Know the phases of a Perl program’s execution

There are two major phases in the execution of a program run by Perl, which you sometimes see as “compile time” and “run time”, or sometimes now, “compile phase” and “run phase”. In the broadest of strokes, perl compiles code in the compile phase, and when it’s completely done with that, it moves on to the run phase, where it executes the code that it completely compiled. Continue reading “Know the phases of a Perl program’s execution”

Use Data::Dump filters for nicer pretty-printing

Data::Dumper, a module that comes in the Standard Library, is one of the great tools knows to Perlers. You give it a big data structure and it pretty prints it for you. If you are one of those people who still believe that the best debugger in the world is print and need to get data structures into a single string with decent formatting, something like Data::Dumper is your best friend. When you get really complex data structures involving complicated objects, though, dumping the entire structure might be too much information. Continue reading “Use Data::Dump filters for nicer pretty-printing”

Know your sort orders

Once you leave the world of ASCII, things such as string comparisons and sorting get much tougher. In Effective Perl Programming, we devoted a short chapter to Unicode, but there’s a lot more that we could have covered. We mostly ignored the modern idea of locales and Unicode, but those have big effects on how Perl compares characters, and thus, how it orders them with sort. Continue reading “Know your sort orders”

Perl 5.14 adds non-destructive transliteration

[This is a mid-week bonus item since it’s so short]

In Perl 5.13.2, you got a non-destructive version of the substitution operator (Use the /r substitution flag to work on a copy). Instead of changing it’s target, the non-destructive version returns a new string that has the substitution. Continue reading “Perl 5.14 adds non-destructive transliteration”

Use array references with the array operators

[Update: Perl v5.24 removes this experimental feature]

There’s a significant change in syntax showing up in Perl 5.14. The array operators push, pop, shift, and unshift previously only worked on named arrays or dereferenced references. Now, thanks to David Golden, they’ll work on array references. Not only that, they’ll work on references that you’ve stored in variables or that come as the return values from subroutine calls. This feature will show up in Perl 5.13.7, so you need to compile a development version to try this: Continue reading “Use array references with the array operators”

Set default values with the defined-or operator.

[This is a mid-week bonus Item since it’s so short]

Prior to Perl 5.10, you had to be a bit careful checking a Perl variable before you set a default value. An uninitialized value and a defined but false value both acted the same in the logical || short-circuit operator. The Perl idiom to set a default value looks like this: Continue reading “Set default values with the defined-or operator.”

Specify any character by its octal ordinal value.

Perl 5.14 gives you some new ways to represent characters so you can avoid some annoying and ambiguous interpolations. Not only that, the new syntax unifies the different ordinal representations so you can specify characters using the same syntax even if you want to use different bases. This feature was added in Perl 5.13.3, in the development branch leading to the next stable version. Continue reading “Specify any character by its octal ordinal value.”

Use the /r substitution flag to work on a copy

How many times has this happened to you? You want to modify each element of an array so you send it through a map (Item 20. Use foreach, map, and grep as appropriate.). However, instead of your expected output, you only to get a bunch of numbers or empty strings back? For example, in this case, some digits got into the names of the cats and you want to remove them with a substitution: Continue reading “Use the /r substitution flag to work on a copy”

Understand “global” variables.

Perl has two sorts of variables: the lexical variables that are limited to a particular scope, and package variables that you define in a namespace. The package variables are sometimes also called global variables because they are visible from anywhere in the program as long as you know their name. As you might suspect, Perl makes it a bit more interesting: there are many sorts of global variables. Continue reading “Understand “global” variables.”