David Golden


Object::LocalVars - Outside-in objects with local aliasing of $self and object variables


version 0.21


  package My::Object;
  use strict;
  use Object::LocalVars;
  give_methods our $self;  # this exact line is required
  our $field1 : Prop;
  our $field2 : Prop;
  sub as_string : Method { 
    return "$self has properties '$field1' and '$field2'";


Do not use for production purposes!

This is an experimental module I developed when exploring inside-out objects. It is no longer supported, but is left on CPAN as an example of the kind of strange OO approaches that are possible with Perl.

This module helps developers create "outside-in" objects. Properties (and $self) are declared as package globals. Method calls are wrapped such that these globals take on a local value that is correct for the specific calling object and the duration of the method call. I.e. $self is locally aliased to the calling object and properties are locally aliased to the values of the properties for that object. The package globals themselves only declare properties in the package and hold no data themselves. Data are stored in a separate namespace for each property, keyed off the reference memory addresses of the objects.

Outside-in objects are similar to "inside-out" objects, which store data in a single lexical hash (or closure) for each property, which is keyed off the reference memory addresses of the objects. Both differ from classic Perl objects, which hold data for the object directly using a blessed reference or closure to a data structure, typically a hash. For both outside-in and inside-out objects, data are stored centrally and the blessed reference is simply a key to look up the right data in the central data store.

The use of package variables for outside-in objects allows for the use of dynamic symbol table manipulation and aliasing. As a result, Object::LocalVars delivers a variety of features -- though with some corresponding drawbacks.


  • Provides $self automatically to methods without 'my $self = shift' and the like

  • Provides dynamic aliasing of properties within methods -- methods can access properties directly as variables without the overhead of calls to accessors or mutators, eliminating the overhead of these calls in methods

  • Array and hash properties may be accessed via direct dereference of simple variables, allowing developers to push, pop, splice, etc. without the usual tortured syntax to dereference an accessor call

  • Properties no longer require accessors to have compile time syntax checking under strictures (i.e. 'use strict'); 'public' properties have accessors automatically provided as needed

  • Uses attributes to mark properties and methods, but only in the BEGIN phase so should be mod_perl friendly (though this has not been tested yet)

  • Provides attributes for public, protected and private properties, class properties, and methods

  • Orthogonality -- can subclass just about any other class, regardless of implementation.

  • Multiple inheritance supported in initializers and destructors (though only one superclass can be of a special, orthogonal type)

  • Minimally thread-safe -- objects are safely cloned across thread boundaries (or a pseudo-fork on Win32)

  • Achieves these features without source filtering


  • Method inefficiency -- wrappers around methods create extra overhead on method calls

  • Accessor inefficiency -- privacy checks and extra indirection through package symbol tables create extra overhead (compared to direct hash dereferencing of classic Perl objects)

  • Minimal encapsulation -- data are hidden but still publicly accessible, unlike approaches that use lexicals or closures to create strong encapsulation; (will be addressed in a future release)

  • Does not support threads::shared -- objects existing before a new thread is created will persist into the new thread, but changes in an object cannot be reflected in the corresponding object in the other thread

Design principles


Object::LocalVars was written to simplify writing classes in Perl by removing the need for redundant and awkward code. E.g.:

 sub foo {
     my $self = shift;                 # e.g. repetitive
     push @{$self->some_list}, "foo";  # e.g. awkward

Instead, Object::LocalVars uses a more elegant, readable and minimalist approach:

 our $some_list : Prop;
 sub foo : Method {
     push @$some_list, "foo";

As with Perl, "easy things should be easy; difficult things should be possible" and there should be a smooth learning curve from one to the other.

Accessors and mutators

A major objective of Object::LocalVars is a significant reduction in the need for accessors (and mutators). In general, accessors break the OO encapsulation paradigm by revealing or allowing changes to internal object state. However, accessors are common in Perl for two big reasons:

  • Accessors offer typo protection. Compare:

     $self->{created}; # correct
     $self->{craeted}; # typo
     $self->craeted(); # typo, but caught at compile time
  • Automatically generating accessors is easy

As a result, the proliferation of accessors opens up the class internals unless additional protections are added to the accessors to make them private.

With Object::LocalVars's aliasing, properties stay private by default and don't need an accessor for typo safety. If protected or public accessors are needed for subclasses or external code to check state, these can be requested as needed.


