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Tim Bunce


perlfaq2 - Obtaining and Learning about Perl ($Revision: 1.16 $, $Date: 1997/04/23 18:04:09 $)


This section of the FAQ answers questions about where to find source and documentation for Perl, support and training, and related matters.

What machines support Perl? Where do I get it?

The standard release of Perl (the one maintained by the perl development team) is distributed only in source code form. You can find this at http://www.perl.com/CPAN/src/latest.tar.gz, which is a gzipped archive in POSIX tar format. This source builds with no porting whatsoever on most Unix systems (Perl's native environment), as well as Plan 9, VMS, QNX, OS/2, and the Amiga.

Although it's rumored that the (imminent) 5.004 release may build on Windows NT, this is yet to be proven. Binary distributions for 32-bit Microsoft systems and for Apple systems can be found http://www.perl.com/CPAN/ports/ directory. Because these are not part of the standard distribution, they may and in fact do differ from the base Perl port in a variety of ways. You'll have to check their respective release notes to see just what the differences are. These differences can be either positive (e.g. extensions for the features of the particular platform that are not supported in the source release of perl) or negative (e.g. might be based upon a less current source release of perl).

A useful FAQ for Win32 Perl users is http://www.endcontsw.com/people/evangelo/Perl_for_Win32_FAQ.html

How can I get a binary version of Perl?

If you don't have a C compiler because for whatever reasons your vendor did not include one with your system, the best thing to do is grab a binary version of gcc from the net and use that to compile perl with. CPAN only has binaries for systems that are terribly hard to get free compilers for, not for Unix systems.

Your first stop should be http://www.perl.com/CPAN/ports to see what information is already available. A simple installation guide for MS-DOS is available at http://www.cs.ruu.nl/~piet/perl5dos.html , and similarly for Windows 3.1 at http://www.cs.ruu.nl/~piet/perlwin3.html .

I don't have a C compiler on my system. How can I compile perl?

Since you don't have a C compiler, you're doomed and your vendor should be sacrificed to the Sun gods. But that doesn't help you.

What you need to do is get a binary version of gcc for your system first. Consult the Usenet FAQs for your operating system for information on where to get such a binary version.

I copied the Perl binary from one machine to another, but scripts don't work.

That's probably because you forgot libraries, or library paths differ. You really should build the whole distribution on the machine it will eventually live on, and then type make install. Most other approaches are doomed to failure.

One simple way to check that things are in the right place is to print out the hard-coded @INC which perl is looking for.

        perl -e 'print join("\n",@INC)'

If this command lists any paths which don't exist on your system, then you may need to move the appropriate libraries to these locations, or create symlinks, aliases, or shortcuts appropriately.

You might also want to check out "How do I keep my own module/library directory?" in perlfaq8.

I grabbed the sources and tried to compile but gdbm/dynamic loading/malloc/linking/... failed. How do I make it work?

Read the INSTALL file, which is part of the source distribution. It describes in detail how to cope with most idiosyncracies that the Configure script can't work around for any given system or architecture.

What modules and extensions are available for Perl? What is CPAN? What does CPAN/src/... mean?

CPAN stands for Comprehensive Perl Archive Network, a huge archive replicated on dozens of machines all over the world. CPAN contains source code, non-native ports, documentation, scripts, and many third-party modules and extensions, designed for everything from commercial database interfaces to keyboard/screen control to web walking and CGI scripts. The master machine for CPAN is ftp://ftp.funet.fi/pub/languages/perl/CPAN/, but you can use the address http://www.perl.com/CPAN/CPAN.html to fetch a copy from a "site near you". See http://www.perl.com/CPAN (without a slash at the end) for how this process works.

CPAN/path/... is a naming convention for files available on CPAN sites. CPAN indicates the base directory of a CPAN mirror, and the rest of the path is the path from that directory to the file. For instance, if you're using ftp://ftp.funet.fi/pub/languages/perl/CPAN as your CPAN site, the file CPAN/misc/japh file is downloadable as ftp://ftp.funet.fi/pub/languages/perl/CPAN/misc/japh .

