Friday, May 31, 2002

Reality and Sanity. I have to agree with Mike that wading through thousands of pages of technical text is not the best use of time and energy - unless you are cramming for a certification exam. For the working professional a better book, especially for mastering SQL and PL/SQL, is Database Systems Using Oracle: A Simplified Guide to SQL and PL/SQL. This book is remarkable for the clear manner in which it explains the basics of relational databases in general and Oracle in particular. I am currently in training for Oracle Certified Professional and had been using study guides and class material to learn Oracle. These are fine for passing the OCP exam, but they leave many gaps in the finer points which lead to thoroughly understanding Oracle.

Since this book's goal is to explain Oracle's SQL Plus and PL/SQL languages instead of getting you through an examination with a passing grade it goes into details that my training missed. I especially like the way that database concepts, design and modeling are covered in the first chapter, and the step-by-step approach to teaching SQL and PL/SQL by actually performing useful tasks such as creating tables and working with tables.

In addition to the basics, this book covers advanced topics such as row locking, performance and joins and set operations. PL/SQL is given the same thorough treatment as SQL Plus and as you read through the book and actually perform the tasks on a real Oracle instance your understanding and skill level increases greatly. Since PL/SQL is rich in features and programming constructs the care with which the author explains the basics and how to apply them in a real environment made learning fun and builds your self confidence.

I also liked the attention given to database administration tasks in the final part of the book, and found the SQL Plus and PL/SQL quick reference in the back of the book useful on many occasions.

If you don't have the luxury of attending Oracle training this book is an excellent substitute, and even if you're going through OCP training this book will fill in the gaps that will surely arise since the course is fast paced. Note that this book uses Oracle 8i as the example environment, but the material works with the newer 9i version too.

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