Object-oriented programming suffers from a plethora of terms used to describe certain features and characteristics of classes and objects. Perl further complicates this by using these or related terms for other features entirely (e.g. attributes). (And Perl 6 swaps around these definitions again.) Within this documentation, terms are used as follows:

  • class -- represents a model of associated states and behaviors in terms of properties and methods; in Perl, a class is represented by a package

  • object -- represents a specific instance of a class; in Perl, an object is represented by a reference to a data structure blessed into a particular package

  • property -- represents a particular state of a class or object; properties which are common to all objects of a class are referred to as class properties; properties which can be unique to each object of a class are referred to as object properties; in Object::LocalVars, properties are represented by package variables marked with an appropriate attribute

  • method -- represents a behavior exhibited by a class; methods which do not depend on object properties are referred to as class methods; methods which depends on object properties are referred to as object methods; in Object::LocalVars, methods are represented by subroutines marked with an appropriate attribute

  • accessors -- used generically to refer to both 'accessors' and 'mutators', methods which respectively read and change properties.

  • attribute -- code that modifies variable and subroutine declarations; in Perl, attributes are separated from variable or subroutine declarations with a colon (e.g. 'our $name : Prop'); see perldoc for attributes for more details


Getting Started

The most minimal usage of Object::LocalVars consists of importing it with use and calling the give_methods routine:

 use Object::Localvars;
 give_methods our $self;  # Required

This automatically imports attribute handlers to mark properties and methods and imports several necessary, supporting subroutines that provide basic class functionality such as object construction and destruction. To support environments such as mod_perl, which have no CHECK or INIT phases, all attributes take effect during the BEGIN phase when the module is compiled and executed. The give_methods subroutine provides the run-time setup aspect of this and must always appear as shown.

Declaring Object Properties

Properties are declared by specifying a package variable using the keyword our and an appropriate attribute. There are several attributes (and aliases for attributes) available which result in different degrees of privacy and different resulting rules for creating accessors.

While properties are declared as an our variable, they are stored elsewhere in a private package namespace. When methods are called, a wrapper function temporarily aliases these package variables using local to their proper class or object property values. This allows for seamless access to properties, as if they were normal variables. For example, dereferencing a list property:

 our $favorites_list : Prop;  
 sub add_favorite : Method {
   my $new_item = shift;
   push @$favorites_list, $new_item;

Object::LocalVars provides the following attributes for object properties:

  • :Prop or :Priv

      our $prop1 : Prop;
      our $prop2 : Priv;

    Either of these attributes declare a private property. Private properties are aliased within methods, but no accessors are created. This is the recommended default unless specific alternate functionality is needed. Of course, developers are free to write methods that act as accessors, and provide additional behavior such as argument validation.

  • :Prot

      our $prop3 : Prot;

    This attribute declares a protected property. Protected properties are aliased within methods, and an accessor and mutator are created. However, the accessor and mutator may only be called by the declaring package or a subclass of it.

  • :Pub

      our $prop4 : Pub;

    This attribute declares a public property. Public properties are aliased within methods, and an accessor and mutator are created that may be called from anywhere.

  • :ReadOnly

      our $prop5 : ReadOnly;

    This attribute declares a read-only property. Read-only properties are aliased within methods, and an accessor and mutator are created. The accessor is public, but the mutator is protected.

Declaring Class Properties

Class properties work like object properties, but the value of a class property is the same in all object or class methods.

Object::LocalVars provides the following attributes for class properties:

  • :Class or :ClassPriv

      our $class1 : Class;
      our $class2 : ClassPriv;

    Either of these attributes declare a private class property. Private class properties are aliased within methods, but no accessors are created. This is the recommended default unless specific alternate functionality is needed.

  • :ClassProt

      our $class3 : ClassProt;

    This attribute declares a protected class property. Protected class properties are aliased within methods, and an accessor and mutator are created. However, the accessor and mutator may only be called by the declaring package or a subclass of it.

  • :ClassPub

      our $class4 : ClassPub;

    This attribute declares a public class property. Public class properties are aliased within methods, and an accessor and mutator are created that may be called from anywhere.

  • :ClassReadOnly

      our $class5 : ClassReadOnly;

    This attribute declares a read-only class property. Read-only class properties are aliased within methods, and an accessor and mutator are created. The accessor is public, but the mutator is protected.

Declaring Methods

  sub foo : Method {
    my ($arg1, $arg2) = @_;  # no need to shift $self
    # $self and all properties automatically aliased

As with properties, methods are indicated by the addition of an attribute to a subroutine declaration. When these marked subroutines are called, a wrapper function ensures that $self and all properties are aliased appropriately and passes only the remaining arguments to the marked subroutine. Class properties are always aliased to the current values of the class properties. If the method is called on an object, all object properties are aliased to the state of that object. These aliases are true aliases, not copies. Changes to the alias change the underlying properties.

