Paperback: 300 pages
Publisher: Pragmatic Bookshelf; 4 edition (October 29, 2015)
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Five Things Perl (Still) Gets Right by chromatic In the late â90s, I switched from Java to Perl because Perl made things easier. Perl let me get things done. Almost 20 years later, Perl still has a special place in my toolbox. I keep using it for certain projects because it still does some things so very well. I can get many of these features from a lot of languages and platforms, and thatâs great. Yet the combination available from Perl and its ecosystem keeps me coming back to the language. Compatibility The first serious program I wrote in Perl was a statistical analysis of random number sequences. It was last modified on February 26, 2003 and still runs, untouched. This program isnât unique in its longevity. Most programs written to run even for Perl 3 or 4 will run today on Perl 5.22. In the 8 major and 38 minor stable releases of Perl since 2000, nearly any program written will run without modification. The expectation of compatibility guides people to keep existing code working. Quality Perl has a standard test suite thatâs expected to pass on every platform with every commit. It has monthly unstable releases so that intrepid volunteer testers can test the CPAN--Perlâs large library of freely reusable third-party code--against the latest development versions. A project called 'Bleadperl Breaks CPAN' bisect commits to Perl itself to find out exactly which change breaks which modules when something goes wrong. In practice, itâs possible to update an application to run on the newest release of Perl the day itâs released with no changes to your code. Just install the new version, install your module dependencies, and go.
Usability Writing documentation as a programmer is like flossing: everyone knows they should do it, but most of us donât do it often enough. Yet Perlâs documentation standard has set a bar that few other projects Iâve seen have ever matched. Perl set this standard early; it includes voluminous documentation of the language, core libraries, and even its expected documentation format. CPAN modules have a well-established standard for documentation, including running code you can often copy and paste and modify into your own programs. Scalability One of Larry Wallâs early design goals was to fill the gap between one-off shell scripts and serious programs written in C. I like to think he took the ease of prototyping and low ceremony of shell scripting and combined it with the full power of Unix available from C. If you plotted the sizes of all the programs Iâve written in the past couple of decades, youâd see a wide range: lots of one-liners, countless Unix filter scripts, and larger programs of tens of thousands or hundreds of thousands of lines. Thatâs not by accident; scalability of programmer effort is a deliberate goal of Perl thatâs pervasive through much of the CPAN as well. Availability Perlâs been available on every professional system Iâve used in recent memory. It was quicker and easier to write a simple log parser in Perl on a new work laptop than to make sure I had all the development dependencies installed to install the correct other language dependencies to use the libraries Iâd need there. (Though to be fair, Iâm really good at writing simple log parsers after decades of Unix experience.) Going from âI have a fresh account on a new machineâ to âI can use Spreadsheet::WriteExcel to fill in the gaps of an existing spreadsheet just uploaded by a userâ is easy--in part because I know all the pieces, but in part because I have confidence that theyâre stable, well-tested, work together, and are available not just on my new laptop but on my server. I appreciate that Perl works and continues to work.
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