Considering that there are hundreds of existing modules in the archive, one probably exists to do nearly anything you can think of. Current categories under CPAN/modules/by-category/ include perl core modules; development support; operating system interfaces; networking, devices, and interprocess communication; data type utilities; database interfaces; user interfaces; interfaces to other languages; filenames, file systems, and file locking; internationalization and locale; world wide web support; server and daemon utilities; archiving and compression; image manipulation; mail and news; control flow utilities; filehandle and I/O; Microsoft Windows modules; and miscellaneous modules.

Is there an ISO or ANSI certified version of Perl?

Certainly not. Larry expects that he'll be certified before Perl is.

Where can I get information on Perl?

The complete Perl documentation is available with the perl distribution. If you have perl installed locally, you probably have the documentation installed as well: type man perl if you're on a system resembling Unix. This will lead you to other important man pages. If you're not on a Unix system, access to the documentation will be different; for example, it might be only in HTML format. But all proper perl installations have fully-accessible documentation.

You might also try perldoc perl in case your system doesn't have a proper man command, or it's been misinstalled. If that doesn't work, try looking in /usr/local/lib/perl5/pod for documentation.

If all else fails, consult the CPAN/doc directory, which contains the complete documentation in various formats, including native pod, troff, html, and plain text. There's also a web page at http://www.perl.com/perl/info/documentation.html that might help.

It's also worth noting that there's a PDF version of the complete documentation for perl available in the CPAN/authors/id/BMIDD directory.

Many good books have been written about Perl -- see the section below for more details.

What are the Perl newsgroups on USENET? Where do I post questions?

The now defunct comp.lang.perl newsgroup has been superseded by the following groups:

    comp.lang.perl.announce             Moderated announcement group
    comp.lang.perl.misc                 Very busy group about Perl in general
    comp.lang.perl.modules              Use and development of Perl modules
    comp.lang.perl.tk                   Using Tk (and X) from Perl

    comp.infosystems.www.authoring.cgi  Writing CGI scripts for the Web.

There is also USENET gateway to the mailing list used by the crack Perl development team (perl5-porters) at news://genetics.upenn.edu/perl.porters-gw/ .

Where should I post source code?

You should post source code to whichever group is most appropriate, but feel free to cross-post to comp.lang.perl.misc. If you want to cross-post to alt.sources, please make sure it follows their posting standards, including setting the Followup-To header line to NOT include alt.sources; see their FAQ for details.

Perl Books

A number books on Perl and/or CGI programming are available. A few of these are good, some are ok, but many aren't worth your money. Tom Christiansen maintains a list of these books, some with extensive reviews, at http://www.perl.com/perl/critiques/index.html.

The incontestably definitive reference book on Perl, written by the creator of Perl and his apostles, is now in its second edition and fourth printing.

    Programming Perl (the "Camel Book"):
        Authors: Larry Wall, Tom Christiansen, and Randal Schwartz
        ISBN 1-56592-149-6      (English)
        ISBN 4-89052-384-7      (Japanese)
        (French and German translations in progress)

Note that O'Reilly books are color-coded: turquoise (some would call it teal) covers indicate perl5 coverage, while magenta (some would call it pink) covers indicate perl4 only. Check the cover color before you buy!

What follows is a list of the books that the FAQ authors found personally useful. Your mileage may (but, we hope, probably won't) vary.

If you're already a hard-core systems programmer, then the Camel Book just might suffice for you to learn Perl from. But if you're not, check out the "Llama Book". It currently doesn't cover perl5, but the 2nd edition is nearly done and should be out by summer 97:

    Learning Perl (the Llama Book):
        Author: Randal Schwartz, with intro by Larry Wall
        ISBN 1-56592-042-2      (English)
        ISBN 4-89502-678-1      (Japanese)
        ISBN 2-84177-005-2      (French)
        ISBN 3-930673-08-8      (German)

Another stand-out book in the turquoise O'Reilly Perl line is the "Hip Owls" book. It covers regular expressions inside and out, with quite a bit devoted exclusively to Perl:

    Mastering Regular Expressions (the Cute Owls Book):
        Author: Jeffrey Friedl
        ISBN 1-56592-257-3

You can order any of these books from O'Reilly & Associates, 1-800-998-9938. Local/overseas is 1-707-829-0515. If you can locate an O'Reilly order form, you can also fax to 1-707-829-0104. See http://www.ora.com/ on the Web.

