Perl Programming Language: Intro

$ info perl

PERL(1)                Perl Programmers Reference Guide                PERL(1)
        perl - The Perl 5 language interpreter

        The perldoc program gives you access to all the documentation that
        comes with Perl.  You can get more documentation, tutorials and
        community support online at

            perl                Perl overview (this section)
            perlintro           Perl introduction for beginners
            perlrun             Perl execution and options
            perltoc             Perl documentation table of contents
            perlreftut          Perl references short introduction
            perldsc             Perl data structures intro
            perllol             Perl data structures: arrays of arrays

Perl Intro

$ info perlintro
  Safety net
       Perl by default is very forgiving.  In order to make it more robust it
       is recommended to start every program with the following lines:

        use strict;
        use warnings;

       The two additional lines request from perl to catch various common
       problems in your code.  They check different things so you need both.
       A potential problem caught by "use strict;" will cause your code to
       stop immediately when it is encountered, while "use warnings;" will
       merely give a warning (like the command-line switch -w) and let your
       code run.  To read more about them check their respective manual pages
       at strict and warnings.

Basic syntax overview

   Basic syntax overview
       A Perl script or program consists of one or more statements.  These
       statements are simply written in the script in a straightforward
       fashion.  There is no need to have a "main()" function or anything of
       that kind.

       Perl statements end in a semi-colon:

        print "Hello, world";

       Comments start with a hash symbol and run to the end of the line

        # This is a comment

       Whitespace is irrelevant:

            "Hello, world"

       ... except inside quoted strings:

       Double quotes or single quotes may be used around literal strings:

        print "Hello, world";
        print 'Hello, world';

       However, only double quotes "interpolate" variables and special
       characters such as newlines ("\n"):

        print "Hello, $name\n";     # works fine
        print 'Hello, $name\n';     # prints $name\n literally

       You can use parentheses for functions' arguments or omit them according
       to your personal taste.  They are only required occasionally to clarify
       issues of precedence.

        print("Hello, world\n");
        print "Hello, world\n";

Perl variable types

  Perl variable types
       Perl has three main variable types: scalars, arrays, and hashes.

           A scalar represents a single value:

            my $animal = "camel";
            my $answer = 42;

           Scalar values can be strings, integers or floating point numbers,
           and Perl will automatically convert between them as required.
           There is no need to pre-declare your variable types, but you have
           to declare them using the "my" keyword the first time you use them.
           (This is one of the requirements of "use strict;".)

           Scalar values can be used in various ways:

            print $animal;
            print "The animal is $animal\n";
            print "The square of $answer is ", $answer * $answer, "\n";

           There are a number of "magic" scalars with names that look like
           punctuation or line noise.  These special variables are used for
           all kinds of purposes, and are documented in perlvar.  The only one
           you need to know about for now is $_ which is the "default
           variable".  It's used as the default argument to a number of
           functions in Perl, and it's set implicitly by certain looping

            print;          # prints contents of $_ by default

           An array represents a list of values:

            my @animals = ("camel", "llama", "owl");
            my @numbers = (23, 42, 69);
            my @mixed   = ("camel", 42, 1.23);

           Arrays are zero-indexed.  Here's how you get at elements in an

            print $animals[0];              # prints "camel"
            print $animals[1];              # prints "llama"

           The special variable $#array tells you the index of the last
           element of an array:

            print $mixed[$#mixed];       # last element, prints 1.23

           You might be tempted to use "$#array + 1" to tell you how many
           items there are in an array.  Don't bother.  As it happens, using
           @array where Perl expects to find a scalar value ("in scalar
           context") will give you the number of elements in the array:

            if (@animals < 5) { ... }

           The elements we're getting from the array start with a "$" because
           we're getting just a single value out of the array; you ask for a
           scalar, you get a scalar.

           To get multiple values from an array:

            @animals[0,1];                 # gives ("camel", "llama");
            @animals[0..2];                # gives ("camel", "llama", "owl");
            @animals[1..$#animals];        # gives all except the first element

           This is called an "array slice".

