For ease of access, the Perl manual has been split up into several sections:
perl Perl overview (this section) perlfaq Perl frequently asked questions perltoc Perl documentation table of contents perlbook Perl book information perlsyn Perl syntax perldata Perl data structures perlop Perl operators and precedence perlsub Perl subroutines perlfunc Perl builtin functions perlreftut Perl references short introduction perldsc Perl data structures intro perlrequick Perl regular expressions quick start perlpod Perl plain old documentation perlstyle Perl style guide perltrap Perl traps for the unwary perlrun Perl execution and options perldiag Perl diagnostic messages perllexwarn Perl warnings and their control perldebtut Perl debugging tutorial perldebug Perl debugging perlvar Perl predefined variables perllol Perl data structures: arrays of arrays perlopentut Perl open() tutorial perlretut Perl regular expressions tutorial perlre Perl regular expressions, the rest of the story perlref Perl references, the rest of the story perlform Perl formats perlboot Perl OO tutorial for beginners perltoot Perl OO tutorial, part 1 perltootc Perl OO tutorial, part 2 perlobj Perl objects perlbot Perl OO tricks and examples perltie Perl objects hidden behind simple variables perlipc Perl interprocess communication perlfork Perl fork() information perlnumber Perl number semantics perlthrtut Perl threads tutorial perlport Perl portability guide perllocale Perl locale support perlunicode Perl unicode support perlebcdic Considerations for running Perl on EBCDIC platforms perlsec Perl security perlmod Perl modules: how they work perlmodlib Perl modules: how to write and use perlmodinstall Perl modules: how to install from CPAN perlnewmod Perl modules: preparing a new module for distribution perlfaq1 General Questions About Perl perlfaq2 Obtaining and Learning about Perl perlfaq3 Programming Tools perlfaq4 Data Manipulation perlfaq5 Files and Formats perlfaq6 Regexes perlfaq7 Perl Language Issues perlfaq8 System Interaction perlfaq9 Networking perlcompile Perl compiler suite intro perlembed Perl ways to embed perl in your C or C++ application perldebguts Perl debugging guts and tips perlxstut Perl XS tutorial perlxs Perl XS application programming interface perlclib Internal replacements for standard C library functions perlguts Perl internal functions for those doing extensions perlcall Perl calling conventions from C perlutil utilities packaged with the Perl distribution perlfilter Perl source filters perldbmfilter Perl DBM filters perlapi Perl API listing (autogenerated) perlintern Perl internal functions (autogenerated) perlapio Perl internal IO abstraction interface perltodo Perl things to do perlhack Perl hackers guide perlhist Perl history records perldelta Perl changes since previous version perl5005delta Perl changes in version 5.005 perl5004delta Perl changes in version 5.004 perlaix Perl notes for AIX perlamiga Perl notes for Amiga perlbs2000 Perl notes for POSIX-BC BS2000 perlcygwin Perl notes for Cygwin perldos Perl notes for DOS perlepoc Perl notes for EPOC perlhpux Perl notes for HP-UX perlmachten Perl notes for Power MachTen perlmacos Perl notes for Mac OS (Classic) perlmpeix Perl notes for MPE/iX perlos2 Perl notes for OS/2 perlos390 Perl notes for OS/390 perlsolaris Perl notes for Solaris perlvmesa Perl notes for VM/ESA perlvms Perl notes for VMS perlvos Perl notes for Stratus VOS 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.