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Chad Granum


Importer - Alternative but compatible interface to modules that export symbols.


This module acts as a layer between Exporter and modules which consume exports. It is feature-compatible with Exporter, plus some much needed extras. You can use this to import symbols from any exporter that follows Exporters specification. The exporter modules themselves do not need to use or inherit from the Exporter module, they just need to set @EXPORT and/or other variables.


    # Import defaults
    use Importer 'Some::Module';

    # Import a list
    use Importer 'Another::Module' => qw/foo bar baz/;

    # Import a specific version:
    use Importer 'That::Module' => '1.00';

    # Require a sepcific version of Importer
    use Importer 0.001, 'Foo::Bar' => qw/a b c/;


    # Remove all subroutines imported by Importer
    no Importer;

    # Import symbols into variables
    my $croak = Importer->get_one(Carp => qw/croak/);
    $croak->("This will croak");

    my $CARP = Importer->get(Carp => qw/croak confess cluck/);
    $CARP->{croak}->("This will croak");
    $CARP->{cluck}->("This will cluck");
    $CARP->{confess}->("This will confess");


There was recently a discussion on p5p about adding features to Exporter. This conversation raised some significant concerns, those are listed here, in addition to others.

The burden is on export consumers to specify a version of Exporter

Adding a feature to Exporter means that any consumer module that relies on the new features must depend on a specific version of Exporter. This seems somewhat backwards since Exporter is used by the module you are importing from.

Exporter.pm is really old/crazy code

Not much more to say here. It is very old, it is very crazy, and if you break it you break EVERYTHING.

Using a modules import() for exporting makes it hard to give it other purposes

It is not unusual for a module to want to export symbols and provide import behaviors. It is also not unusual for a consumer to only want 1 or the other. Using this module you can import symbols without also getting the import() side effects.

In addition, moving forward, modules can specify exports and have a custom import() without conflating the two. A module can tell you to use Importer to get the symbols, and to use the module directly for behaviors. A module could also use Importer within its own import() method without the need to subclass Exporter, or bring in its import() method.

There are other exporter modules on cpan

This module normally assumes an exporter uses Exporter, so it looks for the variables and methods Exporter expects. However, other exporters on cpan can override this using the IMPORTER_MENU() hook.


This module aims for 100% compatibility with every feature of Exporter, plus added features such as import renaming.

If you find something that works differently, or not at all when compared to Exporter please report it as a bug, unless it is noted as an intentional feature (like import renaming).



If you provide a numeric argument as the first argument it will be treated as a version number. Importer will do a version check to make sure it is at least at the requested version.

$FROM_MODULE (required)

This is the only required argument. This is the name of the module to import symbols from.


Any numeric argument following the $FROM_MODULE will be treated as a version check against $FROM_MODULE.

\&SET_SYMBOL (optional)

Normally Importer will put the exports into your namespace. This is usually done via a more complex form of *name = $ref. If you do NOT want this to happen then you can provide a custom sub to handle the assignment.

This is an example that uses this feature to put all the exports into a lexical hash instead of modifying the namespace (This is how the get() method is implemented).

    my %CARP;
    use Importer Carp => sub {
        my ($name, $ref) = @_;
        $CARP{$name} = $ref;

    $CARP{cluck}->("This will cluck");
    $CARP{croak}->("This will croak");

The first two arguments to the custom sub are the name (no sigil), and the reference. The additional arguments are key/value pairs:

    sub set_symbol {
        my ($name, $ref, %info) = @_;

Package the symbol comes from.


Package to which the symbol should be added.


The sigil that should be used.


Extra details.


The original symbol name (with sigil) from the original package.

@SYMBOLS (optional)

Symbols you wish to import. If no symbols are specified then the defaults will be used. You may also specify tags using the ':' prefix.



You can define/import subsets of symbols using predefined tags.

    use Importer 'Some::Thing' => ':tag';

Importer will automatically populate the :DEFAULT tag for you. Importer will also give you an :ALL tag with ALL exports so long as the exporter does not define a :ALL tag already.


You can import all symbols that match a pattern. The pattern can be supplied a string starting and ending with '/', or you can provide a qr/../ reference.

    use Importer 'Some::Thing' => '/oo/';

    use Importer 'Some::Thing' => qr/oo/;


You can exclude symbols by prefixing them with '!'.

    use Importer 'Some::Thing'
        '!foo',         # Exclude one specific symbol
        '!/pattern/',   # Exclude all matching symbols
        '!' => qr/oo/,  # Exclude all that match the following arg
        '!:tag';        # Exclude all in tag


This is a new feature, Exporter does not support this on its own.

You can rename symbols at import time using a specification hash following the import name:

    use Importer 'Some::Thing' => (
        foo => { -as => 'my_foo' },

You can also add a prefix and/or postfix:

    use Importer 'Some::Thing' => (
        foo => { -prefix => 'my_' },

Using this syntax to set prefix and/or postfix also works on tags and patterns that are specified for import, in which case the prefix/postfix is applied to all symbols from the tag/patterm.