           You can do various useful things to lists:

            my @sorted    = sort @animals;
            my @backwards = reverse @numbers;

           There are a couple of special arrays too, such as @ARGV (the
           command line arguments to your script) and @_ (the arguments passed
           to a subroutine).  These are documented in perlvar.

           A hash represents a set of key/value pairs:

            my %fruit_color = ("apple", "red", "banana", "yellow");

           You can use whitespace and the "=>" operator to lay them out more

            my %fruit_color = (
                apple  => "red",
                banana => "yellow",

           To get at hash elements:

            $fruit_color{"apple"};           # gives "red"

           You can get at lists of keys and values with "keys()" and

            my @fruits = keys %fruit_colors;
            my @colors = values %fruit_colors;

           Hashes have no particular internal order, though you can sort the
           keys and loop through them.

           Just like special scalars and arrays, there are also special
           hashes.  The most well known of these is %ENV which contains
           environment variables.  Read all about it (and other special
           variables) in perlvar.

       Scalars, arrays and hashes are documented more fully in perldata.

Variable scoping

   Variable scoping
       Throughout the previous section all the examples have used the syntax:

        my $var = "value";

       The "my" is actually not required; you could just use:

        $var = "value";

       However, the above usage will create global variables throughout your
       program, which is bad programming practice.  "my" creates lexically
       scoped variables instead.  The variables are scoped to the block (i.e.
       a bunch of statements surrounded by curly-braces) in which they are

        my $x = "foo";
        my $some_condition = 1;
        if ($some_condition) {
            my $y = "bar";
            print $x;           # prints "foo"
            print $y;           # prints "bar"
        print $x;               # prints "foo"
        print $y;               # prints nothing; $y has fallen out of scope

       Using "my" in combination with a "use strict;" at the top of your Perl
       scripts means that the interpreter will pick up certain common
       programming errors.  For instance, in the example above, the final
       "print $y" would cause a compile-time error and prevent you from
       running the program.  Using "strict" is highly recommended.

Conditional and looping constructs

  Conditional and looping constructs
       Perl has most of the usual conditional and looping constructs.  As of
       Perl 5.10, it even has a case/switch statement (spelled
       "given"/"when").  See "Switch Statements" in perlsyn for more details.

       The conditions can be any Perl expression.  See the list of operators
       in the next section for information on comparison and boolean logic
       operators, which are commonly used in conditional statements.

            if ( condition ) {
            } elsif ( other condition ) {
            } else {

           There's also a negated version of it:

            unless ( condition ) {

           This is provided as a more readable version of "if (!condition)".

           Note that the braces are required in Perl, even if you've only got
           one line in the block.  However, there is a clever way of making
           your one-line conditional blocks more English like:

            # the traditional way
            if ($zippy) {
                print "Yow!";

            # the Perlish post-condition way
            print "Yow!" if $zippy;
            print "We have no bananas" unless $bananas;

            while ( condition ) {

           There's also a negated version, for the same reason we have

            until ( condition ) {

           You can also use "while" in a post-condition:

            print "LA LA LA\n" while 1;          # loops forever

       for Exactly like C:

            for ($i = 0; $i ;lt;= $max; $i++) {

           The C style for loop is rarely needed in Perl since Perl provides
           the more friendly list scanning "foreach" loop.

            foreach (@array) {
                print "This element is $_\n";
           print $list[$_] foreach 0 .. $max;

            # you don't have to use the default $_ either...
            foreach my $key (keys %hash) {
                print "The value of $key is $hash{$key}\n";

           The "foreach" keyword is actually a synonym for the "for" keyword.
           See ""Foreach Loops" in perlsyn".

Builtin operators and functions

   Builtin operators and functions
       Perl comes with a wide selection of builtin functions.  Some of the
       ones we've already seen include "print", "sort" and "reverse".  A list
       of them is given at the start of perlfunc and you can easily read about
       any given function by using "perldoc -f functionname".

