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open may also refer to the module: open

Opens the file whose filename is given by EXPR, and associates it with FILEHANDLE.

Simple examples to open a file for reading:

open(my $fh, '<', "input.txt") or die $!;

and for writing:

open(my $fh, '>', "output.txt") or die $!;

(The following is a comprehensive reference to open(): for a gentler introduction you may consider perlopentut.)

If FILEHANDLE is an undefined scalar variable (or array or hash element) the variable is assigned a reference to a new anonymous filehandle, otherwise if FILEHANDLE is an expression, its value is used as the name of the real filehandle wanted. (This is considered a symbolic reference, so use strict 'refs' should not be in effect.)

If EXPR is omitted, the scalar variable of the same name as the FILEHANDLE contains the filename. (Note that lexical variables--those declared with my--will not work for this purpose; so if you're using my, specify EXPR in your call to open.)

If three or more arguments are specified then the mode of opening and the filename are separate. If MODE is '<' or nothing, the file is opened for input. If MODE is '>', the file is truncated and opened for output, being created if necessary. If MODE is '>>', the file is opened for appending, again being created if necessary.

You can put a '+' in front of the '>' or '<' to indicate that you want both read and write access to the file; thus '+<' is almost always preferred for read/write updates--the '+>' mode would clobber the file first. You can't usually use either read-write mode for updating textfiles, since they have variable-length records. See the -i switch in perlrun for a better approach. The file is created with permissions of 0666 modified by the process's umask value.

These various prefixes correspond to the fopen(3) modes of 'r', 'r+', 'w', 'w+', 'a', and 'a+'.

In the two-argument (and one-argument) form of the call, the mode and filename should be concatenated (in that order), possibly separated by spaces. You may omit the mode in these forms when that mode is '<'.

For three or more arguments if MODE is '|-', the filename is interpreted as a command to which output is to be piped, and if MODE is '-|', the filename is interpreted as a command that pipes output to us. In the two-argument (and one-argument) form, one should replace dash ('-') with the command. See "Using open() for IPC" in perlipc for more examples of this. (You are not allowed to open to a command that pipes both in and out, but see IPC::Open2, IPC::Open3, and "Bidirectional Communication with Another Process" in perlipc for alternatives.)

In the form of pipe opens taking three or more arguments, if LIST is specified (extra arguments after the command name) then LIST becomes arguments to the command invoked if the platform supports it. The meaning of open with more than three arguments for non-pipe modes is not yet defined, but experimental "layers" may give extra LIST arguments meaning.

In the two-argument (and one-argument) form, opening '<-' or '-' opens STDIN and opening '>-' opens STDOUT.

You may use the three-argument form of open to specify I/O layers (sometimes referred to as "disciplines") to apply to the handle that affect how the input and output are processed (see open and PerlIO for more details). For example:

open(my $fh, "<:encoding(UTF-8)", "filename")
  || die "can't open UTF-8 encoded filename: $!";

opens the UTF-8 encoded file containing Unicode characters; see perluniintro. Note that if layers are specified in the three-argument form, then default layers stored in ${^OPEN} (see perlvar; usually set by the open pragma or the switch -CioD) are ignored.

Open returns nonzero on success, the undefined value otherwise. If the open involved a pipe, the return value happens to be the pid of the subprocess.

If you're running Perl on a system that distinguishes between text files and binary files, then you should check out "binmode" for tips for dealing with this. The key distinction between systems that need binmode and those that don't is their text file formats. Systems like Unix, Mac OS, and Plan 9, that end lines with a single character and encode that character in C as "\n" do not need binmode. The rest need it.

When opening a file, it's seldom a good idea to continue if the request failed, so open is frequently used with die. Even if die won't do what you want (say, in a CGI script, where you want to format a suitable error message (but there are modules that can help with that problem)) always check the return value from opening a file.

As a special case the 3-arg form with a read/write mode and the third argument being undef:

open(my $tmp, "+>", undef) or die ...

opens a filehandle to an anonymous temporary file. Also using "+<" works for symmetry, but you really should consider writing something to the temporary file first. You will need to seek() to do the reading.

Since v5.8.0, Perl has built using PerlIO by default. Unless you've changed this (i.e., Configure -Uuseperlio), you can open filehandles directly to Perl scalars via:

open($fh, '>', \$variable) || ..

