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perlmod(1) - perlmod - Perl modules (packages and symbol tables) - man 1 perlmod

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PERLMOD(1)             Perl Programmers Reference Guide             PERLMOD(1)

       perlmod - Perl modules (packages and symbol tables)


       Perl provides a mechanism for alternative namespaces to protect pack-
       ages from stomping on each other's variables.  In fact, there's really
       no such thing as a global variable in(1,8) Perl.  The package statement
       declares the compilation unit as being in(1,8) the given namespace.  The
       scope of the package declaration is from the declaration itself through
       the end of the enclosing block, "eval", or file(1,n), whichever comes first
       (the same scope as the my() and local() operators).  Unqualified
       dynamic identifiers will be in(1,8) this namespace, except for those few
       identifiers that if(3,n) unqualified, default to the main package instead of
       the current one as described below.  A package statement affects only
       dynamic variables--including those you've used local() on--but not lex-
       ical variables created with my().  Typically it would be the first dec-
       laration in(1,8) a file(1,n) included by the "do", "require", or "use" operators.
       You can switch(1,n) into a package in(1,8) more than one place; it merely influ-
       ences which symbol table is used by the compiler for the rest of that
       block.  You can refer to variables and filehandles in(1,8) other packages by
       prefixing the identifier with the package name and a double colon:
       $Package::Variable.  If the package name is null, the "main" package is
       assumed.  That is, $::sail is equivalent to $main::sail.

       The old package delimiter was a single quote, but double colon is now
       the preferred delimiter, in(1,8) part because it's more readable to humans,
       and in(1,8) part because it's more readable to emacs macros.  It also makes
       C++ programmers feel like they know what's going on--as opposed to
       using the single quote as separator, which was there to make Ada pro-
       grammers feel like they knew what was going on.  Because the old-fash-
       ioned syntax is still supported for backwards compatibility, if(3,n) you try
       to use a string(3,n) like "This is $owner's house", you'll be accessing
       $owner::s; that is, the $s variable in(1,8) package "owner", which is proba-
       bly not what you meant.  Use braces to disambiguate, as in(1,8) "This is
       ${owner}'s house".

       Packages may themselves contain package separators, as in(1,8)
       $OUTER::INNER::var.  This implies nothing about the order of name
       lookups, however.  There are no relative packages: all symbols are
       either local to the current package, or must be fully qualified from
       the outer package name down.  For instance, there is nowhere within
       package "OUTER" that $INNER::var refers to $OUTER::INNER::var.  "INNER"
       refers to a totally separate global package.

       Only identifiers starting with letters (or underscore) are stored in(1,8) a
       package's symbol table.  All other symbols are kept in(1,8) package "main",
       including all punctuation variables, like $_.  In addition, when
       unqualified, the identifiers STDIN, STDOUT, STDERR, ARGV, ARGVOUT, ENV,
       INC, and SIG are forced to be in(1,8) package "main", even when used for
       other purposes than their built-in ones.  If you have a package called
       "m", "s", or "y", then you can't use the qualified form of an identi-
       fier because it would be instead interpreted as a pattern match, a sub-
       stitution, or a transliteration.

       Variables beginning with underscore used to be forced into package
       main, but we decided it was more useful for package writers to be able
       to use leading underscore to indicate private variables and method
       names.  However, variables and functions named(5,8) with a single "_", such
       as $_ and "sub _", are still forced into the package "main".  See also
       "Technical Note on the Syntax of Variable Names" in(1,8) perlvar.

       "eval"ed strings are compiled in(1,8) the package in(1,8) which the eval() was
       compiled.  (Assignments to $SIG{}, however, assume the signal(2,7) handler
       specified is in(1,8) the "main" package.  Qualify the signal(2,7) handler name if(3,n)
       you wish to have a signal(2,7) handler in(1,8) a package.)  For an example, exam-
       ine in(1,8) the Perl library.  It initially switches to the "DB"
       package so that the debugger doesn't interfere with variables in(1,8) the
       program you are trying to debug.  At various points, however, it tempo-
       rarily switches back to the "main" package to evaluate various expres-
       sions in(1,8) the context of the "main" package (or wherever you came from).
       See perldebug.

       The special symbol "__PACKAGE__" contains the current package, but can-
       not (easily) be used to construct variable names.

       See perlsub for other scoping issues related to my() and local(), and
       perlref regarding closures.

