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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 -t, which tests STDIN. Unless otherwise documented, it returns 1 for true and '' for false, or the undefined value if the file doesn't exist. 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.
-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 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 platforms)


while (<>) {
    next unless -f $_;  # ignore specials

The interpretation of the file permission operators -r, -R, -w, -W, -x, and -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 conditions.

Also note that, for the superuser on the local filesystems, the -r, -R, -w, and -W tests always return 1, and -x 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 something else.

If you are using ACLs, there is a pragma called filetest that may produce more accurate results than the bare stat() mode bits. When under the 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 and -X 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', the _ special 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.

Note that -s/a/b/ does not do a negated substitution. Saying -exp($foo) still works as expected, however: only single letters following a minus are interpreted as file tests.

The -T and -B switches work as follows. The first block or so of the file is examined for odd characters such as strange control codes or characters with the high bit set. If too many strange characters (>30%) are found, it's a -B file; otherwise it's a -T file. Also, any file containing a zero byte in the first block is considered a binary file. If -T or -B is used on a filehandle, the current IO buffer is examined rather than the first block. Both -T and -B 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 -T test, on most occasions you want to use a -f against the file first, as in next unless -f $file && -T $file.

If any of the file tests (or either the stat or lstat operators) are 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 -t, and you need to remember that lstat() and -l 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, -T and -B will reset it with the results of stat _). Example:

print "Can do.\n" if -r $a || -w _ || -x _;

print "Readable\n" if -r _;
print "Writable\n" if -w _;
print "Executable\n" if -x _;
print "Setuid\n" if -u _;
print "Setgid\n" if -g _;
print "Sticky\n" if -k _;
print "Text\n" if -T _;
print "Binary\n" if -B _;

As of Perl 5.9.1, 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 fancy: if you use the return value of -f $file as an argument to another filetest operator, no special magic will happen.)