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perl - Practical Extraction and Report Language


perl [ -sTtuUWX ] [ -hv ] [ -V[:configvar] ] [ -cw ] [ -d[t][:debugger] ] [ -D[number/list] ] [ -pna ] [ -Fpattern ] [ -l[octal] ] [ -0[octal/hexadecimal] ] [ -Idir ] [ -m[-]module ] [ -M[-]'module...' ] [ -f ] [ -C [number/list] ] [ -P ] [ -S ] [ -x[dir] ] [ -i[extension] ] [ -e 'command' ] [ -- ] [ programfile ] [ argument ]...

If you're new to Perl, you should start with perlintro, which is a general intro for beginners and provides some background to help you navigate the rest of Perl's extensive documentation.

For ease of access, the Perl manual has been split up into several sections.


perl                Perl overview (this section)
perlintro           Perl introduction for beginners
perltoc             Perl documentation table of contents


perlreftut          Perl references short introduction
perldsc             Perl data structures intro
perllol             Perl data structures: arrays of arrays

perlrequick         Perl regular expressions quick start
perlretut           Perl regular expressions tutorial

perlboot            Perl OO tutorial for beginners
perltoot            Perl OO tutorial, part 1
perltooc            Perl OO tutorial, part 2
perlbot             Perl OO tricks and examples

perlstyle           Perl style guide

perlcheat           Perl cheat sheet
perltrap            Perl traps for the unwary
perldebtut          Perl debugging tutorial

perlfaq             Perl frequently asked questions
  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

Reference Manual

perlsyn             Perl syntax
perldata            Perl data structures
perlop              Perl operators and precedence
perlsub             Perl subroutines
perlfunc            Perl built-in functions
  perlopentut       Perl open() tutorial
  perlpacktut       Perl pack() and unpack() tutorial
perlpod             Perl plain old documentation
perlpodspec         Perl plain old documentation format specification
perlrun             Perl execution and options
perldiag            Perl diagnostic messages
perllexwarn         Perl warnings and their control
perldebug           Perl debugging
perlvar             Perl predefined variables
perlre              Perl regular expressions, the rest of the story
perlreref           Perl regular expressions quick reference
perlref             Perl references, the rest of the story
perlform            Perl formats
perlobj             Perl objects
perltie             Perl objects hidden behind simple variables
  perldbmfilter     Perl DBM filters

perlipc             Perl interprocess communication
perlfork            Perl fork() information
perlnumber          Perl number semantics

perlthrtut          Perl threads tutorial
  perlothrtut       Old Perl threads tutorial

perlport            Perl portability guide
perllocale          Perl locale support
perluniintro        Perl Unicode introduction
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
perlmodstyle        Perl modules: how to write modules with style
perlmodinstall      Perl modules: how to install from CPAN
perlnewmod          Perl modules: preparing a new module for distribution

perlutil            utilities packaged with the Perl distribution

perlcompile         Perl compiler suite intro

perlfilter          Perl source filters

perlglossary        Perl Glossary

Internals and C Language Interface

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

perlapi             Perl API listing (autogenerated)
perlintern          Perl internal functions (autogenerated)
perliol             C API for Perl's implementation of IO in Layers
perlapio            Perl internal IO abstraction interface

perlhack            Perl hackers guide


perlbook            Perl book information
perltodo            Perl things to do

perldoc             Look up Perl documentation in Pod format

perlhist            Perl history records
perldelta           Perl changes since previous version
perl587delta        Perl changes in version 5.8.7
perl586delta        Perl changes in version 5.8.6
perl585delta        Perl changes in version 5.8.5
perl584delta        Perl changes in version 5.8.4
perl583delta        Perl changes in version 5.8.3
perl582delta        Perl changes in version 5.8.2
perl581delta        Perl changes in version 5.8.1
perl58delta         Perl changes in version 5.8.0
perl573delta        Perl changes in version 5.7.3
perl572delta        Perl changes in version 5.7.2
perl571delta        Perl changes in version 5.7.1
perl570delta        Perl changes in version 5.7.0
perl561delta        Perl changes in version 5.6.1
perl56delta         Perl changes in version 5.6
perl5005delta       Perl changes in version 5.005
perl5004delta       Perl changes in version 5.004