       Symbol Tables

       The symbol table for a package happens to be stored in(1,8) the hash of that
       name with two colons appended.  The main symbol table's name is thus
       %main::, or %:: for short.  Likewise the symbol table for the nested
       package mentioned earlier is named(5,8) %OUTER::INNER::.

       The value in(1,8) each entry of the hash is what you are referring to when
       you use the *name typeglob notation.  In fact, the following have the
       same effect, though the first is more efficient because it does the
       symbol table lookups at compile time:

           local *main::foo    = *main::bar;
           local $main::{foo}  = $main::{bar};

       (Be sure to note the vast difference between the second line above and
       "local $main::foo = $main::bar". The former is accessing the hash
       %main::, which is the symbol table of package "main". The latter is
       simply assigning scalar $bar in(1,8) package "main" to scalar $foo of the
       same package.)

       You can use this to print out all the variables in(1,8) a package, for
       instance.  The standard but antiquated library and the CPAN
       module Devel::Symdump make use of this.

       Assignment to a typeglob performs an aliasing operation, i.e.,

           *dick = *richard;

       causes variables, subroutines, formats, and file(1,n) and directory handles
       accessible via the identifier "richard" also to be accessible via the
       identifier "dick".  If you want to alias only a particular variable or
       subroutine, assign a reference instead:

           *dick = \$richard;

       Which makes $richard and $dick the same variable, but leaves @richard
       and @dick as separate arrays.  Tricky, eh?

       There is one subtle difference between the following statements:

           *foo = *bar;
           *foo = \$bar;

       "*foo = *bar" makes the typeglobs themselves synonymous while "*foo =
       \$bar" makes the SCALAR portions of two distinct typeglobs refer to the
       same scalar value. This means that the following code:

           $bar = 1;
           *foo = \$bar;       # Make $foo an alias for $bar

               local $bar = 2; # Restrict changes to block
               print $foo;     # Prints '1'!

       Would print '1', because $foo holds a reference to the original $bar --
       the one that was stuffed away by "local()" and which will be restored
       when the block ends. Because variables are accessed through the type-
       glob(1,3,7,n), you can use "*foo = *bar" to create an alias which can be local-
       ized. (But be aware that this means you can't have a separate @foo and
       @bar, etc.)

       What makes all of this important is that the Exporter module uses glob(1,3,7,n)
       aliasing as the import/export mechanism. Whether or not you can prop-
       erly localize a variable that has been exported from a module depends
       on how it was exported:

           @EXPORT = qw($FOO); # Usual form, can't be localized
           @EXPORT = qw(*FOO); # Can be localized

       You can work around the first case by using the fully qualified name
       ($Package::FOO) where you need a local value, or by overriding it by
       saying "*FOO = *Package::FOO" in(1,8) your script.

       The "*x = \$y" mechanism may be used to pass and return cheap refer-
       ences into or from subroutines if(3,n) you don't want to copy the whole
       thing.  It only works when assigning to dynamic variables, not lexi-

           %some_hash = ();                    # can't be my()
           *some_hash = fn( \%another_hash );
           sub fn {
               local *hashsym = shift;
               # now use %hashsym normally, and you
               # will affect the caller's %another_hash
               my %nhash = (); # do what you want
               return \%nhash;

       On return, the reference will overwrite the hash slot in(1,8) the symbol ta-
       ble specified by the *some_hash typeglob.  This is a somewhat tricky
       way of passing around references cheaply when you don't want to have to
       remember to dereference variables explicitly.

       Another use of symbol tables is for making "constant" scalars.

           *PI = \3.14159265358979;

       Now you cannot alter $PI, which is probably a good thing all in(1,8) all.
       This isn't the same as a constant subroutine, which is subject to opti-
       mization at compile-time.  A constant subroutine is one prototyped to
       take no arguments and to return a constant expression.  See perlsub for
       details on these.  The "use constant" pragma is a convenient shorthand
       for these.

       You can say *foo{PACKAGE} and *foo{NAME} to find out what name and
       package the *foo symbol table entry comes from.  This may be useful in(1,8)
       a subroutine that gets(3,n) passed typeglobs as arguments:

           sub identify_typeglob {
               my $glob(1,3,7,n) = shift;
               print 'You gave me ', *{$glob(1,3,7,n)}{PACKAGE}, '::', *{$glob(1,3,7,n)}{NAME}, "\n";
           identify_typeglob *foo;
           identify_typeglob *bar::baz;

       This prints

           You gave me main::foo
           You gave me bar::baz

       The *foo{THING} notation can also be used to obtain references to the
       individual elements of *foo.  See perlref.