To (re)open STDOUT or STDERR as an in-memory file, close it first:

close STDOUT;
open STDOUT, '>', \$variable or die "Can't open STDOUT: $!";

General examples:

$ARTICLE = 100;
open ARTICLE or die "Can't find article $ARTICLE: $!\n";
while (<ARTICLE>) {...

open(LOG, '>>/usr/spool/news/twitlog');  # (log is reserved)
# if the open fails, output is discarded

open(my $dbase, '+<', 'dbase.mine')      # open for update
    or die "Can't open 'dbase.mine' for update: $!";

open(my $dbase, '+<dbase.mine')          # ditto
    or die "Can't open 'dbase.mine' for update: $!";

open(ARTICLE, '-|', "caesar <$article")  # decrypt article
    or die "Can't start caesar: $!";

open(ARTICLE, "caesar <$article |")      # ditto
    or die "Can't start caesar: $!";

open(EXTRACT, "|sort >Tmp$$")            # $$ is our process id
    or die "Can't start sort: $!";

# in-memory files
open(MEMORY,'>', \$var)
    or die "Can't open memory file: $!";
print MEMORY "foo!\n";                   # output will appear in $var

# process argument list of files along with any includes

foreach $file (@ARGV) {
    process($file, 'fh00');

sub process {
    my($filename, $input) = @_;
    $input++;    # this is a string increment
    unless (open($input, $filename)) {
        print STDERR "Can't open $filename: $!\n";

    local $_;
    while (<$input>) {    # note use of indirection
        if (/^#include "(.*)"/) {
            process($1, $input);
        #...          # whatever

See perliol for detailed info on PerlIO.

You may also, in the Bourne shell tradition, specify an EXPR beginning with '>&', in which case the rest of the string is interpreted as the name of a filehandle (or file descriptor, if numeric) to be duped (as dup(2)) and opened. You may use & after >, >>, <, +>, +>>, and +<. The mode you specify should match the mode of the original filehandle. (Duping a filehandle does not take into account any existing contents of IO buffers.) If you use the 3-arg form then you can pass either a number, the name of a filehandle or the normal "reference to a glob".

Here is a script that saves, redirects, and restores STDOUT and STDERR using various methods:

open my $oldout, ">&STDOUT"     or die "Can't dup STDOUT: $!";
open OLDERR,     ">&", \*STDERR or die "Can't dup STDERR: $!";

open STDOUT, '>', "foo.out" or die "Can't redirect STDOUT: $!";
open STDERR, ">&STDOUT"     or die "Can't dup STDOUT: $!";

select STDERR; $| = 1;  # make unbuffered
select STDOUT; $| = 1;  # make unbuffered

print STDOUT "stdout 1\n";  # this works for
print STDERR "stderr 1\n";  # subprocesses too

open STDOUT, ">&", $oldout or die "Can't dup \$oldout: $!";
open STDERR, ">&OLDERR"    or die "Can't dup OLDERR: $!";

print STDOUT "stdout 2\n";
print STDERR "stderr 2\n";

If you specify '<&=X', where X is a file descriptor number or a filehandle, then Perl will do an equivalent of C's fdopen of that file descriptor (and not call dup(2)); this is more parsimonious of file descriptors. For example:

# open for input, reusing the fileno of $fd
open(FILEHANDLE, "<&=$fd")


open(FILEHANDLE, "<&=", $fd)


# open for append, using the fileno of OLDFH
open(FH, ">>&=", OLDFH)


open(FH, ">>&=OLDFH")

Being parsimonious on filehandles is also useful (besides being parsimonious) for example when something is dependent on file descriptors, like for example locking using flock(). If you do just open(A, '>>&B'), the filehandle A will not have the same file descriptor as B, and therefore flock(A) will not flock(B), and vice versa. But with open(A, '>>&=B') the filehandles will share the same file descriptor.

Note that if you are using Perls older than 5.8.0, Perl will be using the standard C libraries' fdopen() to implement the "=" functionality. On many Unix systems fdopen() fails when file descriptors exceed a certain value, typically 255. For Perls 5.8.0 and later, PerlIO is most often the default.

You can see whether Perl has been compiled with PerlIO or not by running perl -V and looking for the useperlio= line. If useperlio is define, you have PerlIO; otherwise you don't.

