MirBSD manpage: perldata(1)

PERLDATA(1)     Perl Programmers Reference Guide      PERLDATA(1)


     perldata - Perl data types


     Variable names

     Perl has three built-in data types: scalars, arrays of
     scalars, and associative arrays of scalars, known as
     "hashes".  A scalar is a single string (of any size, limited
     only by the available memory), number, or a reference to
     something (which will be discussed in perlref).  Normal
     arrays are ordered lists of scalars indexed by number,
     starting with 0.  Hashes are unordered collections of scalar
     values indexed by their associated string key.

     Values are usually referred to by name, or through a named
     reference. The first character of the name tells you to what
     sort of data structure it refers.  The rest of the name
     tells you the particular value to which it refers.  Usually
     this name is a single identifier, that is, a string begin-
     ning with a letter or underscore, and containing letters,
     underscores, and digits.  In some cases, it may be a chain
     of identifiers, separated by "::" (or by the slightly
     archaic "'"); all but the last are interpreted as names of
     packages, to locate the namespace in which to look up the
     final identifier (see "Packages" in perlmod for details).
     It's possible to substitute for a simple identifier, an
     expression that produces a reference to the value at run-
     time.   This is described in more detail below and in

     Perl also has its own built-in variables whose names don't
     follow these rules.  They have strange names so they don't
     accidentally collide with one of your normal variables.
     Strings that match parenthesized parts of a regular expres-
     sion are saved under names containing only digits after the
     "$" (see perlop and perlre). In addition, several special
     variables that provide windows into the inner working of
     Perl have names containing punctuation characters and con-
     trol characters.  These are documented in perlvar.

     Scalar values are always named with '$', even when referring
     to a scalar that is part of an array or a hash.  The '$'
     symbol works semantically like the English word "the" in
     that it indicates a single value is expected.

         $days               # the simple scalar value "days"
         $days[28]           # the 29th element of array @days
         $days{'Feb'}        # the 'Feb' value from hash %days
         $#days              # the last index of array @days

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     Entire arrays (and slices of arrays and hashes) are denoted
     by '@', which works much like the word "these" or "those"
     does in English, in that it indicates multiple values are

         @days               # ($days[0], $days[1],... $days[n])
         @days[3,4,5]        # same as ($days[3],$days[4],$days[5])
         @days{'a','c'}      # same as ($days{'a'},$days{'c'})

     Entire hashes are denoted by '%':

         %days               # (key1, val1, key2, val2 ...)

     In addition, subroutines are named with an initial '&',
     though this is optional when unambiguous, just as the word
     "do" is often redundant in English.  Symbol table entries
     can be named with an initial '*', but you don't really care
     about that yet (if ever :-).

     Every variable type has its own namespace, as do several
     non-variable identifiers.  This means that you can, without
     fear of conflict, use the same name for a scalar variable,
     an array, or a hash--or, for that matter, for a filehandle,
     a directory handle, a subroutine name, a format name, or a
     label.  This means that $foo and @foo are two different
     variables.  It also means that $foo[1] is a part of @foo,
     not a part of $foo.  This may seem a bit weird, but that's
     okay, because it is weird.

     Because variable references always start with '$', '@', or
     '%', the "reserved" words aren't in fact reserved with
     respect to variable names.  They are reserved with respect
     to labels and filehandles, however, which don't have an ini-
     tial special character.  You can't have a filehandle named
     "log", for instance.  Hint: you could say
     "open(LOG,'logfile')" rather than "open(log,'logfile')".
     Using uppercase filehandles also improves readability and
     protects you from conflict with future reserved words.  Case
     is significant--"FOO", "Foo", and "foo" are all different
     names.  Names that start with a letter or underscore may
     also contain digits and underscores.

     It is possible to replace such an alphanumeric name with an
     expression that returns a reference to the appropriate type.
     For a description of this, see perlref.

     Names that start with a digit may contain only more digits.
     Names that do not start with a letter, underscore, digit or
     a caret (i.e. a control character) are limited to one char-
     acter, e.g.,  $% or $$.  (Most of these one character names
     have a predefined significance to Perl.  For instance, $$ is
     the current process id.)