       Perl operators are documented in full in perlop, but here are a few of
       the most common ones:

            +   addition
            -   subtraction
            *   multiplication
            /   division

       Numeric comparison
            ==  equality
            !=  inequality
            <   less than
            >   greater than
            <=  less than or equal
            >=  greater than or equal

       String comparison
            eq  equality
            ne  inequality
            lt  less than
            gt  greater than
            le  less than or equal
            ge  greater than or equal

           (Why do we have separate numeric and string comparisons?  Because
           we don't have special variable types, and Perl needs to know
           whether to sort numerically (where 99 is less than 100) or
           alphabetically (where 100 comes before 99).

       Boolean logic
            &&  and
            ||  or
            !   not

           ("and", "or" and "not" aren't just in the above table as
           descriptions of the operators.  They're also supported as operators
           in their own right.  They're more readable than the C-style
           operators, but have different precedence to "&&" and friends.
           Check perlop for more detail.)

            =   assignment
            .   string concatenation
            x   string multiplication
            ..  range operator (creates a list of numbers or strings)

       Many operators can be combined with a "=" as follows:

        $a += 1;        # same as $a = $a + 1
        $a -= 1;        # same as $a = $a - 1
        $a .= "\n";     # same as $a = $a . "\n";

Files and I/O

   Files and I/O
       You can open a file for input or output using the "open()" function.
       It's documented in extravagant detail in perlfunc and perlopentut, but
       in short:
       It's documented in extravagant detail in perlfunc and perlopentut, but
       in short:

        open(my $in,  "<",  "input.txt")  or die "Can't open input.txt: $!";
        open(my $out, ">",  "output.txt") or die "Can't open output.txt: $!";
        open(my $log, ">>", "my.log")     or die "Can't open my.log: $!";

       You can read from an open filehandle using the "<>" operator.  In
       scalar context it reads a single line from the filehandle, and in list
       context it reads the whole file in, assigning each line to an element
       of the list:

        my $line  = <$in>;
        my @lines = <$in>;

       Reading in the whole file at one time is called slurping.  It can be
       useful but it may be a memory hog.  Most text file processing can be
       done a line at a time with Perl's looping constructs.

       The "<>" operator is most often seen in a "while" loop:

        while (<$in>) {     # assigns each line in turn to $_
            print "Just read in this line: $_";

       We've already seen how to print to standard output using "print()".
       However, "print()" can also take an optional first argument specifying
       which filehandle to print to:

        print STDERR "This is your final warning.\n";
        print $out $record;
        print $log $logmessage;

       When you're done with your filehandles, you should "close()" them
       (though to be honest, Perl will clean up after you if you forget):

        close $in or die "$in: $!";

Regular expressions

   Regular expressions
       Perl's regular expression support is both broad and deep, and is the
       subject of lengthy documentation in perlrequick, perlretut, and
       elsewhere.  However, in short:

       Simple matching
            if (/foo/)       { ... }  # true if $_ contains "foo"
            if ($a =~ /foo/) { ... }  # true if $a contains "foo"

           The "//" matching operator is documented in perlop.  It operates on
           $_ by default, or can be bound to another variable using the "=~"
           binding operator (also documented in perlop).

       Simple substitution
            s/foo/bar/;               # replaces foo with bar in $_
            $a =~ s/foo/bar/;         # replaces foo with bar in $a
            $a =~ s/foo/bar/g;        # replaces ALL INSTANCES of foo with bar
                                      # in $a

           The "s///" substitution operator is documented in perlop.

