Crep Cat wrote:
> I am trying to decide on a language to learn - and would be grateful for 
> help.
> My reasons for wanting to learn programming are firstly to have fun
> and secondly to learn more about how computers work.
> 
> I have thought of one thing I would like to write - and wonder if Ruby
> (or perhaps Python?) would be suitable.
> 
> I would like to export a spreadsheet column to a file;
> read that file into Ruby as an array;
> mess about with that array;
> write the new array out as a file;
> import that file into a spreadsheet.
> 
> I can't understand the documentation about file handling.
> Ruby documentation starts off very user friendly,
> but, by the time it gets to file handling, has become extremely esoteric!
> 
> Anyway, would Ruby be a good language for that task?
Yes.  There is a library included with Ruby specifically for this sort 
of task - it's the CSV library.  Mind you, if you're dealing with files 
that only contain a single column, there's going to be a simpler way to 
do it.

> Would any other language be more suitable?
For tasks of this sort of complexity, Ruby, Python and Perl are probably 
equivalent - there's not a lot in it.

> Could I get newbie help on file handling here?
Certainly - but it's always best to have as specific a problem as 
possible, and to show us what you've already tried and what you're 
expecting the code to do.

> Is there a really good introductory book which deals simply with file 
> handling?
The Pickaxe is the definitive guide - there's a free edition online 
here:  http://www.ruby-doc.org/docs/ProgrammingRuby/.  The section you 
want is "Basic Input and Output".  You'll also want to read the 
"Containers, Blocks, and Iterators" section to get a handle on blocks - 
lots of Ruby is based around blocks, so it's good to know how they work.

Hope this helps,
-- 
Alex