REVIEW - The Perl CD Bookshelf (includes Perl in a Nutshell HC)


The Perl CD Bookshelf (includes Perl in a Nutshell HC)






O'Reilly ()




Ian Brunt


June 2000



whether you're new to Perl or an old hand looking for a handy reference, it's certainly recommended.

As the title suggests, this is the Perl instalment in O'Reilly's CD Bookshelf series. The CD Bookshelf series takes a number of related O'Reilly books and places their contents as HTML onto a single CD, together with the hardcopy version of one of the included books. As each 'book' is stored as HTML, it can be viewed using any standard Web browser. In order to aid the location of a required topic the CD contains the index for each individual book, together with a master index and a simple but useful search engine. The search engine uses a small Java application, for which the CD contains Java runtime files for various versions of the Unix and Windows platforms (Linux, FreeBSD, Solaris, SunOS, HP-UX Windows 9x and Windows NT). Although not the most powerful or the fastest, it does allow simple boolean operators to be used and is welcome none the less. Especially as the combined books total over 3,100 pages. The accompanying licence agreement allows a single copy of the CD to be used, but you are not allowed to place the CD or its contents onto a network server. The licence does however indicate that additional licences are available for a fee.

The CD contains the latest editions of the following six books:

Perl in a Nutshell (for which you also get the hardcopy version) - A general quick reference guide. It covers a wide range of topics, from how to get and install Perl, the language basics and on how the available modules can be applied to CGI scripts, databases, sockets, the WWW and network development.

Programming Perl 2ed - Detailed explanation on programming with Perl, the syntax, using the library modules, debugging programs and lots more.

Perl Cookbook - Contains a large collection of ready made solutions to regular problems.

Advanced Perl Programming - Details of advanced Perl features. Especially for the professional Perl developer.

Learning Perl 2ed - A Perl tutorial with exercises (and answers!).

Learning Perl on Win32 Systems - A Perl tutorial with items removed that do not apply to Windows and other Windows specifics added.

In addition to the included titles, O'Reilly currently publish a number of others related to Perl. As less than a quarter of the available space on the CD space is currently used, hopefully some of these will be included in a later release. With the available space on the CD it would also have been useful to include Perl kits for some of the supported platforms. Although available for download via the Internet or on CD (for example O'Reilly's Perl Resource Kit), it would have made for a more complete package.

I personally still prefer to read most books in paper form, however the extent to which the text is indexed and cross referenced certainly make it easier to follow the various threads of a subject. The CD Bookshelf also sells for around a third of the cost of the books combined and consumes considerably less forest (as well as luggage space for those on the move). The CD also has the advantage that all of the examples can be used with cut and paste, ready for use. Overall, for the quality of content, copious cross-referencing and value for money, whether you're new to Perl or an old hand looking for a handy reference, it's certainly recommended.

Book cover image courtesy of Open Library.

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