       More complex regular expressions
           You don't just have to match on fixed strings.  In fact, you can
           match on just about anything you could dream of by using more
           complex regular expressions.  These are documented at great length
           in perlre, but for the meantime, here's a quick cheat sheet:

            .                   a single character
            \s                  a whitespace character (space, tab, newline,
            \S                  non-whitespace character
            \d                  a digit (0-9)
            \D                  a non-digit
            \w                  a word character (a-z, A-Z, 0-9, _)
            \W                  a non-word character
            [aeiou]             matches a single character in the given set
            [^aeiou]            matches a single character outside the given
            (foo|bar|baz)       matches any of the alternatives specified

            ^                   start of string
            $                   end of string

           Quantifiers can be used to specify how many of the previous thing
           you want to match on, where "thing" means either a literal
           character, one of the metacharacters listed above, or a group of
           characters or metacharacters in parentheses.

            *                   zero or more of the previous thing
            +                   one or more of the previous thing
            ?                   zero or one of the previous thing
            {3}                 matches exactly 3 of the previous thing
            {3,6}               matches between 3 and 6 of the previous thing
            {3,}                matches 3 or more of the previous thing

           Some brief examples:

            /^\d+/              string starts with one or more digits
            /^$/                nothing in the string (start and end are
            /(\d\s){3}/         three digits, each followed by a whitespace
                                character (eg "3 4 5 ")
            /(a.)+/             matches a string in which every odd-numbered
                                letter is a (eg "abacadaf")

            # This loop reads from STDIN, and prints non-blank lines:
            while (<>) {
                next if /^$/;

       Parentheses for capturing
           As well as grouping, parentheses serve a second purpose.  They can
           be used to capture the results of parts of the regexp match for
           later use.  The results end up in $1, $2 and so on.

            # a cheap and nasty way to break an email address up into parts

            if ($email =~ /([^@]+)@(.+)/) {
                print "Username is $1\n";
                print "Hostname is $2\n";

       Other regexp features
           Perl regexps also support backreferences, lookaheads, and all kinds
           of other complex details.  Read all about them in perlrequick,
           perlretut, and perlre.

Writing subroutines

   Writing subroutines
       Writing subroutines is easy:

        sub logger {
           my $logmessage = shift;
           open my $logfile, ">>", "my.log" or die "Could not open my.log: $!";
           print $logfile $logmessage;

       Now we can use the subroutine just as any other built-in function:

        logger("We have a logger subroutine!");

       What's that "shift"?  Well, the arguments to a subroutine are available
       to us as a special array called @_ (see perlvar for more on that).  The
       default argument to the "shift" function just happens to be @_.  So "my
       $logmessage = shift;" shifts the first item off the list of arguments
       and assigns it to $logmessage.

       We can manipulate @_ in other ways too:

        my ($logmessage, $priority) = @_;       # common
        my $logmessage = $_[0];                 # uncommon, and ugly

       Subroutines can also return values:

        sub square {
            my $num = shift;
            my $result = $num * $num;
            return $result;

       Then use it like:

        $sq = square(8);

       For more information on writing subroutines, see perlsub.

OO Perl and Using Perl modules

   OO Perl
       OO Perl is relatively simple and is implemented using references which
       know what sort of object they are based on Perl's concept of packages.
       However, OO Perl is largely beyond the scope of this document.  Read
       perlootut and perlobj.

       As a beginning Perl programmer, your most common use of OO Perl will be
       in using third-party modules, which are documented below.

   Using Perl modules
       Perl modules provide a range of features to help you avoid reinventing
       the wheel, and can be downloaded from CPAN ( <> ).
       A number of popular modules are included with the Perl distribution

       Categories of modules range from text manipulation to network protocols
       to database integration to graphics.  A categorized list of modules is
       also available from CPAN.

       To learn how to install modules you download from CPAN, read

       To learn how to use a particular module, use "perldoc Module::Name".
       Typically you will want to "use Module::Name", which will then give you
       access to exported functions or an OO interface to the module.

       perlfaq contains questions and answers related to many common tasks,
       and often provides suggestions for good CPAN modules to use.

       perlmod describes Perl modules in general.  perlmodlib lists the
       modules which came with your Perl installation.

       If you feel the urge to write Perl modules, perlnewmod will give you
       good advice.

       Kirrily "Skud" Robert <>

perl v5.28.2                      2018-11-01                      PERLINTRO(1)

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