This lets you provide an alternative to the *name = $ref export assignment. See the list of parameters to import()








    no Importer;    # Remove all subs brought in with Importer

    no Importer qw/foo bar/;    # Remove only the specified subs

Only subs can be unimported.

You can only unimport subs imported using Importer.



This is used exactly the way Exporter uses it.

List of symbols to export. Sigil is optional for subs. Symbols listed here are exported by default. If possible you should put symbols in @EXPORT_OK instead.

    our @EXPORT = qw/foo bar &baz $BAT/;


This is used exactly the way Exporter uses it.

List of symbols that can be imported. Sigil is optional for subs. Symbols listed here are not exported by default. This is preferred over @EXPORT.

    our @EXPORT_OK = qw/foo bar &baz $BAT/;


This module supports tags exactly the way Exporter does.

    use Importer 'Some::Thing'  => ':DEFAULT';

    use Importer 'Other::Thing' => ':some_tag';

Tags can be specified this way:

    our %EXPORT_TAGS = (
        oos => [qw/foo boo zoo/],
        ees => [qw/fee bee zee/],


This is used exactly the way Exporter uses it.

Use this to list subs that are not available on all platforms. If someone tries to import one of these, Importer will hit your $from->export_fail(@items) callback to try to resolve the issue. See Exporter for documentation of this feature.

    our @EXPORT_FAIL = qw/maybe_bad/;


This is new to this module, Exporter does not support it.

This allows you to export symbols that are not actually in your package symbol table. The keys should be the symbol names, the values are the references for the symbols.

    our %EXPORT_ANON = (
        '&foo' => sub { 'foo' }
        '$foo' => \$foo,


This is new to this module, Exporter does not support it.

This allows you to export symbols that are generated on export. The key should be the name of a symbol. The value should be a coderef that produces a reference that will be exported.

When the generators are called they will receive 2 arguments, the package the symbol is being exported into, and the symbol being imported (name may or may not include sigil for subs).

    our %EXPORT_GEN = (
        '&foo' => sub {
            my $from_package = shift;
            my ($into_package, $symbol_name) = @_;
            return sub { ... };


This is new to this module. Exporter does not support it.

This allows you to define custom actions to run AFTER an export has been injected into the consumers namespace. This is a good place to enable parser hooks like with Devel::Declare. These will NOT be run if a consumer uses a custom assignment callback.

    our %EXPORT_MAGIC = (
        foo => sub {
            my $from = shift;    # Should be the package doing the exporting
            my %args = @_;

            my $into      = $args{into};         # Package symbol was exported into
            my $orig_name = $args{orig_name};    # Original name of the export (in the exporter)
            my $new_name  = $args{new_name};     # Name the symbol was imported as
            my $ref       = $args{ref};          # The reference to the symbol

            ...; # whatever you want, return is ignored.


Importer->import($from, $version)
Importer->import($from, @imports)
Importer->import($from, $from_version, @imports)
Importer->import($importer_version, $from, ...)

This is the magic behind use Importer ....

Importer->import_into($from, $into, @imports)
Importer->import_into($from, $level, @imports)

You can use this to import symbols from $from into $into. $into may either be a package name, or a caller level to get the name from.


This is the magic behind no Importer ....

Importer->unimport_from($from, @sub_names)
Importer->unimport_from($level, @sub_names)

This lets you remove imported symbols from $from. $from my be a package name, or a caller level.

my $exports = Importer->get($from, @imports)

This returns hashref of { $name => $ref } for all the specified imports.

$from should be the package from which to get the exports.

my @export_refs = Importer->get_list($from, @imports)

This returns a list of references for each import specified. Only the export references are returned, the names are not.

$from should be the package from which to get the exports.

$export_ref = Importer->get_one($from, $import)

This returns a single reference to a single export. If you provide multiple imports then only the LAST one will be used.

$from should be the package from which to get the exports.


If you want your module to work with Importer, but you use something other than Exporter to define your exports, you can make it work be defining the IMPORTER_MENU method in your package. As well other exporters can be updated to support Importer by putting this sub in your package. IMPORTER_MENU() must be defined in your package, not a base class!

        my $class = shift;
        my ($into, $caller) = @_;

        return (
            export       => \@EXPORT,          # Default exports
            export_ok    => \@EXPORT_OK,       # Other allowed exports
            export_tags  => \%EXPORT_TAGS,     # Define tags
            export_fail  => \@EXPORT_FAIL,     # For subs that may not always be available
            export_anon  => \%EXPORT_ANON,     # Anonymous symbols to export
            export_magic => \%EXPORT_MAGIC,    # Magic to apply after a symbol is exported

            generate   => \&GENERATE,          # Sub to generate dynamic exports
                                               # OR
            export_gen => \%EXPORT_GEN,        # Hash of builders, key is symbol
                                               # name, value is sub that generates
                                               # the symbol ref.

    sub GENERATE {
        my ($symbol) = @_;


        return $ref;

All exports must be listed in either @EXPORT or @EXPORT_OK, or be keys in %EXPORT_GEN or %EXPORT_ANON to be allowed. 'export_tags', 'export_fail', 'export_anon', 'export_gen', and 'generate' are optional. You cannot combine 'generate' and 'export_gen'.

