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PERLINTRO(1)	       Perl Programmers Reference Guide		  PERLINTRO(1)

NAME
       perlintro -- a brief introduction and overview of Perl

DESCRIPTION
       This document is intended to give you a quick overview of the Perl
       programming language, along with pointers to further documentation.  It
       is intended as a "bootstrap" guide for those who are new to the
       language, and provides just enough information for you to be able to
       read other peoples' Perl and understand roughly what it's doing, or
       write your own simple scripts.

       This introductory document does not aim to be complete.	It does not
       even aim to be entirely accurate.  In some cases perfection has been
       sacrificed in the goal of getting the general idea across.  You are
       strongly advised to follow this introduction with more information from
       the full Perl manual, the table of contents to which can be found in
       perltoc.

       Throughout this document you'll see references to other parts of the
       Perl documentation.  You can read that documentation using the
       "perldoc" command or whatever method you're using to read this
       document.

   What is Perl?
       Perl is a general-purpose programming language originally developed for
       text manipulation and now used for a wide range of tasks including
       system administration, web development, network programming, GUI
       development, and more.

       The language is intended to be practical (easy to use, efficient,
       complete) rather than beautiful (tiny, elegant, minimal).  Its major
       features are that it's easy to use, supports both procedural and
       object-oriented (OO) programming, has powerful built-in support for
       text processing, and has one of the world's most impressive collections
       of third-party modules.

       Different definitions of Perl are given in perl, perlfaq1 and no doubt
       other places.  From this we can determine that Perl is different things
       to different people, but that lots of people think it's at least worth
       writing about.

   Running Perl programs
       To run a Perl program from the Unix command line:

	   perl progname.pl

       Alternatively, put this as the first line of your script:

	   #!/usr/bin/env perl

       ... and run the script as "/path/to/script.pl".	Of course, it'll need
       to be executable first, so "chmod 755 script.pl" (under Unix).

       (This start line assumes you have the env program. You can also put
       directly the path to your perl executable, like in "#!/usr/bin/perl").

       For more information, including instructions for other platforms such
       as Windows and Mac OS, read perlrun.

   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:

	   #!/usr/bin/perl
	   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
       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:

	   print
	       "Hello, world"
	       ;

       ... except inside quoted strings:

	   # this would print with a linebreak in the middle
	   print "Hello
	   world";

       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

       Numbers don't need quotes around them:

	   print 42;

       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";

       More detailed information about Perl syntax can be found in perlsyn.

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

       Scalars
	   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
	   constructs.

	       print;	       # prints contents of $_ by default

       Arrays
	   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
	   array:

	       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.

       Hashes
	   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
	   nicely:

	       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
	   "values()".

	       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.

       More complex data types can be constructed using references, which
       allow you to build lists and hashes within lists and hashes.

       A reference is a scalar value and can refer to any other Perl data
       type. So by storing a reference as the value of an array or hash
       element, you can easily create lists and hashes within lists and
       hashes. The following example shows a 2 level hash of hash structure
       using anonymous hash references.

	   my $variables = {
	       scalar  =>  {
			    description => "single item",
			    sigil => '$',
			   },
	       array   =>  {
			    description => "ordered list of items",
			    sigil => '@',
			   },
	       hash    =>  {
			    description => "key/value pairs",
			    sigil => '%',
			   },
	   };

	   print "Scalars begin with a $variables->{'scalar'}->{'sigil'}\n";

       Exhaustive information on the topic of references can be found in
       perlreftut, perllol, perlref and perldsc.

   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
       defined.

	   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
       Perl has most of the usual conditional and looping constructs except
       for case/switch (but if you really want it, there is a Switch module in
       Perl 5.8 and newer, and on CPAN. See the section on modules, below, for
       more information about modules and CPAN).

       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
	       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
	       while ( condition ) {
		   ...
	       }

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

	       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 <= $max; $i++) {
		   ...
	       }

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

       foreach
	       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";
	       }

       For more detail on looping constructs (and some that weren't mentioned
       in this overview) see perlsyn.

   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:

       Arithmetic
	       +   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.)

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

       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
       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:

	   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
       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 set
	       (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 adjacent)
	       /(\d\s){3}/	   a 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 /^$/;
		   print;
	       }

       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 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
       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
       perlboot, perltoot, perltooc 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 ( http://www.cpan.org/ ).  A
       number of popular modules are included with the Perl distribution
       itself.

       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
       perlmodinstall.

       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.

AUTHOR
       Kirrily "Skud" Robert <skud@cpan.org>

perl v5.10.1			  2009-02-12			  PERLINTRO(1)
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