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Programming Elixir: Functional |> Concurrent |> Pragmatic |> Fun


Cover image for Programming Elixir

Programming Elixir

Functional |> Concurrent |> Pragmatic |> Fun


You want to explore functional programming, but are put off by the academic feel (tell me about monads just one more time). You know you need concurrent applications, but also know these are almost impossible to get right. Meet Elixir, a functional, concurrent language built on the rock-solid Erlang VM. Elixir’s pragmatic syntax and built-in support for metaprogramming will make you productive and keep you interested for the long haul. This book is the introduction to Elixir for experienced programmers.

Maybe you need something that’s closer to Ruby, but with a battle-proven environment that’s unrivaled for massive scalability, concurrency, distribution, and fault tolerance. Maybe the time is right for the Next Big Thing. Maybe it’s Elixir.

Programming Elixir 1.2 is available.

Customer Reviews

Dave Thomas has done it again. Programming Elixir is what every programming
book aspires to be. It goes beyond the basics of simply teaching syntax and mechanical
examples. It teaches you how to think Elixir.

- Bruce Tate

CTO, Author

In Programming Elixir, Dave has done an excellent job of presenting functional
programming in a way that is fun, practical, and full of inspirational insights into
how we can rethink our very approach to designing programs. As you progress
through the book, you will often find yourself smiling after discovering a certain
aspect of Elixir that lets you do things in a new, more elegant way that will almost
seem too natural and intuitive to have been neglected by the programming community
at large for so long.

The book provides a detailed overview of Elixir and its tooling, aimed at making
the development process smooth and productive. Dave explains the core parts of
the Erlang runtime system, such as distribution, concurrency, and fault tolerance,
that imbue Elixir with the power to write scalable and resilient applications.

- Alexei Sholik

The era of sequential programming is over—today’s high-performance, scalable,
and fault-tolerant software is concurrent. Elixir is a key player in this new world,
bringing the power of Erlang and OTP to a wider audience. Read this book for a
head start on the next big thing in software development.

- Paul Butcher

Author of "Seven Concurrency Models in Seven Weeks"

Just like the Pickaxe book for Ruby, this book is the de facto standard for Elixir.
Dave, in his impeccable style, provides a thorough coverage of the Elixir language,
including data structures, macros, OTP, and even Dialyzer. This book is a joy to
read, as it walks the reader through learning Elixir and the thought processes
involved in writing functional programs. If you want to accelerate your mastery
of the Elixir language, Programming Elixir is your best investment.

- Jim Freeze

Organizer of the world's first Elixir Conference

This will undoubtedly become the Pickaxe for Elixir. … Thomas excitedly guides
the reader through the awesomeness of Elixir. Worth picking up for anyone interested
in Elixir.

- Dan Kozlowski

Programming Elixir is another smash hit from Dave Thomas. Prior to Programming Elixir I tried my hand at several functional programming languages only to trip
all over myself. You can feel Dave’s enthusiasm and joy of using the language in
each and every chapter. He will have you thinking about solving problems in ways
you never thought of before. This book has drastically changed the way I think
about programming in any language for the better.

- Richard Bishop

I’ve really enjoyed this book. It’s not just some whirlwind tour of syntax or features;
I found it to be a very thoughtful introduction to both Elixir and functional programming
in general.

- Cody Russell

See All Reviews

About this Title

Pages: 340
Published: 2014-10-15
Release: P1.0 (2014-10-16)
ISBN: 978-1-93778-558-1

As a developer, you’ve probably heard that functional programming techniques help manage the complexities of today’s real-world, concurrent systems. You’re also investigating designs that help you maximize uptime and manage security.

This book is your guide to Elixir, a modern, functional, and concurrent programming language. Because Elixir runs on the Erlang VM, and uses the underlying Erlang/OTP architecture, it benefits from almost 20 years of research into high performance, highly parallel, and seriously robust applications. Elixir brings a lot that’s new: a modern, Ruby-like, extendable syntax, compile and runtime evaluation, a hygienic macro system, and more.

But, just as importantly, Elixir brings a sense of enjoyment to parallel, functional programming. Your applications become fun to work with, and the language encourages you to experiment.

Part 1 covers the basics of writing sequential Elixir programs. We’ll look at the language, the tools, and the conventions.

Part 2 uses these skills to start writing concurrent code—applications that use all the cores on your machine, or all the machines on your network! And we do it both with and without OTP.

