Book Review: Teach Yourself REXX in 21 Days

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By Kevin Royalty

"The best way to learn a programming language is through hands-on experience. With Teach Yourself REXX in 21 days, you'll move from beginner to expert in no time." states the first sentence on the back cover of the book. I would tend to agree that with this book, you could do quite well in REXX programming after finishing the entire book.

Although this book doesn't cover every aspect of REXX, it does cover the fundamentals quite well. You start off with the usual "Hello World" program that inhabits most programming type books in the first chapter, progressing quite thoroughly and rapidly forward. If you had just a few minutes to an hour each night, you would indeed take about 21 days to get through the book. If you have some exposure to programming, then you can finish this book in quite a bit less time (it took me about a week).

The book is laid out quite well, and if REXX takes off like it should, this would make for a good textbook in an educational environment. I like how the inside cover of the book is set up like a calendar letting you know what you will be covering on each "day". The example programs given in the book are "real world" type examples, and you will be using the small utility programs you create on a regular basis if you do a lot of REXX programming. There is a short Quiz and Q&A section, along with Exercises (don't skip these!) that will have you writing REXX code quite proficiently before you realize you are doing it.

One of the best parts of the book is the material in the back, such as converage of the VisPro REXX and VX-REXX tools, along with the IBM EWS Visual Rexx package. There is a bit on the Enhanced Editor (great for REXX programming), the future of REXX programming (Object REXX), a keyword and function reference and coverage of the Workplace Shell and how you can manipulate it with REXX.

The only drawback to this fine book, is the omission of a CDROM with demo versions of VX-REXX by Watcom, VisPro REXX by Hockware, the IBM EWS Visual REXX and demos of some of the other commercial REXX add-on packages out there. It would also be nice if the program listings, some Enhanced Editor macros, and different types of programming skeletons and samples that are available out on the Internet were located on the CD. This would make it almost a standalone development kit! There have been some additions to REXX since the release of OS/2 Warp that didn't make it into the book, but I hope that this book will be updated and re-released with some of these improvements to make it a true must-have for your programming shelf.

If you are considering learning programming for OS/2, REXX is the best place to start. You can learn the multithreaded programming model with REXX, along with named pipes and all the other fun stuff waiting for you in OS/2. Once you have mastered REXX, you will be able to build on to your knowledge by moving to other languages such as C/C++ or Smalltalk. Don't be surprised if you find yourself using REXX quite a bit after finishing with the book, since it will become an indespenseable part of your programming arsenal.