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     The interpretation of operations and values in Perl some-
     times depends on the requirements of the context around the
     operation or value. There are two major contexts: list and
     scalar.  Certain operations return list values in contexts
     wanting a list, and scalar values otherwise.  If this is
     true of an operation it will be mentioned in the documenta-
     tion for that operation.  In other words, Perl overloads
     certain operations based on whether the expected return
     value is singular or plural.  Some words in English work
     this way, like "fish" and "sheep".

     In a reciprocal fashion, an operation provides either a
     scalar or a list context to each of its arguments.  For
     example, if you say

         int( <STDIN> )

     the integer operation provides scalar context for the <>
     operator, which responds by reading one line from STDIN and
     passing it back to the integer operation, which will then
     find the integer value of that line and return that.  If, on
     the other hand, you say

         sort( <STDIN> )

     then the sort operation provides list context for <>, which
     will proceed to read every line available up to the end of
     file, and pass that list of lines back to the sort routine,
     which will then sort those lines and return them as a list
     to whatever the context of the sort was.

     Assignment is a little bit special in that it uses its left
     argument to determine the context for the right argument.
     Assignment to a scalar evaluates the right-hand side in
     scalar context, while assignment to an array or hash evalu-
     ates the righthand side in list context.  Assignment to a
     list (or slice, which is just a list anyway) also evaluates
     the righthand side in list context.

     When you use the "use warnings" pragma or Perl's -w command-
     line option, you may see warnings about useless uses of con-
     stants or functions in "void context". Void context just
     means the value has been discarded, such as a statement con-
     taining only ""fred";" or "getpwuid(0);".  It still counts
     as scalar context for functions that care whether or not
     they're being called in list context.

     User-defined subroutines may choose to care whether they are
     being called in a void, scalar, or list context.  Most sub-
     routines do not need to bother, though.  That's because both

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     scalars and lists are automatically interpolated into lists.
     See "wantarray" in perlfunc for how you would dynamically
     discern your function's calling context.

     Scalar values

     All data in Perl is a scalar, an array of scalars, or a hash
     of scalars.  A scalar may contain one single value in any of
     three different flavors: a number, a string, or a reference.
     In general, conversion from one form to another is tran-
     sparent.  Although a scalar may not directly hold multiple
     values, it may contain a reference to an array or hash which
     in turn contains multiple values.

     Scalars aren't necessarily one thing or another.  There's no
     place to declare a scalar variable to be of type "string",
     type "number", type "reference", or anything else.  Because
     of the automatic conversion of scalars, operations that
     return scalars don't need to care (and in fact, cannot care)
     whether their caller is looking for a string, a number, or a
     reference.  Perl is a contextually polymorphic language
     whose scalars can be strings, numbers, or references (which
     includes objects).  Although strings and numbers are con-
     sidered pretty much the same thing for nearly all purposes,
     references are strongly-typed, uncastable pointers with
     builtin reference-counting and destructor invocation.

     A scalar value is interpreted as TRUE in the Boolean sense
     if it is not the null string or the number 0 (or its string
     equivalent, "0").  The Boolean context is just a special
     kind of scalar context where no conversion to a string or a
     number is ever performed.

     There are actually two varieties of null strings (sometimes
     referred to as "empty" strings), a defined one and an unde-
     fined one.  The defined version is just a string of length
     zero, such as "". The undefined version is the value that
     indicates that there is no real value for something, such as
     when there was an error, or at end of file, or when you
     refer to an uninitialized variable or element of an array or
     hash.  Although in early versions of Perl, an undefined
     scalar could become defined when first used in a place
     expecting a defined value, this no longer happens except for
     rare cases of autovivification as explained in perlref.  You
     can use the defined() operator to determine whether a scalar
     value is defined (this has no meaning on arrays or hashes),
     and the undef() operator to produce an undefined value.

