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With perhaps a nod to one of the many other languages available for scripting, Shell Script Pearls is a handy reference book to have when trying to filter strings in log files or remember how to perform exponentiation math from the command line. While there aren't as many complete scripting examples as you might find in a regular recipes or cookbook, there are a lot of examples for how to perform a certain task. Spanning 42 chapters, the book is mostly divided into 4 categories: general scripting utilities, handling user input, text processing, and system administration. As the author states in the introduction, the book is mostly targeted at intermediate or advanced Unix/Linux users, as it assumes a certain level of proficiency with commands and how to use them.
While sometimes techniques within a chapter will build upon one another, the chapters themselves usually don't have any relation to each other. This makes the book less readable from cover to cover, and is best used more like a reference book. Each chapter is focused on accomplishing a technique, usually presented as a real world problem to solve, which the author has encountered in his own career. The background information supplied for some of the more unique challenges helps to understand why certain methods were used as opposed to others. The personal stories also affirm that the author has actually used all of these techniques at one point, and they aren't just solutions to hypothetical problems.
The usefulness of some of the techniques will vary depending on the situation and the skill set of the reader. Often times the author will present how to perform a task in multiple ways, such as calculating the length of a string using either awk or expr. Some examples are even shown using multiple shells, since the syntax and functions may differ. The appendix also has a great list of other shell scripting resources, so if you don't find what you need in this book you have a few other places to look as well.
One thing that is immediately noticeable is the author chose to differ in presentation of the scripts from other technical books. Instead of having all of the code in one continuous chunk, he will often present a small snippet and then explain what that section of code is doing. Then he will present another section of code with the corresponding explanation of the technique that he is trying to illustrate. It is rare to find more than 9 or 10 lines of code without a comment which I found made it much easier to follow what the scripts was doing.
Overall, there aren't as many scripts that you might find in a scripting cookbook. Also, the chapter about the X envronment really seemed out of place, explaining various environment settings rather than providing examples of scripting. The scripts in the book are high quality, but have been stripped down for illustrative purposes, so you won't find a lot of error checking. I wasn't able to find any place on the authors website to download any of the scripts either, so the only option is to copy what you need out of the book.
Aside from those minor issues, Shell Script Pearls is an excellent book to have at close reach when writing shell scripts. Even in the age of large search engines, sometimes it's easier to just use a sticky note to remember a command to get the job done easier."
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