Perl is a lamb in wolf's clothing. It has a ferocious reputation for incomprehensibility ("executable line-noise") and excessive power ("the Swiss-Army chainsaw"), but underneath lurks a kinder, gentler programming language than whatever you're using now.

Of course, Perl can be complex. After all, very few other popular languages have so many advanced built-in capabilities, which is one reason why Perl rates as one of the most sophisticated programming languages in widespread use today.

Fortunately, unlike many other programming languages, Perl also comes standard with one other vital feature: a gentle learning curve. You don't have to understand a multitude of high-end programming constructs before you can do useful work with it. If you're familiar with the basic tools of Unix/Linux—grep, sed, awk, find, and the shell itself-then many of the features of Perl will seem hauntingly familiar.

Perl's creator, Larry Wall, once described his language as "a cleaned up and summarized version of that wonderful semi-natural language known as `Unix.'" And that's precisely the direction from which this book leads you into the depths of the language: by showing how Perl has evolved "Unix" into a dialect that is much more powerful but also much easier to use. If you're already fluent in Perl's mother tongue, and you want to discover how expressive and poetic Perl itself can be, you could have chosen no better primer than this book and no better guide than Dr. Tim Maher, a gifted teacher and a decorated veteran of both the Unix world and the Perl community.

So, welcome to Perl! You don't have to come from *nix to work here...but it certainly helps.