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0.2. What's New in This Edition

Well, almost everything.

Even where we kept the good bits from the previous edition (and there were quite a few good bits, we'll admit), we've heavily revised and reorganized the current edition with several goals in mind. First, we wanted to increase the accessibility of the book to people coming from backgrounds other than computer science. We've made fewer assumptions about what the reader will know in advance. At the same time, we've kept the exposition lively in the hope that people who are already familiar with some of the material will not fall asleep reading it.

Second, we wanted to present the very latest developments in Perl itself. To that end, we have not been shy about presenting the current state of the work, even where we feel that it is still experimental. While the core of Perl has been rock solid for years, the pace of development for some of the experimental extensions can be quite torrid at times. We'll tell you honestly when we think the online documentation will be more reliable than what we have written here. Perl is a blue-collar language, so we're not afraid to call a spade a shovel.

Third, we wanted you to be able to find your way around in the book more easily, so we've broken this edition up into smaller, more coherent chapters and reorganized them into meaningful parts. Here's how the new edition is laid out:

Part 1, "Overview"

Getting started is always the hardest part. This part presents the fundamental ideas of Perl in an informal, curl-up-in-your-favorite-chair fashion. Not a full tutorial, it merely offers a quick jump-start, which may not serve everyone's need. See Section 0.5, "Offline Documentation" for books that might better suit your learning style.

Part 2, "The Gory Details"

This part consists of an in-depth, no-holds-barred discussion of the guts of the language at every level of abstraction, from data types, variables, and regular expressions to subroutines, modules, and objects. You'll gain a good sense of how the language works and, in the process, pick up a few hints on good software design. (And if you've never used a language with pattern matching, you're in for a special treat.)

Part 3, "Perl as Technology"

You can do a lot with Perl all by itself, but this part will take you to a higher level of wizardry. Here you'll learn how to make Perl jump through whatever hoops your computer sets up for it, from dealing with Unicode, interprocess communication, and multithreading, through compiling, invoking, debugging, and profiling Perl, on up to writing your own external extensions in C or C++ or interfaces to any existing API you feel like. Perl will be quite happy to talk to any interface on your computer, or for that matter, on any other computer on the Internet, weather permitting.

Part 4, "Perl as Culture"

Everyone understands that a culture must have a language, but the Perl community has always understood that a language must have a culture. This part is where we view Perl programming as a human activity, embedded in the real world of people. We'll cover how you can improve the way you deal with both good people and bad people. We'll also dispense a great deal of advice on how you can become a better person yourself and on how to make your programs more useful to other people.

Part 5, "Reference Material"

Here we've put together all the chapters in which you might want to look something up alphabetically, from special variables and functions to standard modules and pragmas. The Glossary will be particularly helpful to those who are unfamiliar with the jargon of computer science. For example, if you don't know what the meaning of "pragma" is, you could look it up right now. (If you don't know what the meaning of "is" is, we can't help you with that.)

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