Review: Intermediate Perl

2 minute read

As a programmer, I’m always looking for ways to take my coding practices to the next level. As most developers have, I’ve attended numerous conferences and sat through countless tutorials, only to find that while the topic is engaging during the talk, it doesn’t “stick” when I leave the room. The biggest exception to this was Randal Schwartz’ “Packages, References, Objects and Modules” – I attended this talk upwards of ten years ago, and it still stands out in my head as the biggest stepping stone to improve my maturity as a programmer.

This book, “Intermediate Perl” is the newest version of that curriculum, and it’s a fantastic way for someone who has become comfortable with perl but who finds themselves stuck copying other people’s code or doing things by rote because they don’t understand all the choices available to them. The book covers Perl’s reference system, which feels like black magic if you don’t understand it; it addresses ways to work with complex data and file handles, and advanced use of regular expressions. There’s also an excellent section on Perl’s OO functionality (such as it is) and testing.

As someone who has worked with perl for almost 20 years, who went through this class several years ago, I still found the book to be incredibly useful. I love Perl Best Practices, but that’s more a primer on doing things in a sensible and efficient way. This book takes the time to walk you through these concepts which are so central to Perl, from simple examples to more complex. Best of all, there are exercises at the back of each chapter which really require thought in applying the concepts just discussed. For me, this is the best way to really internalize new information – give me something to play with, some way to use it, and I’m much more likely to start using it in my own work.  Each exercise has a solution in the back of the book – and these solutions are thoughtfully explained so you understand why it works the way it does.

In short, “Intermediate Perl” is an excellent next step after “Learning Perl.”  I’d go so far as to say that it’s a good workbook for long-time Perl programmers to use – go through the exercises at the back of each chapter and see if there’s some way you can improve your coding, or something you’re doing inefficiently.  In the overwhelming sea of blue Perl books, this one provides a great set of exercises to take your development skills to the next level.