Recommended Perl books that are not from O'Reilly are the following:

   Cross-Platform Perl, (for Unix and Windows NT)
       Author: Eric F. Johnson
       ISBN: 1-55851-483-X

   How to Set up and Maintain a World Wide Web Site, (2nd edition)
        Author: Lincoln Stein, M.D., Ph.D.
        ISBN: 0-201-63462-7

   CGI Programming in C & Perl,
        Author: Thomas Boutell
        ISBN: 0-201-42219-0

Note that some of these address specific application areas (e.g. the Web) and are not general-purpose programming books.

Perl in Magazines

The Perl Journal is the first and only magazine dedicated to Perl. It is published (on paper, not online) quarterly by Jon Orwant (orwant@tpj.com), editor. Subscription information is at http://tpj.com or via email to subscriptions@tpj.com.

Beyond this, two other magazines that frequently carry high-quality articles on Perl are Web Techniques (see http://www.webtechniques.com/) and Unix Review (http://www.unixreview.com/). Randal Schwartz's Web Technique's columns are available on the web at http://www.stonehenge.com/merlyn/WebTechniques/ .

Perl on the Net: FTP and WWW Access

To get the best (and possibly cheapest) performance, pick a site from the list below and use it to grab the complete list of mirror sites. From there you can find the quickest site for you. Remember, the following list is not the complete list of CPAN mirrors.

  http://www.perl.com/CPAN      (redirects to another mirror)

http:/www.oasis.leo.org/perl/ has, amongst other things, source to versions 1 through 5 of Perl.

What mailing lists are there for perl?

Most of the major modules (tk, CGI, libwww-perl) have their own mailing lists. Consult the documentation that came with the module for subscription information. The following are a list of mailing lists related to perl itself.

If you subscribe to a mailing list, it behooves you to know how to unsubscribe from it. Strident pleas to the list itself to get you off will not be favorably received.


There is a mailing list for discussing Macintosh Perl. Contact "mac-perl-request@iis.ee.ethz.ch".

Also see Matthias Neeracher's (the creator and maintainer of MacPerl) webpage at http://www.iis.ee.ethz.ch/~neeri/macintosh/perl.html for many links to interesting MacPerl sites, and the applications/MPW tools, precompiled.


The core development team have a mailing list for discussing fixes and changes to the language. Send mail to "perl5-porters-request@perl.org" with help in the body of the message for information on subscribing.


This list is used to discuss issues involving Win32 Perl 5 (Windows NT and Win95). Subscribe by emailing ListManager@ActiveWare.com with the message body:

    subscribe Perl-Win32-Users

The list software, also written in perl, will automatically determine your address, and subscribe you automatically. To unsubscribe, email the following in the message body to the same address like so:

    unsubscribe Perl-Win32-Users

You can also check http://www.activeware.com/ and select "Mailing Lists" to join or leave this list.


Discussion related to archiving of perl materials, particularly the Comprehensive PerlArchive Network (CPAN). Subscribe by emailing majordomo@cis.ufl.edu:

    subscribe perl-packrats

The list software, also written in perl, will automatically determine your address, and subscribe you automatically. To unsubscribe, simple prepend the same command with an "un", and mail to the same address like so:

    unsubscribe perl-packrats

Archives of comp.lang.perl.misc

Have you tried Deja News or Alta Vista?

ftp.cis.ufl.edu:/pub/perl/comp.lang.perl.*/monthly has an almost complete collection dating back to 12/89 (missing 08/91 through 12/93). They are kept as one large file for each month.