Note: If your GENERATE sub needs the $class, $into, or $caller then your IMPORTER_MENU() method will need to build an anonymous sub that closes over them:

        my $class = shift;
        my ($into, $caller) = @_;

        return (
            generate => sub { $class->GENERATE($into, $caller, @_) },

OO Interface

    use Importer;

    my $imp = Importer->new(from => 'Some::Exporter');

    $imp->do_import('Another::Destination', @symbols);

Or, maybe more useful:

    my $imp = Importer->new(from => 'Carp');
    my $croak = $imp->get_one('croak');
    $croak->("This will croak");


$imp = Importer->new(from => 'Some::Exporter')
$imp = Importer->new(from => 'Some::Exporter', caller => [$package, $file, $line])

This is how you create a new Importer instance. from => 'Some::Exporter' is the only required argument. You may also specify the caller => [...] arrayref, which will be used only for error reporting. If you do not specify a caller then Importer will attempt to find the caller dynamically every time it needs it (this is slow and expensive, but necessary if you intend to re-use the object.)


$imp->do_import($into, @symbols)

This will import from the objects from package into the $into package. You can provide a list of @symbols, or you can leave it empty for the defaults.


This will remove imported symbols from the objects from package. If you specify a list of @symbols then only the specified symbols will be removed, otherwise all symbols imported using Importer will be removed.

Note: Please be aware of the difference between do_import() and do_unimport(). For import 'from' us used as the origin, in unimport it is used as the target. This means you cannot re-use an instance to import and then unimport.

($into, $versions, $exclude, $symbols, $set) = $imp->parse_args('Dest::Package')
($into, $versions, $exclude, $symbols, $set) = $imp->parse_args('Dest::Package', @symbols)

This parses arguments. The first argument must be the destination package. Other arguments can be a mix of symbol names, tags, patterns, version numbers, and exclusions.

$caller_ref = $imp->get_caller()

This will find the caller. This is mainly used for error reporting. IF the object was constructed with a caller then that is what is returned, otherwise this will scan the stack looking for the first call that does not originate from a package that ISA Importer.


Warn at the callers level.


Die at the callers level.

$from_package = $imp->from()

Get the from package that was specified at construction.

$file = $imp->from_file()

Get the filename for the from package.


This will load the from package if it has not been loaded already. This uses some magic to ensure errors in the load process are reported to the caller.

$menu_hr = $imp->menu($into)

Get the export menu built from, or provided by the from package. This is cached after the first time it is called. Use $imp->reload_menu() to refresh it.

The menu structure looks like this:

    $menu = {
        # every valid export has a key in the lookup hashref, value is always
        # 1, key always includes the sigil
        lookup => {'&symbol_a' => 1, '$symbol_b' => 1, ...},

        # most exports are listed here, symbol name with sigil is key, value is
        # a reference to the symbol. If a symbol is missing it may be generated.
        exports => {'&symbol_a' => \&symbol_a, '$symbol_b' => \$symbol_b, ...},

        # Hashref of tags, tag name (without ':' prefix) is key, value is an
        # arrayref of symbol names, subs may have a sigil, but are not required
        # to.
        tags => { DEFAULT => [...], foo => [...], ... },

        # Magic to apply
        magic => { foo => sub { ... }, ... },

        # This is a hashref just like 'lookup'. Keys are symbols which may not
        # always be available. If there are no symbols in this category then
        # the value of the 'fail' key will be undef instead of a hashref.
        fail => { '&iffy_symbol' => 1, '\&only_on_linux' => 1 },
        # OR fail => undef,

        # If present, this subroutine knows how to generate references for the
        # symbols listed in 'lookup', but missing from 'exports'. References
        # this returns are NEVER cached.
        generate => sub { my $sym_name = shift; ...; return $symbol_ref },

This will reload the export menu from the from package.

my $exports = $imp->get(@imports)

This returns hashref of { $name => $ref } for all the specified imports.

my @export_refs = $imp->get_list(@imports)

This returns a list of references for each import specified. Only the export references are returned, the names are not.

$export_ref = $imp->get_one($import)

This returns a single reference to a single export. If you provide multiple imports then only the LAST one will be used.


These can be imported:

    use Importer 'Importer' => qw/import optimal_import/;
$bool = optimal_import($from, $into, \@caller, @imports)

This function will attempt to import @imports from the $from package into the $into package. @caller needs to have a package name, filename, and line number. If this function fails then no exporting will actually happen.

If the import is successful this will return true.

If the import is unsuccessful this will return false, and no modifications to the symbol table will occur.


If you write class intended to be used with Importer, but also need to provide a legacy import() method for direct consumers of your class, you can import this import() method.

    package My::Exporter;

    # This will give you 'import()' much like 'use base "Exporter";'
    use Importer 'Importer' => qw/import/;



The source code repository for Importer can be found at http://github.com/exodist/Importer.


Chad Granum <exodist@cpan.org>


Chad Granum <exodist@cpan.org>


Copyright 2015 Chad Granum <exodist7@gmail.com>.

This program is free software; you can redistribute it and/or modify it under the same terms as Perl itself.

See http://dev.perl.org/licenses/