For ease of access, the Perl manual has been split up into several sections:
perl Perl overview (this section)
perldelta Perl changes since previous version
perl5005delta Perl changes in version 5.005
perl5004delta Perl changes in version 5.004
perlfaq Perl frequently asked questions
perltoc Perl documentation table of contents
perldata Perl data structures
perlsyn Perl syntax
perlop Perl operators and precedence
perlre Perl regular expressions
perlrun Perl execution and options
perlfunc Perl builtin functions
perlopentut Perl open() tutorial
perlvar Perl predefined variables
perlsub Perl subroutines
perlmod Perl modules: how they work
perlmodlib Perl modules: how to write and use
perlmodinstall Perl modules: how to install from CPAN
perlform Perl formats
perlunicode Perl unicode support
perllocale Perl locale support
perlreftut Perl references short introduction
perlref Perl references, the rest of the story
perldsc Perl data structures intro
perllol Perl data structures: arrays of arrays
perlboot Perl OO tutorial for beginners
perltoot Perl OO tutorial, part 1
perltootc Perl OO tutorial, part 2
perlobj Perl objects
perltie Perl objects hidden behind simple variables
perlbot Perl OO tricks and examples
perlipc Perl interprocess communication
perlfork Perl fork() information
perlthrtut Perl threads tutorial
perllexwarn Perl warnings and their control
perlfilter Perl source filters
perldbmfilter Perl DBM filters
perlcompile Perl compiler suite intro
perldebug Perl debugging
perldiag Perl diagnostic messages
perlnumber Perl number semantics
perlsec Perl security
perltrap Perl traps for the unwary
perlport Perl portability guide
perlstyle Perl style guide
perlpod Perl plain old documentation
perlbook Perl book information
perlembed Perl ways to embed perl in your C or C++ application
perlapio Perl internal IO abstraction interface
perldebguts Perl debugging guts and tips
perlxs Perl XS application programming interface
perlxstut Perl XS tutorial
perlguts Perl internal functions for those doing extensions
perlcall Perl calling conventions from C
perlapi Perl API listing (autogenerated)
perlintern Perl internal functions (autogenerated)
perltodo Perl things to do
perlhack Perl hackers guide
perlhist Perl history records
perlamiga Perl notes for Amiga
perlcygwin Perl notes for Cygwin
perldos Perl notes for DOS
perlhpux Perl notes for HP-UX
perlmachten Perl notes for Power MachTen
perlos2 Perl notes for OS/2
perlos390 Perl notes for OS/390
perlvms Perl notes for VMS
perlwin32 Perl notes for Windows
(If you're intending to read these straight through for the first time, the suggested order will tend to reduce the number of forward references.)
By default, the manpages listed above are installed in the /usr/local/man/ directory.
Extensive additional documentation for Perl modules is available. The default configuration for perl will place this additional documentation in the /usr/local/lib/perl5/man directory (or else in the man subdirectory of the Perl library directory). Some of this additional documentation is distributed standard with Perl, but you'll also find documentation for third-party modules there.
You should be able to view Perl's documentation with your man(1) program by including the proper directories in the appropriate start-up files, or in the MANPATH environment variable. To find out where the configuration has installed the manpages, type:
If the directories have a common stem, such as /usr/local/man/man1 and /usr/local/man/man3, you need only to add that stem (/usr/local/man) to your man(1) configuration files or your MANPATH environment variable. If they do not share a stem, you'll have to add both stems.
If that doesn't work for some reason, you can still use the supplied perldoc script to view module information. You might also look into getting a replacement man program.
If something strange has gone wrong with your program and you're not sure where you should look for help, try the -w switch first. It will often point out exactly where the trouble is.
Full perl(1) documentation: perl
Perl is a language optimized for scanning arbitrary text files, extracting information from those text files, and printing reports based on that information. It's also a good language for many system management tasks. The language is intended to be practical (easy to use, efficient, complete) rather than beautiful (tiny, elegant, minimal).
Perl combines (in the author's opinion, anyway) some of the best features of C, sed, awk, and sh, so people familiar with those languages should have little difficulty with it. (Language historians will also note some vestiges of csh, Pascal, and even BASIC-PLUS.) Expression syntax corresponds closely to C expression syntax. Unlike most Unix utilities, Perl does not arbitrarily limit the size of your data--if you've got the memory, Perl can slurp in your whole file as a single string. Recursion is of unlimited depth. And the tables used by hashes (sometimes called "associative arrays") grow as necessary to prevent degraded performance. Perl can use sophisticated pattern matching techniques to scan large amounts of data quickly. Although optimized for scanning text, Perl can also deal with binary data, and can make dbm files look like hashes. Setuid Perl scripts are safer than C programs through a dataflow tracing mechanism that prevents many stupid security holes.
If you have a problem that would ordinarily use sed or awk or sh, but it exceeds their capabilities or must run a little faster, and you don't want to write the silly thing in C, then Perl may be for you. There are also translators to turn your sed and awk scripts into Perl scripts.
But wait, there's more...
Begun in 1993 (see perlhist), Perl version 5 is nearly a complete rewrite that provides the following additional benefits:
modularity and reusability using innumerable modules
embeddable and extensible
roll-your-own magic variables (including multiple simultaneous DBM implementations)
subroutines can now be overridden, autoloaded, and prototyped
Described in perlsub.
arbitrarily nested data structures and anonymous functions
compilability into C code or Perl bytecode
support for light-weight processes (threads)
support for internationalization, localization, and Unicode
Described in perlsub.
regular expression enhancements
enhanced debugger and interactive Perl environment, with integrated editor support
Described in perldebug.
POSIX 1003.1 compliant library
Described in POSIX.
Okay, that's definitely enough hype.