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input_record_separator HANDLE EXPR
$INPUT_RECORD_SEPARATOR
$RS
$/

The input record separator, newline by default. This influences Perl's idea of what a "line" is. Works like awk's RS variable, including treating empty lines as a terminator if set to the null string. (An empty line cannot contain any spaces or tabs.) You may set it to a multi-character string to match a multi-character terminator, or to undef to read through the end of file. Setting it to "\n\n" means something slightly different than setting to "", if the file contains consecutive empty lines. Setting to "" will treat two or more consecutive empty lines as a single empty line. Setting to "\n\n" will blindly assume that the next input character belongs to the next paragraph, even if it's a newline. (Mnemonic: / delimits line boundaries when quoting poetry.)

undef $/;           # enable "slurp" mode
$_ = <FH>;          # whole file now here
s/\n[ \t]+/ /g;

Remember: the value of $/ is a string, not a regex. awk has to be better for something. :-)

Setting $/ to a reference to an integer, scalar containing an integer, or scalar that's convertible to an integer will attempt to read records instead of lines, with the maximum record size being the referenced integer. So this:

$/ = \32768; # or \"32768", or \$var_containing_32768
open(FILE, $myfile);
$_ = <FILE>;

will read a record of no more than 32768 bytes from FILE. If you're not reading from a record-oriented file (or your OS doesn't have record-oriented files), then you'll likely get a full chunk of data with every read. If a record is larger than the record size you've set, you'll get the record back in pieces.

On VMS, record reads are done with the equivalent of sysread, so it's best not to mix record and non-record reads on the same file. (This is unlikely to be a problem, because any file you'd want to read in record mode is probably unusable in line mode.) Non-VMS systems do normal I/O, so it's safe to mix record and non-record reads of a file.

See also "Newlines" in perlport. Also see $..