chris blogs: March 2014

16mar2014 · Review: Learning Shell Scripting with Zsh

Learning Shell Scripting with Zsh
by Gastón Festari.
Packt Publishing, Birmingham 2014.
132 pages.

[Full disclosure: I have received a digital copy of the book in exchange for this review.]

The book is titled Learning Shell Scripting with Zsh: Your one-stop guide to reading, writing, and debugging simple and complex Z shell scripts which could not be more wrong. A far more appropriate title would have been: Getting started with Zsh: Your guide to interactive use and first steps of customization.

A first glance through the table of contents proves me right: There are chapters on “Getting started”, “Alias and History”, “Advanced Editing”, “Globbing”, “Completion”, and “Tips and Tricks”, but no explicit mention of writing shell scripts for purposes other than customization of an interactive shell.

I’m not completely sure of the target audience: The book assumes basic familiarity with (Bourne) shell already, half-heartedly explains pipes or redirections as well as how to define shell functions, but e.g. there is no mention of how to pass or parse arguments. After a single example of a very simple completion function in Chapter 5 (with explanation), the reader is assumed know enough for writing his own completions. I highly doubt that.

I found the book riddled with small mistakes, imprecise to wrong explanations and plain terribly sloppy typesetting of the code examples, which hurts particularly in a book about shell where syntax is lax but proper newlines matter. Examples are often not very well chosen and occasionally confusing even to me, who is very familiar with the topic.

The over-emphatic style with its needless rambling and cheeky language does not save the book but probably annoys the reader even more. (I hope not to ever read “You know, because widescreen.” in a book again.) Without, a lot more actual content and perhaps a real introduction to shell usage would have fit into these compact 118 pages.

The book finishes with a recommendation to read From Bash To Z Shell next. All I can recommend is: better skip this book completely and start with that one if you are interested in a good book about zsh.

Rating: 2 of 5 points.

NP: Against Me!—White Crosses

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