Apr 21

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Explain Stuff – What is perl?

Perl (Practical Extraction and Reporting Language) , is an interpreted programming language with a huge number of uses, libraries and resources. Arguably one of the most discussed and used languages on the internet, Perl was first brought into being by Larry Wall circa 1987 as a general purpose Unix scripting language to process mail on Unix systems and since extended by a huge cast of characters.

Perl is a programming language which can be used for a large variety of tasks. A typical simple use of Perl would be for extracting information from a text file and printing out a report or for converting a text file into another form. But Perl provides a large number of tools for quite complicated problems, including systems programming. Programs written in Perl are called Perl scripts, whereas the term the perl program refers to the system program named perl for executing Perl scripts.

If you have used shell scripts or awk or sed or similar (Unix) utilities for various purposes, you will find that you can normally use Perl for those and many other purposes, and the code tends to be more compact.

Perl is implemented as an interpreted (not compiled) language. Thus, the execution of a Perl script tends to use more CPU time than a corresponding C program, for instance. On the other hand, computers tend to get faster and faster, and writing something in Perl instead of C tends to save your time.

Advantages :

Portability: Perl code that doesn’t use system specific features can be run on any platform, and these days almost every operating systems support it.
String processing and especially Regular expression support: Perl is a winner in everything related to string processing. Its regular expression support is the most versatile in existence and seamlessly integrated into the language. (In fact, it is so good, that Perl has set a new standard for regular expression, which is now emulated in many other programs and languages).
CPAN: www.cpan.org has a huge collection of free and reusable Perl code for many purposes – Science, system administration, Mathematics, Biology, foreign languages, database access, networking, etc.

Edit: Because of the obvious mistake I made in the post, I am considering posting the FAQ link to perl so users can easily read the documentation.

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  1. Chris.Cox

    A very nicely organized and detailed article on Explain Stuff – What is perl?

  2. Mike.Schonvisky

    Thank you for writing this article – Explain Stuff – What is perl? and helping me and many more like me.

  3. Mike.Schonvisky

    Thanks great post on Explain Stuff – What is perl?

  4. mike south

    From "perldoc perlfaq1":

    But never write
    "PERL", because perl is not an acronym, apocryphal folklore and post‐
    facto expansions notwithstanding.

  5. vecchi.b

    Just a minor quibble. It's not PERL, it's Perl. Practical Extraction and Reporting Language is not actually an acronym, but a backronym. The name Perl was chosen by Larry Wall after dutifully going through all three and four letter-words in the alphabet.
    For more information on this (and why it is wrong to use all capitals), see this:

  6. admin

    Hey Mike!

    I honestly appreciate you pointing out the error in the post and I appreciate the fact that you took time to fetch the exact explanation! This is what any blogger wants from his/her visitors! Thanks again for not just plainly visiting, but also posting and pointing out the correction!

  7. admin

    Thanks a lot vecchi for the link! and the explanation of the mistake I made in the post. I honestly appreciate the fact that you took time to clearly explain it and then also post a reference link.

    I have now edited the post with the link to the perlfaq page.

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