And Part 3 looks at the more advanced features of the language, from DSLs and code generation to extending the syntax.

By the end of this book, you’ll understand Elixir, and know how to apply it to solve your complex, modern problems.

What You Need

You’ll need a computer, a little experience with another high-level language, and a sense of adventure. No functional programming experience is needed.

Contents & Extracts

Check out the short video on Elixir at, or the 30 minute, more detailed video at and enjoy.

And don’t forget to download this handy cheat sheet for Elixir syntax.


  • Conventional Programming
    • Pattern Matching
      • Assignment: I do not think it means what you think it means
      • More Complex Matches
      • Ignoring a Value With _
      • Variables Bind Once (Per Match)
      • Another way of looking at the equals sign
    • Immutability
      • You Already Have (Some) Immutable Data
      • Immutable Data Is Known Data
      • Performance Implications of Immutability
      • Coding With Immutable Data
    • Elixir Basics
      • Value Types
      • System Types
      • Collection Types
      • Names, Source Files, Conventions, Operators, and So On
      • End of the Basics
    • Anonymous Functions
      • Functions and Pattern Matching
      • One Function, Multiple Bodies
      • Functions Can Return Functions
      • Passing Functions as Arguments
      • Functions Are The Core
    • Modules and Named Functions
      • The Body of the Function is a Block
      • Function Calls and Pattern Matching
      • Guard Clauses
      • Default Parameters
      • |> — The Amazing Pipe Operator
      • Modules
      • Module Attributes
      • Module Names: Elixir, Erlang, and Atoms
      • Finding Libraries
    • Lists and Recursion excerpt
      • Heads and Tails
      • Using Head and Tail to Process a List
      • Using Head and Tail to Build a List
      • Creation of a Map Function
      • Keeping Track of Values During Recursion
      • More Complex List Patterns
      • List Comprehensions
      • Using the Built-in Libraries
      • List Libraries in Action
    • Processing Collections—Enum and Stream
      • Enum—Processing Collections
      • Streams—Lazy Enumerables
    • Strings and Binaries
      • String Literals
      • The Name “strings”
      • Single Quoted Strings—Lists of Character Codes
      • Binaries
      • Double Quoted Strings are Binaries
      • Binaries and Pattern Matching
    • Records
      • Defining Records: defrecord
      • Records and Pattern Matching
      • Advanced Records
    • Control Flow
      • if and unless
      • cond
      • case
      • Raising Exceptions
      • Designing With Exceptions
      • What we’ve seen
    • Organizing a Project
      • The Project: Fetch Issues from Github
      • Task: Use Mix to Create our New Project
      • Transformation: Parse the Command Line
      • Step: Write Some Basic Tests
      • Transformation: Fetch from Github
      • Task: Use External Libraries
      • Transformation: Convert Response
      • Transformation: Take First N Items
      • Transformation: Format the Table
      • Task: Make a command line executable
      • Task: Test The Comments
      • Task: Create Project Documentation
      • What We’ve Just Seen
  • Concurrent Programming
    • Working With Multiple Processes
      • A Simple Process
      • Process Overhead
      • When Processes Die
      • Parallel Map—The Hello World of Erlang
      • A Fibonacci Server
      • What’s Next
    • Nodes—The Key To Distributing Services excerpt
      • Naming Nodes
      • Naming Your Processes
      • I/O, PIDs, and Nodes
      • What’s Next
    • OTP: Servers
      • Some OTP Definitions
      • An OTP Server
      • GenServer Callbacks
      • Naming A Process
      • Tidying Up The Interface
      • What We Learned
    • OTP: Supervisors
      • Supervisors And Workers
      • Supervisors Are The Heart of Reliability
    • OTP: Applications
      • Application: I do not think it means what you think it means
      • The Application Specification File
      • Turning Our Sequence Program into an OTP Application
      • Tell Mix About The Application
      • Create the application OTP entry point
      • Hot Code Swapping
      • OTP is Big. Unbelievably Big
  • More Advanced Elixir
    • Macros and Code Evaluation
    • Protocols—Polymorphic Functions
    • Linking Modules: Behavio(u)rs and Use
    • More Cool Stuff


Dave Thomas is a programmer who likes to evangelize cool stuff. He cowrote The Pragmatic Programmer, and was one of the creators of the Manifesto for Agile Software Development. His book Programming Ruby introduced the Ruby language to the world, and Agile Web Development with Rails helped kickstart the Rails revolution.