If you open a pipe on the command '-', i.e., either '|-' or '-|' with the 2-argument (or 1-argument) form of open(), then there is an implicit fork done, and the return value of open is the pid of the child within the parent process, and 0 within the child process. (Use defined($pid) to determine whether the open was successful.) The filehandle behaves normally for the parent, but I/O to that filehandle is piped from/to the STDOUT/STDIN of the child process. In the child process, the filehandle isn't opened--I/O happens from/to the new STDOUT/STDIN. Typically this is used like the normal piped open when you want to exercise more control over just how the pipe command gets executed, such as when running setuid and you don't want to have to scan shell commands for metacharacters.

The following blocks are more or less equivalent:

open(FOO, "|tr '[a-z]' '[A-Z]'");
open(FOO, '|-', "tr '[a-z]' '[A-Z]'");
open(FOO, '|-') || exec 'tr', '[a-z]', '[A-Z]';
open(FOO, '|-', "tr", '[a-z]', '[A-Z]');

open(FOO, "cat -n '$file'|");
open(FOO, '-|', "cat -n '$file'");
open(FOO, '-|') || exec 'cat', '-n', $file;
open(FOO, '-|', "cat", '-n', $file);

The last two examples in each block shows the pipe as "list form", which is not yet supported on all platforms. A good rule of thumb is that if your platform has true fork() (in other words, if your platform is Unix) you can use the list form.

See "Safe Pipe Opens" in perlipc for more examples of this.

Beginning with v5.6.0, Perl will attempt to flush all files opened for output before any operation that may do a fork, but this may not be supported on some platforms (see perlport). To be safe, you may need to set $| ($AUTOFLUSH in English) or call the autoflush() method of IO::Handle on any open handles.

On systems that support a close-on-exec flag on files, the flag will be set for the newly opened file descriptor as determined by the value of $^F. See "$^F" in perlvar.

Closing any piped filehandle causes the parent process to wait for the child to finish, and returns the status value in $? and ${^CHILD_ERROR_NATIVE}.

The filename passed to the 2-argument (or 1-argument) form of open() will have leading and trailing whitespace deleted, and the normal redirection characters honored. This property, known as "magic open", can often be used to good effect. A user could specify a filename of "rsh cat file |", or you could change certain filenames as needed:

$filename =~ s/(.*\.gz)\s*$/gzip -dc < $1|/;
open(FH, $filename) or die "Can't open $filename: $!";

Use 3-argument form to open a file with arbitrary weird characters in it,

open(FOO, '<', $file);

otherwise it's necessary to protect any leading and trailing whitespace:

$file =~ s#^(\s)#./$1#;
open(FOO, "< $file\0");

(this may not work on some bizarre filesystems). One should conscientiously choose between the magic and 3-arguments form of open():

open IN, $ARGV[0];

will allow the user to specify an argument of the form "rsh cat file |", but will not work on a filename that happens to have a trailing space, while

open IN, '<', $ARGV[0];

will have exactly the opposite restrictions.

If you want a "real" C open (see open(2) on your system), then you should use the sysopen function, which involves no such magic (but may use subtly different filemodes than Perl open(), which is mapped to C fopen()). This is another way to protect your filenames from interpretation. For example:

use IO::Handle;
sysopen(HANDLE, $path, O_RDWR|O_CREAT|O_EXCL)
    or die "sysopen $path: $!";
$oldfh = select(HANDLE); $| = 1; select($oldfh);
print HANDLE "stuff $$\n";
seek(HANDLE, 0, 0);
print "File contains: ", <HANDLE>;

Using the constructor from the IO::Handle package (or one of its subclasses, such as IO::File or IO::Socket), you can generate anonymous filehandles that have the scope of whatever variables hold references to them, and automatically close whenever and however you leave that scope:

use IO::File;
sub read_myfile_munged {
    my $ALL = shift;
    my $handle = IO::File->new;
    open($handle, "myfile") or die "myfile: $!";
    $first = <$handle>
        or return ();     # Automatically closed here.
    mung $first or die "mung failed";  # Or here.
    return $first, <$handle> if $ALL;  # Or here.
    $first;          # Or here.

See "seek" for some details about mixing reading and writing.