     To find out whether a given string is a valid non-zero
     number, it's sometimes enough to test it against both
     numeric 0 and also lexical "0" (although this will cause
     noises if warnings are on).  That's because strings that

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     aren't numbers count as 0, just as they do in awk:

         if ($str == 0 && $str ne "0")  {
             warn "That doesn't look like a number";

     That method may be best because otherwise you won't treat
     IEEE notations like "NaN" or "Infinity" properly.  At other
     times, you might prefer to determine whether string data can
     be used numerically by calling the POSIX::strtod() function
     or by inspecting your string with a regular expression (as
     documented in perlre).

         warn "has nondigits"        if     /\D/;
         warn "not a natural number" unless /^\d+$/;             # rejects -3
         warn "not an integer"       unless /^-?\d+$/;           # rejects +3
         warn "not an integer"       unless /^[+-]?\d+$/;
         warn "not a decimal number" unless /^-?\d+\.?\d*$/;     # rejects .2
         warn "not a decimal number" unless /^-?(?:\d+(?:\.\d*)?|\.\d+)$/;
         warn "not a C float"
             unless /^([+-]?)(?=\d|\.\d)\d*(\.\d*)?([Ee]([+-]?\d+))?$/;

     The length of an array is a scalar value.  You may find the
     length of array @days by evaluating $#days, as in csh.  How-
     ever, this isn't the length of the array; it's the subscript
     of the last element, which is a different value since there
     is ordinarily a 0th element. Assigning to $#days actually
     changes the length of the array. Shortening an array this
     way destroys intervening values.  Lengthening an array that
     was previously shortened does not recover values that were
     in those elements.  (It used to do so in Perl 4, but we had
     to break this to make sure destructors were called when

     You can also gain some minuscule measure of efficiency by
     pre-extending an array that is going to get big.  You can
     also extend an array by assigning to an element that is off
     the end of the array.  You can truncate an array down to
     nothing by assigning the null list () to it.  The following
     are equivalent:

         @whatever = ();
         $#whatever = -1;

     If you evaluate an array in scalar context, it returns the
     length of the array.  (Note that this is not true of lists,
     which return the last value, like the C comma operator, nor
     of built-in functions, which return whatever they feel like
     returning.)  The following is always true:

         scalar(@whatever) == $#whatever - $[ + 1;

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     Version 5 of Perl changed the semantics of $[: files that
     don't set the value of $[ no longer need to worry about
     whether another file changed its value.  (In other words,
     use of $[ is deprecated.) So in general you can assume that

         scalar(@whatever) == $#whatever + 1;

     Some programmers choose to use an explicit conversion so as
     to leave nothing to doubt:

         $element_count = scalar(@whatever);

     If you evaluate a hash in scalar context, it returns false
     if the hash is empty.  If there are any key/value pairs, it
     returns true; more precisely, the value returned is a string
     consisting of the number of used buckets and the number of
     allocated buckets, separated by a slash.  This is pretty
     much useful only to find out whether Perl's internal hashing
     algorithm is performing poorly on your data set.  For exam-
     ple, you stick 10,000 things in a hash, but evaluating %HASH
     in scalar context reveals "1/16", which means only one out
     of sixteen buckets has been touched, and presumably contains
     all 10,000 of your items.  This isn't supposed to happen.

     You can preallocate space for a hash by assigning to the
     keys() function. This rounds up the allocated buckets to the
     next power of two:

         keys(%users) = 1000;                # allocate 1024 buckets

     Scalar value constructors

     Numeric literals are specified in any of the following
     floating point or integer formats:

         .23E-10             # a very small number
         3.14_15_92          # a very important number
         4_294_967_296       # underscore for legibility
         0xff                # hex
         0xdead_beef         # more hex
         0377                # octal (only numbers, begins with 0)
         0b011011            # binary

     You are allowed to use underscores (underbars) in numeric
     literals between digits for legibility.  You could, for
     example, group binary digits by threes (as for a Unix-style
     mode argument such as 0b110_100_100) or by fours (to
     represent nibbles, as in 0b1010_0110) or in other groups.

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     String literals are usually delimited by either single or
     double quotes.  They work much like quotes in the standard
     Unix shells: double-quoted string literals are subject to
     backslash and variable substitution; single-quoted strings
     are not (except for "\'" and "\\").  The usual C-style
     backslash rules apply for making characters such as newline,
     tab, etc., as well as some more exotic forms.  See "Quote
     and Quote-like Operators" in perlop for a list.