You'll probably want more a sophisticated query and retrieval mechanism than a file listing, preferably one that allows you to retrieve articles using a fast-access indices, keyed on at least author, date, subject, thread (as in "trn") and probably keywords. The best solution the FAQ authors know of is the MH pick command, but it is very slow to select on 18000 articles.

If you have, or know where can be found, the missing sections, please let perlfaq-suggestions@perl.com know.

Perl Training

While some large training companies offer their own courses on Perl, you may prefer to contact individuals near and dear to the heart of Perl development. Two well-known members of the Perl development team who offer such things are Tom Christiansen <perl-classes@perl.com> and Randal Schwartz <perl-training-info@stonehenge.com>, plus their respective minions, who offer a variety of professional tutorials and seminars on Perl. These courses include large public seminars, private corporate training, and fly-ins to Colorado and Oregon. See http://www.perl.com/perl/info/training.html for more details.

Where can I buy a commercial version of Perl?

In a sense, Perl already is commercial software: It has a licence that you can grab and carefully read to your manager. It is distributed in releases and comes in well-defined packages. There is a very large user community and an extensive literature. The comp.lang.perl.* newsgroups and several of the mailing lists provide free answers to your questions in near real-time. Perl has traditionally been supported by Larry, dozens of software designers and developers, and thousands of programmers, all working for free to create a useful thing to make life better for everyone.

However, these answers may not suffice for managers who require a purchase order from a company whom they can sue should anything go wrong. Or maybe they need very serious hand-holding and contractual obligations. Shrink-wrapped CDs with perl on them are available from several sources if that will help.

Or you can purchase a real support contract. Although Cygnus historically provided this service, they no longer sell support contracts for Perl. Instead, the Paul Ingram Group will be taking up the slack through The Perl Clinic. The following is a commercial from them:

"Do you need professional support for Perl and/or Oraperl? Do you need a support contract with defined levels of service? Do you want to pay only for what you need?

"The Paul Ingram Group has provided quality software development and support services to some of the world's largest corporations for ten years. We are now offering the same quality support services for Perl at The Perl Clinic. This service is led by Tim Bunce, an active perl porter since 1994 and well known as the author and maintainer of the DBI, DBD::Oracle, and Oraperl modules and author/co-maintainer of The Perl 5 Module List. We also offer Oracle users support for Perl5 Oraperl and related modules (which Oracle is planning to ship as part of Oracle Web Server 3). 20% of the profit from our Perl support work will be donated to The Perl Institute."

For more information, contact the The Perl Clinic:

    Tel:    +44 1483 424424
    Fax:    +44 1483 419419
    Web:    http://www.perl.co.uk/
    Email:  perl-support-info@perl.co.uk or Tim.Bunce@ig.co.uk

Where do I send bug reports?

If you are reporting a bug in the perl interpreter or the modules shipped with perl, use the perlbug program in the perl distribution or email your report to perlbug@perl.com.

If you are posting a bug with a non-standard port (see the answer to "What platforms is Perl available for?"), a binary distribution, or a non-standard module (such as Tk, CGI, etc), then please see the documentation that came with it to determine the correct place to post bugs.

Read the perlbug man page (perl5.004 or later) for more information.

What is perl.com? perl.org? The Perl Institute?

perl.org is the official vehicle for The Perl Institute. The motto of TPI is "helping people help Perl help people" (or something like that). It's a non-profit organization supporting development, documentation, and dissemination of perl. Current directors of TPI include Larry Wall, Tom Christiansen, and Randal Schwartz, whom you may have heard of somewhere else around here.

The perl.com domain is Tom Christiansen's domain. He created it as a public service long before perl.org came about. It's the original PBS of the Perl world, a clearinghouse for information about all things Perlian, accepting no paid advertisements, glossy gifs, or (gasp!) java applets on its pages.

How do I learn about object-oriented Perl programming?

perltoot (distributed with 5.004 or later) is a good place to start. Also, perlobj, perlref, and perlmod are useful references, while perlbot has some excellent tips and tricks.


Copyright (c) 1997 Tom Christiansen and Nathan Torkington. All rights reserved. See perlfaq for distribution information.