Object::LocalVars provides the following attributes for subroutines:

  • :Method or :Pub

     sub fcn1 : Method { }
     sub fcn2 : Pub { }

    Either of these attributes declare a public method. Public methods may be called from anywhere. This is the recommended default unless specific alternate functionality is needed.

  • :Prot

     sub fcn3 : Prot { }

    This attribute declares a protected method. Protected methods may be called only from the declaring package or a subclass of it.

  • :Priv

     sub fcn4 : Priv { }

    This attribute declares a private method. Private methods may only be called only from the declaring package. See "Hints and Tips" for good style for calling private methods.

Accessors and Mutators

 # property declarations
 our $name : Pub;   # :Pub creates an accessor and mutator
 our $age  : Pub;
 # elsewhere in code
 $obj->set_name( 'Fred' )->set_age( 23 );
 print $obj->name;

Properties that are public or protected automatically have appropriate accessors and mutators generated. By default, these use an Eiffel-style syntax, e.g.: $obj->x() and $obj->set_x(). Mutators return the calling object, allowing method chaining.

The prefixes for accessors and mutators may be altered using the accessor_style() class method.

Constructors and Destructors

Object::LocalVars automatically provides the standard constructor, new, an initializer, BUILDALL, and the standard destructor, DESTROY. Each calls a series of functions to manage initialization and destruction within the inheritance model.

When new is called, a new blessed object is created. By default, this object is an anonymous scalar. (See "CONFIGURATION OPTIONS" for how to use another type of object as a base instead.)

After the object is created, BUILDALL is used to recursively initialize superclasses using their BUILDALL methods. A user-defined PREBUILD routine can modify the arguments passed to superclasses. The object is then initialized using a user-defined BUILD. (This approach resembles the Perl6 object initialization model.)

A detailed program flow follows:

  • Within new: The name of the calling class is shifted off the argument list

  • Within new: A reference to an anonymous scalar is blessed into the calling class

  • Within new: BUILDALL is called as an object method on the blessed reference with a copy of the arguments to new

  • Within BUILDALL: subroutine returns if initialization for the current class has already been done for this object

  • Within BUILDALL: for each superclass listed in @ISA, if the superclass can call BUILDALL, then PREBUILD (if it exists) is called with the name of the superclass and a copy of the remaining argument list to new. The superclass BUILDALL is then called as an object method using the new blessed reference and the results of the PREBUILD. If PREBUILD does not exist, then any BUILDALL is called with a copy of the arguments to new.

  • Within BUILDALL: if a BUILD method exists, it is called as a method using a copy of the arguments to new

During object destruction, the process works in reverse. In DESTROY, user-defined cleanup for the object's class is handled with DEMOLISH (if it exists). Then, memory for object properties is freed. Finally, DESTROY is called for each superclass in @ISA which can do DESTROY.

Both BUILDALL and DESTROY handle "diamond" inheritance patterns appropriately. Initialization and destruction will only be done once for each superclass for any given object.

Hints and Tips

Calling private methods

Good style for private method calling in traditional Perl object-oriented programming is to call private methods directly, foo($self,@args), rather than with method lookup, $self->foo(@args). This avoids unintentionally calling a subclass method of the same name if a subclass happens to provide one.

Avoiding hidden internal data

For a package using Object::LocalVars, e.g. My::Package, object properties are stored in My::Package::DATA, class properties are stored in My::Package::CLASSDATA, methods are stored in My::Package::METHODS, and objects are tracked for cloning in My::Package::TRACKER. Do not access these areas directly or overwrite them with other global data or unexpected results are guaranteed to occur.

(In a future release of this module, this storage approach should be replaced by fully-encapsulated anonymous symbol tables.)



     my ($superclass, @args) = @_;
     # filter @args in some way
     return @args;

This subroutine may be written to filter arguments given to BUILDALL before passing them to a superclass BUILDALL. This must not be tagged with a :Method attribute or equivalent as it is called before the object is fully initialized. The primary purpose of this subroutine is to strip out any arguments that would cause the superclass initializer to die and/or to add any default arguments that should always be passed to the superclass.


 # Assuming our $counter : Class;
 sub BUILD : Method {
     my %init = ( %defaults, @_ );
     $prop1 = $init{prop1};

This method may be written to initialize the object after it is created. If available, it is called at the end of BUILDALL. The @_ array contains the original array passed to BUILDALL.


  # Assume our $counter : Class;
 sub DEMOLISH : Method {

This method may be defined to provide some cleanup actions when the object goes out of scope and is destroyed. If available, it is called at the start of the destructor (i.e DESTROY).