       Subroutine definitions (and declarations, for that matter) need not
       necessarily be situated in(1,8) the package whose symbol table they occupy.
       You can define a subroutine outside its package by explicitly qualify-
       ing the name of the subroutine:

           package main;
           sub Some_package::foo { ... }   # &foo defined in(1,8) Some_package

       This is just a shorthand for a typeglob assignment at compile time:

           BEGIN { *Some_package::foo = sub { ... } }

       and is not the same as writing:

               package Some_package;
               sub foo { ... }

       In the first two versions, the body of the subroutine is lexically in(1,8)
       the main package, not in(1,8) Some_package. So something like this:

           package main;

           $Some_package::name = "fred";
           $main::name = "barney";

           sub Some_package::foo {
               print "in(1,8) ", __PACKAGE__, ": \$name is '$name'\n";



           in(1,8) main: $name is 'barney'

       rather than:

           in(1,8) Some_package: $name is 'fred'

       This also has implications for the use of the SUPER:: qualifier (see


       Four specially named(5,8) code blocks are executed at the beginning and at
       the end of a running Perl program.  These are the "BEGIN", "CHECK",
       "INIT", and "END" blocks.

       These code blocks can be prefixed with "sub" to give the appearance of
       a subroutine (although this is not considered good style).  One should
       note that these code blocks don't really exist as named(5,8) subroutines
       (despite their appearance). The thing that gives this away is the fact
       that you can have more than one of these code blocks in(1,8) a program, and
       they will get all executed at the appropriate moment.  So you can't
       execute any of these code blocks by name.

       A "BEGIN" code block is executed as soon as possible, that is, the
       moment it is completely defined, even before the rest of the containing
       file(1,n) (or string(3,n)) is parsed.  You may have multiple "BEGIN" blocks
       within a file(1,n) (or eval'ed string(3,n)) -- they will execute in(1,8) order of def-
       inition.  Because a "BEGIN" code block executes immediately, it can
       pull in(1,8) definitions of subroutines and such from other files in(1,8) time(1,2,n) to
       be visible to the rest of the compile and run time.  Once a "BEGIN" has
       run, it is immediately undefined and any code it used is returned to
       Perl's memory pool.

       It should be noted that "BEGIN" code blocks are executed inside string(3,n)
       "eval()"'s.  The "CHECK" and "INIT" code blocks are not executed inside
       a string(3,n) eval, which e.g. can be a problem in(1,8) a mod_perl environment.

       An "END" code block is executed as late as possible, that is, after
       perl has finished running the program and just before the interpreter
       is being exited, even if(3,n) it is exiting as a result of a die() function.
       (But not if(3,n) it's polymorphing into another program via "exec(3,n,1 builtins)", or being
       blown out of the water by a signal--you have to trap that yourself (if(3,n)
       you can).)  You may have multiple "END" blocks within a file--they will
       execute in(1,8) reverse order of definition; that is: last in(1,8), first out
       (LIFO).  "END" blocks are not executed when you run perl with the "-c"
       switch(1,n), or if(3,n) compilation fails.

       Note that "END" code blocks are not executed at the end of a string(3,n)
       "eval()": if(3,n) any "END" code blocks are created in(1,8) a string(3,n) "eval()",
       they will be executed just as any other "END" code block of that pack-
       age in(1,8) LIFO order just before the interpreter is being exited.

       Inside an "END" code block, $? contains the value that the program is
       going to pass to "exit(3,n,1 builtins)()".  You can modify $? to change the exit(3,n,1 builtins) value
       of the program.  Beware of changing $? by accident (e.g. by running
       something via "system").

       "CHECK" and "INIT" code blocks are useful to catch the transition
       between the compilation phase and the execution phase of the main pro-

       "CHECK" code blocks are run just after the initial Perl compile phase
       ends and before the run time(1,2,n) begins, in(1,8) LIFO order.  "CHECK" code
       blocks are used in(1,8) the Perl compiler suite to save the compiled state
       of the program.

       "INIT" blocks are run just before the Perl runtime begins execution, in(1,8)
       "first in(1,8), first out" (FIFO) order. For example, the code generators
       documented in(1,8) perlcc make use of "INIT" blocks to initialize and
       resolve pointers to XSUBs.

       When you use the -n and -p switches to Perl, "BEGIN" and "END" work
       just as they do in(1,8) awk, as a degenerate case.  Both "BEGIN" and "CHECK"
       blocks are run when you use the -c switch(1,n) for a compile-only syntax
       check, although your main code is not.