perlartistic        Perl Artistic License
perlgpl             GNU General Public License


perlcn              Perl for Simplified Chinese (in EUC-CN)
perljp              Perl for Japanese (in EUC-JP)
perlko              Perl for Korean (in EUC-KR)
perltw              Perl for Traditional Chinese (in Big5)


perlaix             Perl notes for AIX
perlamiga           Perl notes for AmigaOS
perlapollo          Perl notes for Apollo DomainOS
perlbeos            Perl notes for BeOS
perlbs2000          Perl notes for POSIX-BC BS2000
perlce              Perl notes for WinCE
perlcygwin          Perl notes for Cygwin
perldgux            Perl notes for DG/UX
perldos             Perl notes for DOS
perlepoc            Perl notes for EPOC
perlfreebsd         Perl notes for FreeBSD
perlhpux            Perl notes for HP-UX
perlhurd            Perl notes for Hurd
perlirix            Perl notes for Irix
perllinux           Perl notes for Linux
perlmachten         Perl notes for Power MachTen
perlmacos           Perl notes for Mac OS (Classic)
perlmacosx          Perl notes for Mac OS X
perlmint            Perl notes for MiNT
perlmpeix           Perl notes for MPE/iX
perlnetware         Perl notes for NetWare
perlopenbsd         Perl notes for OpenBSD
perlos2             Perl notes for OS/2
perlos390           Perl notes for OS/390
perlos400           Perl notes for OS/400
perlplan9           Perl notes for Plan 9
perlqnx             Perl notes for QNX
perlsolaris         Perl notes for Solaris
perltru64           Perl notes for Tru64
perluts             Perl notes for UTS
perlvmesa           Perl notes for VM/ESA
perlvms             Perl notes for VMS
perlvos             Perl notes for Stratus VOS
perlwin32           Perl notes for Windows

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:

perl -V:man.dir

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.


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:

Okay, that's definitely enough hype.


Perl is available for most operating systems, including virtually all Unix-like platforms. See "Supported Platforms" in perlport for a listing.


See perlrun.


Larry Wall <>, with the help of oodles of other folks.

If your Perl success stories and testimonials may be of help to others who wish to advocate the use of Perl in their applications, or if you wish to simply express your gratitude to Larry and the Perl developers, please write to .


"@INC"                 locations of perl libraries


a2p    awk to perl translator
s2p    sed to perl translator       the Perl homepage       Perl articles (O'Reilly)       the Comprehensive Perl Archive         the Perl Mongers


The use warnings pragma (and the -w switch) produces some lovely diagnostics.

See perldiag for explanations of all Perl's diagnostics. The use diagnostics pragma automatically turns Perl's normally terse warnings and errors into these longer forms.

Compilation errors will tell you the line number of the error, with an indication of the next token or token type that was to be examined. (In a script passed to Perl via -e switches, each -e is counted as one line.)

Setuid scripts have additional constraints that can produce error messages such as "Insecure dependency". See perlsec.

Did we mention that you should definitely consider using the -w switch?


The -w switch is not mandatory.

Perl is at the mercy of your machine's definitions of various operations such as type casting, atof(), and floating-point output with sprintf().

If your stdio requires a seek or eof between reads and writes on a particular stream, so does Perl. (This doesn't apply to sysread() and syswrite().)

While none of the built-in data types have any arbitrary size limits (apart from memory size), there are still a few arbitrary limits: a given variable name may not be longer than 251 characters. Line numbers displayed by diagnostics are internally stored as short integers, so they are limited to a maximum of 65535 (higher numbers usually being affected by wraparound).

You may mail your bug reports (be sure to include full configuration information as output by the myconfig program in the perl source tree, or by perl -V) to . If you've succeeded in compiling perl, the perlbug script in the utils/ subdirectory can be used to help mail in a bug report.

Perl actually stands for Pathologically Eclectic Rubbish Lister, but don't tell anyone I said that.


The Perl motto is "There's more than one way to do it." Divining how many more is left as an exercise to the reader.

The three principal virtues of a programmer are Laziness, Impatience, and Hubris. See the Camel Book for why.