Perl Best Practices
Standards and Styles for Developing Maintainable Code
Publisher: O'Reilly Media
Final Release Date: July 2005
Pages: 544

Many programmers code by instinct, relying on convenient habits or a "style" they picked up early on. They aren't conscious of all the choices they make, like how they format their source, the names they use for variables, or the kinds of loops they use. They're focused entirely on problems they're solving, solutions they're creating, and algorithms they're implementing. So they write code in the way that seems natural, that happens intuitively, and that feels good.

But if you're serious about your profession, intuition isn't enough. Perl Best Practices author Damian Conway explains that rules, conventions, standards, and practices not only help programmers communicate and coordinate with one another, they also provide a reliable framework for thinking about problems, and a common language for expressing solutions. This is especially critical in Perl, because the language is designed to offer many ways to accomplish the same task, and consequently it supports many incompatible dialects.

With a good dose of Aussie humor, Dr. Conway (familiar to many in the Perl community) offers 256 guidelines on the art of coding to help you write better Perl code--in fact, the best Perl code you possibly can. The guidelines cover code layout, naming conventions, choice of data and control structures, program decomposition, interface design and implementation, modularity, object orientation, error handling, testing, and debugging.

They're designed to work together to produce code that is clear, robust, efficient, maintainable, and concise, but Dr. Conway doesn't pretend that this is the one true universal and unequivocal set of best practices. Instead, Perl Best Practices offers coherent and widely applicable suggestions based on real-world experience of how code is actually written, rather than on someone's ivory-tower theories on howsoftware ought to be created.

Most of all, Perl Best Practices offers guidelines that actually work, and that many developers around the world are already using. Much like Perl itself, these guidelines are about helping you to get your job done, without getting in the way.

Praise for Perl Best Practices from Perl community members:

"As a manager of a large Perl project, I'd ensure that every member of my team has a copy of Perl Best Practices on their desk, and use it as the basis for an in-house style guide."-- Randal Schwartz

"There are no more excuses for writing bad Perl programs. All levels of Perl programmer will be more productive after reading this book."-- Peter Scott

"Perl Best Practices will be the next big important book in the evolution of Perl. The ideas and practices Damian lays down will help bring Perl out from under the embarrassing heading of "scripting languages". Many of us have known Perl is a real programming language, worthy of all the tasks normally delegated to Java and C++. With Perl Best Practices, Damian shows specifically how and why, so everyone else can see, too."-- Andy Lester

"Damian's done what many thought impossible: show how to build large, maintainable Perl applications, while still letting Perl be the powerful, expressive language that programmers have loved for years."-- Bill Odom

"Finally, a means to bring lasting order to the process and product of real Perl development teams."-- Andrew Sundstrom

"Perl Best Practices provides a valuable education in how to write robust, maintainable Perl, and is a definitive citation source when coaching other programmers."-- Bennett Todd"I've been teaching Perl for years, and find the same question keeps being asked: Where can I find a reference for writing reusable, maintainable Perl code? Finally I have a decent answer."-- Paul Fenwick"At last a well researched, well thought-out, comprehensive guide to Perl style. Instead of each of us developing our own, we can learn good practices from one of Perl's most prolific and experienced authors. I recommend this book to anyone who prefers getting on with the job rather than going back and fixing errors caused by syntax and poor style issues."-- Jacinta Richardson"If you care about programming in any language read this book. Even if you don't intend to follow all of the practices, thinking through your style will improve it."-- Steven Lembark"The Perl community's best author is back with another outstanding book. There has never been a comprehensive reference on high quality Perl coding and style until Perl Best Practices. This book fills a large gap in every Perl bookshelf."-- Uri Guttman
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oreillyPerl Best Practices

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(9 of 16 customers found this review helpful)


Needs taking with a lot of salt.

By Anonymous Monk

from England

About Me Developer

Verified Reviewer



    • Presents opinion as fact
    • Too many errors

    Best Uses

    • Novice

    Comments about oreilly Perl Best Practices:

    Some of the advice in the book is good, but some is just the author's personal style. For example the author favors K&R brace style and recommends it's use with the same strength as he recommends other practices that all can agree are latent bugs.

    To be useful the author needs to clearly sign post each recommendation to say where it lies of the range between pure style suggestions and actual bugs, so that the reader knows which parts can safely be ignored if they have already adopted a different style.

    I would also recommend that the author add a paragraph in the forward to the effect that anyone who blindly insists that every recommendation in the entire book should be followed without question or debate can safely be considered an idiot.

    Overall the book might be useful to a perl novice, or someone who knows they have a lot of bad habits, but is likely to just annoy anyone beyond an intermediate level.

    (11 of 12 customers found this review helpful)


    Outstanding book

    By JD Baldwin

    from Undisclosed

    Comments about oreilly Perl Best Practices:

    I have my issues with some of the style dicta in this book -- I will NEVER abandon BSD braces or 3-column indentation -- but, as the book notes, even if you disagree, it's healthy to think seriously about your choices. And, modulo my few immutable prejudices, the style advice is uniformly good.

    Even if you never adopt a single practice from this book, just reading it will make you a better Perl programmer. The one drawback is that, for those of us consigned to adopt or maintain others' code, it will make us that much more intolerant of the sloppy, haphazard coding practices that are so common in the system administration world.

    (6 of 10 customers found this review helpful)


    This book should have a camel on the cover

    By Anonymous

    from Undisclosed

    Comments about oreilly Perl Best Practices:

    For years I've been cracking the spine of my Programming Perl. Now I finally have the parts that were missing. This book should have been called Programming Perl Well.

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