       The begincheck program makes it all clear(1,3x,3x clrtobot), eventually:


         # begincheck

         print         " 8. Ordinary code runs at runtime.\n";

         END { print   "14.   So this is the end of the tale.\n" }
         INIT { print  " 5. INIT blocks run FIFO just before runtime.\n" }
         CHECK { print " 4.   So this is the fourth line.\n" }

         print         " 9.   It runs in(1,8) order, of course.\n";

         BEGIN { print " 1. BEGIN blocks run FIFO during compilation.\n" }
         END { print   "13.   Read perlmod for the rest of the story.\n" }
         CHECK { print " 3. CHECK blocks run LIFO at compilation's end.\n" }
         INIT { print  " 6.   Run this again, using Perl's -c switch.\n" }

         print         "10.   This is anti-obfuscated code.\n";

         END { print   "12. END blocks run LIFO at quitting time.\n" }
         BEGIN { print " 2.   So this line comes out second.\n" }
         INIT { print  " 7.   You'll see the difference right away.\n" }

         print         "11.   It merely _looks_ like it should be confusing.\n";


       Perl Classes

       There is no special class syntax in(1,8) Perl, but a package may act as a
       class if(3,n) it provides subroutines to act as methods.  Such a package may
       also derive some of its methods from another class (package) by listing
       the other package name(s) in(1,8) its global @ISA array (which must be a
       package global, not a lexical).

       For more on this, see perltoot and perlobj.

       Perl Modules

       A module is just a set(7,n,1 builtins) of related functions in(1,8) a library file(1,n), i.e., a
       Perl package with the same name as the file.  It is specifically
       designed to be reusable by other modules or programs.  It may do this
       by providing a mechanism for exporting some of its symbols into the
       symbol table of any package using it, or it may function as a class
       definition and make its semantics available implicitly through method
       calls on the class and its objects, without explicitly exporting any-
       thing.  Or it can do a little of both.

       For example, to start a traditional, non-OO module called Some::Module,
       create a file(1,n) called Some/ and start with this template:

           package Some::Module;  # assumes Some/

           use strict;
           use warnings;

           BEGIN {
               use Exporter   ();
               our ($VERSION, @ISA, @EXPORT, @EXPORT_OK, %EXPORT_TAGS);

               # set(7,n,1 builtins) the version(1,3,5) for version(1,3,5) checking
               $VERSION     = 1.00;
               # if(3,n) using RCS/CVS, this may be preferred
               $VERSION = sprintf "%d.%03d", q$Revision: 1.1 $ =~ /(\d+)/g;

               @ISA         = qw(Exporter);
               @EXPORT      = qw(&func1 &func2 &func4);
               %EXPORT_TAGS = ( );     # eg: TAG => [ qw!name1 name2! ],

               # your exported package globals go here,
               # as well as any optionally exported functions
               @EXPORT_OK   = qw($Var1 %Hashit &func3);
           our @EXPORT_OK;

           # exported package globals go here
           our $Var1;
           our %Hashit;

           # non-exported package globals go here
           our @more;
           our $stuff;

           # initialize package globals, first exported ones
           $Var1   = '';
           %Hashit = ();

           # then the others (which are still accessible as $Some::Module::stuff)
           $stuff  = '';
           @more   = ();

           # all file-scoped lexicals must be created before
           # the functions below that use them.

           # file-private lexicals go here
           my $priv_var    = '';
           my %secret_hash = ();

           # here's a file-private function as a closure,
           # callable as &$priv_func;  it cannot be prototyped.
           my $priv_func = sub {
               # stuff goes here.

           # make all your functions, whether exported or not;
           # remember to put something interesting in(1,8) the {} stubs
           sub func1      {}    # no prototype
           sub func2()    {}    # proto'd void
           sub func3($$)  {}    # proto'd to 2 scalars

           # this one isn't exported, but could be called!
           sub func4(\%)  {}    # proto'd to 1 hash ref

           END { }       # module clean-up code here (global destructor)

           ## YOUR CODE GOES HERE

           1;  # don't forget to return a true value from the file(1,n)

       Then go on to declare and use your variables in(1,8) functions without any
       qualifications.  See Exporter and the perlmodlib for details on mechan-
       ics and style issues in(1,8) module creation.