These methods will be automatically exported for use. This export can be prevented by passing the method name preceded by a "!" in a list after the call to "use Object::LocalVars". E.g.:

  use Object::LocalVars qw( !new );

This is generally not needed and is strongly discouraged, but is available should developers need some very customized behavior in new or DESTROY that can't be achieved with BUILD and DEMOLISH.


  give_methods our $self;

Installs wrappers around all subroutines tagged as methods. This function (and the declaration of our $self) must be used in all classes built with Object::LocalVars. It should only be called once for any class.


 my $obj = Some::Class->new( @arguments );

The constructor. Classes built with Object::LocalVars have this available by default and do not need their own constructor.


 my $caller = caller(0);

This subroutine is exported automatically and emulates the built-in caller with the exception that if the caller is Object::LocalVars (i.e. from a wrapper function), it will continue to look upward in the calling stack until the first non-Object::LocalVars package is found.


The initializer. It is initially called by new and then recursively calls BUILDALL for all superclasses. Arguments for superclass initialization are filtered through PREBUILD. It should not be called by users.


When threads are used, this subroutine is called by perl when a new thread is created to ensure objects are properly cloned to the new thread. Users shouldn't call this function directly and it must not be overridden.


A destructor. This is not used within Object::LocalVars directly but is exported automatically when Object::LocalVars is imported. DESTROY calls DEMOLISH (if it exists), frees object property memory, and then calls DESTROY for every superclass in @ISA. It should not be called by users.



 package My::Class;
 use Object::LocalVars;
     Object::LocalVars->accessor_style( {
         get => 'get_',
         set => 'set_'

This class method changes the prefixes for accessors and mutators. When called from within a BEGIN block before properties are declared, it will change the style of all properties subsequently declared. It takes as an argument a hash reference with either or both of the keys 'get' and 'set' with the values indicating the accessor/mutator prefix to be used.

If the prefix is the same for both, an combined accessor/mutator will be created that sets the value of the property if an argument is passed and always returns the value of the property. E.g.:

 package My::Class;
 use Object::LocalVars;
     Object::LocalVars->accessor_style( {
         get => q{},
         set => q{}
 our $age : Pub;
 # elsewhere
 $obj->age( $obj->age() + 1 );  # increment age by 1

Combined accessor/mutators are treated as mutators for the interpretation of privacy settings.


 package My::Class; 
 use Object::LocalVars; 
 Object::LocalVars->base_object( 'Another::Class' ); 
 give_methods our $self;

This class method changes the basic blessed object type for the calling package from being an anonymous scalar to a fully-fledged object of the given type. This allows classes build with Object::LocalVars to subclass any type of class, regardless of its underlying implementation (e.g. a hash) -- though only a single class can be subclassed in such a manner. PREBUILD (if it exists) is called on the arguments to new before generating the base object using its constructor. The object is then re-blessed into the proper class. Other initializers are run as normal based on @ISA, but the base class is not initialized again.

If the given base class does not already exist in @ISA, it is imported with require and pushed onto the @ISA stack, similar to the pragma base.


Forthcoming. In short, Object::LocalVars can be faster than traditional approaches if the ratio of property access within methods is high relative to number of method calls. It is slower than traditional approaches if there are many method calls that individually do little property access. In general, Object::LocalVars trades off coding elegance and clarity for speed of execution.


These other modules provide similar functionality and/or inspired this one. Quotes are from their respective documentations.

  • Attribute::Property -- "easy lvalue accessors with validation"; uses attributes to mark object properties for accessors; validates lvalue usage with a hidden tie

  • Class::Std -- "provides tools that help to implement the 'inside out object' class structure"; based on the book Perl Best Practices; nice support for multiple-inheritance and operator overloading

  • Lexical::Attributes -- "uses a source filter to hide the details of the Inside-Out technique from the user"; API based on Perl6 syntax; provides $self automatically to methods

  • Spiffy -- "combines the best parts of Exporter.pm, base.pm, mixin.pm and SUPER.pm into one magic foundation class"; "borrows ideas from other OO languages like Python, Ruby, Java and Perl 6"; optionally uses source filtering to provide $self automatically to methods


Bugs / Feature Requests

Please report any bugs or feature requests through the issue tracker at https://github.com/dagolden/Object-LocalVars/issues. You will be notified automatically of any progress on your issue.

Source Code

This is open source software. The code repository is available for public review and contribution under the terms of the license.


  git clone https://github.com/dagolden/Object-LocalVars.git


David Golden <dagolden@cpan.org>


This software is Copyright (c) 2014 by David Golden.

This is free software, licensed under:

  The Apache License, Version 2.0, January 2004