A file test, where X is one of the letters listed below. This unary
operator takes one argument, either a filename, a filehandle, or a dirhandle,
and tests the associated file to see if something is true about it. If the
argument is omitted, tests $_ , except for
tests STDIN. Unless otherwise documented, it returns
for true and
for false. If the file doesn't exist or can't be examined, it
returns undef and sets $! (errno).
Despite the funny names, precedence is the same as any other named unary
operator. The operator may be any of:
- -r File is readable by effective uid/gid.
- -w File is writable by effective uid/gid.
- -x File is executable by effective uid/gid.
- -o File is owned by effective uid.
- -R File is readable by real uid/gid.
- -W File is writable by real uid/gid.
- -X File is executable by real uid/gid.
- -O File is owned by real uid.
- -e File exists.
- -z File has zero size (is empty).
- -s File has nonzero size (returns size in bytes).
- -f File is a plain file.
- -d File is a directory.
- -l File is a symbolic link (false if symlinks aren't
- supported by the file system).
- -p File is a named pipe (FIFO), or Filehandle is a pipe.
- -S File is a socket.
- -b File is a block special file.
- -c File is a character special file.
- -t Filehandle is opened to a tty.
- -u File has setuid bit set.
- -g File has setgid bit set.
- -k File has sticky bit set.
- -T File is an ASCII or UTF-8 text file (heuristic guess).
- -B File is a "binary" file (opposite of -T).
- -M Script start time minus file modification time, in days.
- -A Same for access time.
- -C Same for inode change time (Unix, may differ for other
-s/a/b/ does not do a negated substitution. Saying
still works as expected, however: only single letters
following a minus are interpreted as file tests.
These operators are exempt from the "looks like a function rule" described above. That is, an opening parenthesis after the operator does not affect how much of the following code constitutes the argument. Put the opening parentheses before the operator to separate it from code that follows (this applies only to operators with higher precedence than unary operators, of course):
- -s($file) + 1024 # probably wrong; same as -s($file + 1024)
- (-s $file) + 1024 # correct
The interpretation of the file permission operators
-X is by default based solely on the mode
of the file and the uids and gids of the user. There may be other
reasons you can't actually read, write, or execute the file: for
example network filesystem access controls, ACLs (access control lists),
read-only filesystems, and unrecognized executable formats. Note
that the use of these six specific operators to verify if some operation
is possible is usually a mistake, because it may be open to race
Also note that, for the superuser on the local filesystems, the
tests always return 1, and
-X return 1
if any execute bit is set in the mode. Scripts run by the superuser
may thus need to do a stat to determine the
actual mode of the file, or temporarily set their effective uid to
If you are using ACLs, there is a pragma called filetest
that may produce more accurate results than the bare
stat mode bits.
use filetest 'access'
, the above-mentioned filetests
test whether the permission can(not) be granted using the access(2)
family of system calls. Also note that the
-X tests may
under this pragma return true even if there are no execute permission
bits set (nor any extra execute permission ACLs). This strangeness is
due to the underlying system calls' definitions. Note also that, due to
the implementation of
use filetest 'access'
filehandle won't cache the results of the file tests when this pragma is
in effect. Read the documentation for the filetest
pragma for more information.
tests work as follows. The first block or so of
the file is examined to see if it is valid UTF-8 that includes non-ASCII
characters. If so, it's a
file. Otherwise, that same portion of
the file is examined for odd characters such as strange control codes or
characters with the high bit set. If more than a third of the
characters are strange, it's a
file; otherwise it's a
Also, any file containing a zero byte in the examined portion is
considered a binary file. (If executed within the scope of a use locale which includes
, odd characters are
anything that isn't a printable nor space in the current locale.) If
is used on a filehandle, the current IO buffer is
rather than the first block. Both
return true on an empty
file, or a file at EOF when testing a filehandle. Because you have to
read a file to do the
test, on most occasions you want to use a
against the file first, as in
next unless -f $file && -T $file
If any of the file tests (or either the stat or
lstat operator) is given the special filehandle
consisting of a solitary underline, then the stat structure of the
previous file test (or stat operator) is used,
saving a system call. (This doesn't work with
, and you need to
remember that lstat and
leave values in
the stat structure for the symbolic link, not the real file.) (Also, if
the stat buffer was filled by an lstat call,
will reset it with the results of
As of Perl 5.10.0, as a form of purely syntactic sugar, you can stack file
test operators, in a way that
-f -w -x $file
is equivalent to
-x $file && -w _ && -f _
. (This is only fancy syntax: if you use
the return value of
as an argument to another filetest
operator, no special magic will happen.)
Portability issues: -X in perlport.
To avoid confusing would-be users of your code with mysterious syntax errors, put something like this at the top of your script:
- use 5.010; # so filetest ops can stack