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Cross-Platform Perl
for UNIX and Windows NT
by Rick Smith (July 9, 2001)

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B O O K   I N F O R M A T I O N
Title: Cross-Platform Perl For UNIX and Windows NT
Author: Eric F. Johnson
Publisher: M&T Books

Most Perl books take a decidedly UNIX perspective, making learning about Windows-based Perl a more difficult process. This book straddles these extremes by warning about Perl features that do not work under Windows as well as specific changes needed for Perl applications running under Windows.

A majority (seven of its twelve chapters) of the Cross-Platform Perl book is devoted to teaching the Perl language and appears to be a good first book for learning Perl either on Windows or UNIX. Lamentably, if novices begin reading carefully, they may become scared off very quickly. On the very top of the second numbered page in the book, you read "You don't need any previous programming experience to use Perl effectively." Unfortunately, in the first paragraph of the Introduction, Eric Johnson states that he felt that "Perl was an evil plot" and goes on to say that "the syntax [of Perl] tends to be obscure and obtuse and is just plain difficult to master". In fact, it is for these very reasons that he tells us that he wrote this book. Hopefully, novices will make it beyond the first page, because he explains this "syntax" so it can be more easily understood and eventually mastered.

Cross-Platform Perl discusses the usage of Perl both inside and outside the realm of the Web pages and CGI development. One chapter (50 pages) is devoted exclusively to the Web and CGI development. This chapter discusses how CGI works and specifically how to use the CGI Perl module to process forms and create a self maintaining Web page.

One of the most surprising Perl topics I found was how to use Perl to create an Excel spreadsheet, using the Perl OLE module. Other Windows development topics discussed were accessing the Windows Registry, socket based communications and event-driven Perl programming. These topics are certainly never found in UNIX-centric Perl books.

One topic I enjoyed was a graphical interface for Perl, a topic rarely discussed in most Perl books. The graphic interface of TCL looks different than the standard Windows interface, but this interface can help you put a GUI on top of your local Perl application, but only in UNIX (although this may be available in Windows now).

While Cross-Platform Perl states on the back cover that it is for an intermediate level programmer, I feel that it is also good book for beginners to learn Perl from a Windows context. Information flows from chapter to chapter quite nicely and summary of Perl commands introduced in each chapter is a nice touch. Program listings are also easy to read. This book is useful for anyone who has interest in Windows-based Perl (as well as UNIX-based Perl) and I found that you will able to find lots of useful information in this book, in spite of its age (copyrighted 1996).

The author has maintained his site and the list of errors in the book are clearly listed. This is an excellent example of how a book should be supported on the Internet.

Update: A second edition of this book has been released.

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Copyright 2001 Rick Smith All rights reserved.

   
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