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Re^2: What's missing in Perl books?

by brian_d_foy (Abbot)
on Nov 17, 2005 at 06:53 UTC ( #509312=note: print w/replies, xml ) Need Help??

in reply to Re: What's missing in Perl books?
in thread What's missing in Perl books?

If you want the perlfunc in book form, print it out and put it in a binder (or buy Perl in a Nutshell).

If you're a long time programmer, you shouldn't have trouble reading "multi-faceted" examples in other languages. You already have the concepts of variables, data structures, control structures, and so on. You've probably already run into some of the same tasks, too. This time, it's just in Perl. Either way you go, people complain.

brian d foy <>
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Re^3: What's missing in Perl books?
by spiritway (Vicar) on Nov 19, 2005 at 07:33 UTC

    I've got Perl in a Nutshell. It suffers from the same problem as the others, though perhaps not quite as badly.

    The problem is that many authors work hard to show off the great points of the language, but they sometimes present too many new features at once. For example, I wanted a simple explanation of the 'split' function. One explanation I found showed a clever way of combining split and join to perform some interesting task. Unfortunately, it wasn't clear how to use split or join, nor even what was happening. A better way, I feel, would have been to say: "This is what split does...", and then "This is what join does...", and then combine them together into something interesting and fancy.

    No book or author is going to please everyone. As you said, whatever you do, someone will complain about it. Still, I think it helps to hear what people have to say.

      If you want to know what split() does, read its entry in the perlfunc man page. People don't write books to explain what other people have adequately explained elsewhere. If you want to know what a builtin function does, you don't need a book. Once you've read the entry in perlfunc, the next step is personal experimentation. Take the function out for a spin and see what happens.

      brian d foy <>
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        This is great, but the point of all this wasn't how to learn to use split (or anything else). It was an answer to your question as to what I felt was missing in Perl books. It was that question I was addressing.

        No doubt, there are many places where I could find out how to use split. If nothing else, I could Google it. However, this (and many similar problems) arose for me as I tried to learn Perl through books. I bought almost every O'Reilly book about Perl I could find - several hundred dollars worth. It was my hope that somewhere in those books I would find some explanations about how things worked. Unfortunately, those explanations were not clear, nor were the examples. I consider this a deficiency in the books, and that was the original question - what's missing from the books?

        In my opinion, the perldocs are inadequate for learning. They're handy when you're at the computer, but they are awkward and inconvenient to read, and useless when you're not at the computer. Another problem is that they presuppose some additional knowledge, such as what the name of the document is that contains the information you're seeking. I prefer paper and ink books. I don't mind forking over money for books. I consider it a good investment. I can read them even when I'm not at the computer, while on the train, etc. Somewhere in all the books I bought, there should have been a simple explanation of how to use split, and a simple example showing how it is done. Among all those books, I should have been able to go to the index, find "split", and find the information I sought. This did not happen - and split was only one of many questions I could not get answered.

        So, this is my opinion of what Perl books are missing. The fact that it is possible to find the information elsewhere is irrelevant to that question. In general, the examples presented in the books were overly complex, and did not isolate the function or concept under discussion. They generally included extraneous information that was confusing. Not only that, quite often they used shortcuts that further obscured the main point. Most likely this was because the authors were so conversant with Perl that these examples seemed painfully obvious to them. However, they are not obvious to a newcomer to Perl. Note that I am not a newcomer to programming, just to Perl.

        As I said before, you can't please everyone. No doubt there are people who complained that there were too many examples, or that they were too simplistic. That's always going to happen - someone's going to be unhappy about something. So I just gave my opinion, which could be in the small minority - maybe most others don't need things spelled out for them, and would prefer meatier text. I certainly don't insist that my opinion is the only one, or that it's somehow more valid than someone else's. It's just how I felt.

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