     Hexadecimal, octal, or binary, representations in string
     literals (e.g. '0xff') are not automatically converted to
     their integer representation.  The hex() and oct() functions
     make these conversions for you.  See "hex" in perlfunc and
     "oct" in perlfunc for more details.

     You can also embed newlines directly in your strings, i.e.,
     they can end on a different line than they begin.  This is
     nice, but if you forget your trailing quote, the error will
     not be reported until Perl finds another line containing the
     quote character, which may be much further on in the script.
     Variable substitution inside strings is limited to scalar
     variables, arrays, and array or hash slices.  (In other
     words, names beginning with $ or @, followed by an optional
     bracketed expression as a subscript.)  The following code
     segment prints out "The price is $100."

         $Price = '$100';    # not interpolated
         print "The price is $Price.\n";     # interpolated

     There is no double interpolation in Perl, so the $100 is
     left as is.

     As in some shells, you can enclose the variable name in
     braces to disambiguate it from following alphanumerics (and
     underscores). You must also do this when interpolating a
     variable into a string to separate the variable name from a
     following double-colon or an apostrophe, since these would
     be otherwise treated as a package separator:

         $who = "Larry";
         print PASSWD "${who}::0:0:Superuser:/:/bin/perl\n";
         print "We use ${who}speak when ${who}'s here.\n";

     Without the braces, Perl would have looked for a $whospeak,
     a $who::0, and a $who's variable.  The last two would be the
     $0 and the $s variables in the (presumably) non-existent
     package "who".

     In fact, an identifier within such curlies is forced to be a
     string, as is any simple identifier within a hash subscript.
     Neither need quoting.  Our earlier example, $days{'Feb'} can
     be written as $days{Feb} and the quotes will be assumed

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     automatically.  But anything more complicated in the sub-
     script will be interpreted as an expression.  This means for
     example that "$version{2.0}++" is equivalent to "$ver-
     sion{2}++", not to "$version{'2.0'}++".

     Version Strings

     Note: Version Strings (v-strings) have been deprecated.
     They will not be available after Perl 5.8.  The marginal
     benefits of v-strings were greatly outweighed by the poten-
     tial for Surprise and Confusion.

     A literal of the form "v1.20.300.4000" is parsed as a string
     composed of characters with the specified ordinals.  This
     form, known as v-strings, provides an alternative, more
     readable way to construct strings, rather than use the some-
     what less readable interpolation form
     "\x{1}\x{14}\x{12c}\x{fa0}".  This is useful for represent-
     ing Unicode strings, and for comparing version "numbers"
     using the string comparison operators, "cmp", "gt", "lt"
     etc.  If there are two or more dots in the literal, the
     leading "v" may be omitted.

         print v9786;              # prints UTF-8 encoded SMILEY, "\x{263a}"
         print v102.111.111;       # prints "foo"
         print 102.111.111;        # same

     Such literals are accepted by both "require" and "use" for
     doing a version check.  The $^V special variable also con-
     tains the running Perl interpreter's version in this form.
     See "$^V" in perlvar. Note that using the v-strings for IPv4
     addresses is not portable unless you also use the
     inet_aton()/inet_ntoa() routines of the Socket package.

     Note that since Perl 5.8.1 the single-number v-strings (like
     "v65") are not v-strings before the "=>" operator (which is
     usually used to separate a hash key from a hash value),
     instead they are interpreted as literal strings ('v65').
     They were v-strings from Perl 5.6.0 to Perl 5.8.0, but that
     caused more confusion and breakage than good. Multi-number
     v-strings like "v65.66" and 65.66.67 continue to be
     v-strings always.

     Special Literals

     The special literals __FILE__, __LINE__, and __PACKAGE__
     represent the current filename, line number, and package
     name at that point in your program.  They may be used only
     as separate tokens; they will not be interpolated into
     strings.  If there is no current package (due to an empty
     "package;" directive), __PACKAGE__ is the undefined value.

