 06:38 UTC

    You know how some books give you what you need, but it's like pulling teeth?

    I've got this nasty habit I sometimes do while reading: when I get caught in clumsy writing, I tend to try and ``read'' the passage as I wish the author had written it. This happens very rarely for me with the online perldocs. It probably happens even less in the 3rd edition of Programming Perl (the only one I have).

    So, I guess you can take that for whatever it's worth. :)

    One other tidbit of metadata: it's interesting to note that many monks seem to have multiple editions of the Camel book (keeping older ones as they upgrade).

      I do that too... it's very frustrating to read a published work and think "Wow, if I were the editor I could have fixed all of this."

Re: Is Programming Perl still relevant as a reference book?
by ciderpunx (Vicar) on Mar 03, 2007 at 09:29 UTC
    Is it relavant? Hell yeh! And beautifully written. I tend not to like learning from online docs (I find them more useful as a reference when I'm looking for a specific answer), so I read lots of techie books. I've found the camel amongst the best - it's pretty comprehensive. Its very densely written and would not be an ideal beginners book, but it sounds like you're looking for something fairly in depth.

    On the cost issue, I don't know how the public library system works in Finland, but here in the UK you can ask your local library to acquire specific books for you - maybe that'd be an option.

    Cheers

    --
    Linux, perl, punk rock, cider: charlieharvey.org.uk.

      You know, I always forget that option.

      And what a coincidence. The city library has been under renovation since November, and was opened yesterday. I thought they would not open until later this month. A quick search in their web database reveals that they have the Finnish version of the book (translation published 2002), but not the original English one. I will check it out.

      --
      print "Just Another Perl Adept\n";

Re: Is Programming Perl still relevant as a reference book?
by McDarren (Abbot) on Mar 04, 2007 at 02:22 UTC
    Is Programming Perl still relevant as a reference book?
    Yes, according to a (?:random)? sample of PerlMonks - it would appear so ;)
Re: Is Programming Perl still relevant as a reference book?
by w-ber (Hermit) on Mar 05, 2007 at 11:37 UTC

    I hold in my hand a Finnish translation of The Camel Book, borrowed from the library. One look at the table of contents set my heart in motion, fluttering in anticipation, and reading the first one hundred pages already proved the book to be worth its price. There is no question about it: I must have a copy.

    The only sign of age for now has been the recommendation of using Altavista -- not Google. But this is perfectly fine, and not something to hold against the Book.

    --
    print "Just Another Perl Adept\n";

      You might keep a copy of Damian's Perl Best Practices nearby, just to keep you on the straight and narrow. The Camel has some habits like using package global filehandles, 2-arg open, indirect object notation, etc., that you may or may not want to get into.
Re: Is Programming Perl still relevant as a reference book?
by odrm (Novice) on Mar 05, 2007 at 18:46 UTC
    As a language, Perl has many similarities with English. Its pretty easy to get going, and you can get rather impressive things done in the language quite quickly. But to really become a master, you need to know more than the syntax and grammar. "Programming Perl" does a fantastic job in conveying the spirit of Perl - and thus offers invaluable insight into how to use Perl to even greater effect. Its the last book I would eject from my Perl bookshelf.
Re: Is Programming Perl still relevant as a reference book?
by brusimm (Pilgrim) on Mar 08, 2007 at 23:31 UTC
    The FOURTH edition of Learning Perl from O'Reilly is out.

    That is awesome, as is the Cookbook, and
    "PERL by Example" is great for beginner type folk.

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