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:

modularity and reusability using innumerable modules

Described in perlmod, perlmodlib, and perlmodinstall.

embeddable and extensible

Described in perlembed, perlxstut, perlxs, perlcall, perlguts, and xsubpp.

roll-your-own magic variables (including multiple simultaneous DBM implementations)

Described in perltie and AnyDBM_File.

subroutines can now be overridden, autoloaded, and prototyped

Described in perlsub.

arbitrarily nested data structures and anonymous functions

Described in perlreftut, perlref, perldsc, and perllol.

object-oriented programming

Described in perlobj, perlboot, perltoot, perltooc, and perlbot.

support for light-weight processes (threads)

Described in perlthrtut and threads.

support for Unicode, internationalization, and localization

Described in perluniintro, perllocale and Locale::Maketext.

lexical scoping

Described in perlsub.

regular expression enhancements

Described in perlre, with additional examples in perlop.

enhanced debugger and interactive Perl environment, with integrated editor support

Described in perldebtut, perldebug and perldebguts.

POSIX 1003.1 compliant library

Described in POSIX.

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.