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.
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.