       Perl modules are included into your program by saying

           use Module;


           use Module LIST;

       This is exactly equivalent to

           BEGIN { require Module; import Module; }


           BEGIN { require Module; import Module LIST; }

       As a special case

           use Module ();

       is exactly equivalent to

           BEGIN { require Module; }

       All Perl module files have the extension .pm.  The "use" operator
       assumes this so you don't have to spell out "" in(1,8) quotes.
       This also helps to differentiate new modules from old .pl and .ph
       files.  Module names are also capitalized unless they're functioning as
       pragmas; pragmas are in(1,8) effect compiler directives, and are sometimes
       called "pragmatic modules" (or even "pragmata" if(3,n) you're a classicist).

       The two statements:

           require SomeModule;
           require "";

       differ from each other in(1,8) two ways.  In the first case, any double
       colons in(1,8) the module name, such as "Some::Module", are translated into
       your system's directory separator, usually "/".   The second case does
       not, and would have to be specified literally.  The other difference is
       that seeing the first "require" clues in(1,8) the compiler that uses of
       indirect object notation involving "SomeModule", as in(1,8) "$ob = purge
       SomeModule", are method calls, not function calls.  (Yes, this really
       can make a difference.)

       Because the "use" statement implies a "BEGIN" block, the importing of
       semantics happens as soon as the "use" statement is compiled, before
       the rest of the file(1,n) is compiled.  This is how it is able to function
       as a pragma mechanism, and also how modules are able to declare subrou-
       tines that are then visible as list or unary operators for the rest of
       the current file.  This will not work if(3,n) you use "require" instead of
       "use".  With "require" you can get into this problem:

           require Cwd;                # make Cwd:: accessible
           $here = Cwd::getcwd();

           use Cwd;                    # import names from Cwd::
           $here = getcwd();

           require Cwd;                # make Cwd:: accessible
           $here = getcwd();           # oops! no main::getcwd()

       In general, "use Module ()" is recommended over "require Module",
       because it determines module availability at compile time(1,2,n), not in(1,8) the
       middle of your program's execution.  An exception would be if(3,n) two mod-
       ules each tried to "use" each other, and each also called a function
       from that other module.  In that case, it's easy to use "require"

       Perl packages may be nested inside other package names, so we can have
       package names containing "::".  But if(3,n) we used that package name
       directly as a filename it would make for unwieldy or impossible file-
       names on some systems.  Therefore, if(3,n) a module's name is, say,
       "Text::Soundex", then its definition is actually found in(1,8) the library
       file(1,n) Text/

       Perl modules always have a .pm file(1,n), but there may also be dynamically
       linked executables (often ending in(1,8) .so) or autoloaded subroutine defi-
       nitions (often ending in(1,8) .al) associated with the module.  If so, these
       will be entirely transparent to the user of the module.  It is the
       responsibility of the .pm file(1,n) to load(7,n) (or arrange to autoload) any
       additional functionality.  For example, although the POSIX module hap-
       pens to do both dynamic loading and autoloading, the user can say just
       "use POSIX" to get it all.

       Making your module threadsafe

       Since 5.6.0, Perl has had support for a new type of threads called
       interpreter threads (ithreads). These threads can be used explicitly
       and implicitly.

       Ithreads work by cloning the data tree so that no data is shared
       between different threads. These threads can be used by using the
       "threads" module or by doing fork() on win32 (fake fork() support).
       When a thread is cloned all Perl data is cloned, however non-Perl data
       cannot be cloned automatically.  Perl after 5.7.2 has support for the
       "CLONE" special subroutine.  In "CLONE" you can do whatever you need to
       do, like for example handle the cloning of non-Perl data, if(3,n) necessary.
       "CLONE" will be called once as a class method for every package that
       has it defined (or inherits it).  It will be called in(1,8) the context of
       the new thread, so all modifications are made in(1,8) the new area.  Cur-
       rently CLONE is called with no parameters other than the invocant pack-
       age name, but code should not assume that this will remain unchanged,
       as it is likely that in(1,8) future extra parameters will be passed in(1,8) to
       give more information about the state of cloning.

       If you want to CLONE all objects you will need to keep track of them
       per package. This is simply done using a hash and

       See perlmodlib for general style issues related to building Perl mod-
       ules and classes, as well as descriptions of the standard library and
       CPAN, Exporter for how Perl's standard import/export mechanism works,
       perltoot and perltooc for an in-depth tutorial on creating classes,
       perlobj for a hard-core reference document on objects, perlsub for an
       explanation of functions and scoping, and perlxstut and perlguts for
       more information on writing extension modules.

perl v5.8.5                       2004-04-23                        PERLMOD(1)

References for this manual (incoming links)