The Perl Book Buying Guide

Title:Learning Perl/Tk
Author(s):Nancy Walsh
Audience:Beginner    Rating:   
Publication Year:1999Publisher:O'Reilly & AssociatesISBN:1565923146
Comments:General Comments
This book got some bad press when it first came out for being too repetitious. At the time I thought, both privately and publically on a couple of occasions, "Hey, it's supposed to be a Learning book; give the author a break!" Having read thru the whole book now, I'm more inclined to agree with the other folks.

If I were to write a book on Tk, I would assume that the person reading the book had some amount of experience programming in general, and programming Perl in particular, given the advanced topic (Tk). And the author says this in the Preface. However, I found the book to be very basic at times, too basic, almost to the point where it was insulting. Almost every widget chapter had 2-3 pages of the same methods being explained. And a lot of the examples repeated themselves 3-4 times. This is what a radiobutton looks like flat & grooved & rasied & ridged & sunken. And here's what it looks like flat with a border of 4, and grooved with a border of 4, etc., and repeated again for a border of 10.

That said, there is a lot of information in the book that seems to be hard to find at first in the on-line docs. I like to read a print-out or a book when I'm learning, and I like on-line docs for reference. This book does a decent job of presenting information so that people can learn it (after you wade thru the repititious parts). Personally, I wanted more information than the book gave (e.g. more widgets in general, more complex widgets), but that's really more appropriate for a reference guide. I wanted it, but I really can't fault the book for not having it.

My last major complaint is one where, again, I really can't fault the author. The book documents and describes Tk 400.202, while the current version is 800.008 (at least as I write this). The author explained that as the book went to press, the newer Tk came out. Almost everything she wrote pertains to both versions, and she made notes where there were version-specific differences. But it left me wondering whether or not there were features in the new version that I just don't know about (I'm sure there are; perhaps a couple of pages on this would have been good?).

All in all, I think this is a very difficult book to write. Trying to write a beginner's book about a topic that is not a beginner's topic is not an easy thing to do. If you want to learn Tk and you don't know a thing about it, the book is an OK way to go. Once a more comprehensive book comes out, though, this book will be strictly for those who are not good self-teachers.

Description
The book has 16 chapters and 3 appendices. The first couple of chapters introduce Tk and some basic concepts of Tk programming. Eleven widget-specific chapters follow, with three more general/advanced chapters at the end. The appendices include one on OS-dependencies and one on fonts.

Beginners
If you're new to Perl, I wouldn't start here. Try one of the Learning Perl books instead (Learning Perl or Learning Perl on Win32 Systems). If you know a little Perl and want to learn a little Perl/Tk, go ahead and give the book a try.

Intermediate & Advanced
Unless you need to learn Perl/Tk and you can't from the man pages, or you have a big budget, I'd skip this one. It's too basic & repetitious, and doesn't go into enough detail to create a full-grown app. Small one maybe, but not a big, production-ready app.
Rating Scale:  = = Not Recommended,       = = Excellent!

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The Perl Book Buying Guide - Learning Perl/Tk / 06 September 1999 / joc@netaxs.com

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