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     The two control characters ^D and ^Z, and the tokens __END__
     and __DATA__ may be used to indicate the logical end of the
     script before the actual end of file.  Any following text is

     Text after __DATA__ but may be read via the filehandle
     "PACKNAME::DATA", where "PACKNAME" is the package that was
     current when the __DATA__ token was encountered.  The
     filehandle is left open pointing to the contents after
     __DATA__.  It is the program's responsibility to "close
     DATA" when it is done reading from it.  For compatibility
     with older scripts written before __DATA__ was introduced,
     __END__ behaves like __DATA__ in the toplevel script (but
     not in files loaded with "require" or "do") and leaves the
     remaining contents of the file accessible via "main::DATA".

     See SelfLoader for more description of __DATA__, and an
     example of its use.  Note that you cannot read from the DATA
     filehandle in a BEGIN block: the BEGIN block is executed as
     soon as it is seen (during compilation), at which point the
     corresponding __DATA__ (or __END__) token has not yet been


     A word that has no other interpretation in the grammar will
     be treated as if it were a quoted string.  These are known
     as "barewords".  As with filehandles and labels, a bareword
     that consists entirely of lowercase letters risks conflict
     with future reserved words, and if you use the "use warn-
     ings" pragma or the -w switch, Perl will warn you about any
     such words.  Some people may wish to outlaw barewords
     entirely.  If you say

         use strict 'subs';

     then any bareword that would NOT be interpreted as a subrou-
     tine call produces a compile-time error instead.  The res-
     triction lasts to the end of the enclosing block.  An inner
     block may countermand this by saying "no strict 'subs'".

     Array Joining Delimiter

     Arrays and slices are interpolated into double-quoted
     strings by joining the elements with the delimiter specified
     in the $" variable ($LIST_SEPARATOR if "use English;" is
     specified), space by default.  The following are equivalent:

         $temp = join($", @ARGV);
         system "echo $temp";

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         system "echo @ARGV";

     Within search patterns (which also undergo double-quotish
     substitution) there is an unfortunate ambiguity:  Is
     "/$foo[bar]/" to be interpreted as "/${foo}[bar]/" (where
     "[bar]" is a character class for the regular expression) or
     as "/${foo[bar]}/" (where "[bar]" is the subscript to array
     @foo)?  If @foo doesn't otherwise exist, then it's obviously
     a character class.  If @foo exists, Perl takes a good guess
     about "[bar]", and is almost always right.  If it does guess
     wrong, or if you're just plain paranoid, you can force the
     correct interpretation with curly braces as above.

     If you're looking for the information on how to use
     here-documents, which used to be here, that's been moved to
     "Quote and Quote-like Operators" in perlop.

     List value constructors

     List values are denoted by separating individual values by
     commas (and enclosing the list in parentheses where pre-
     cedence requires it):


     In a context not requiring a list value, the value of what
     appears to be a list literal is simply the value of the
     final element, as with the C comma operator.  For example,

         @foo = ('cc', '-E', $bar);

     assigns the entire list value to array @foo, but

         $foo = ('cc', '-E', $bar);

     assigns the value of variable $bar to the scalar variable
     $foo. Note that the value of an actual array in scalar con-
     text is the length of the array; the following assigns the
     value 3 to $foo:

         @foo = ('cc', '-E', $bar);
         $foo = @foo;                # $foo gets 3

     You may have an optional comma before the closing
     parenthesis of a list literal, so that you can say:

         @foo = (

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     To use a here-document to assign an array, one line per ele-
     ment, you might use an approach like this:

         @sauces = <<End_Lines =~ m/(\S.*\S)/g;
             normal tomato
             spicy tomato
             green chile
             white wine

     LISTs do automatic interpolation of sublists.  That is, when
     a LIST is evaluated, each element of the list is evaluated
     in list context, and the resulting list value is interpo-
     lated into LIST just as if each individual element were a
     member of LIST.  Thus arrays and hashes lose their identity
     in a LIST--the list


     contains all the elements of @foo followed by all the ele-
     ments of @bar, followed by all the elements returned by the
     subroutine named SomeSub called in list context, followed by
     the key/value pairs of %glarch. To make a list reference
     that does NOT interpolate, see perlref.

     The null list is represented by ().  Interpolating it in a
     list has no effect.  Thus ((),(),()) is equivalent to ().
     Similarly, interpolating an array with no elements is the
     same as if no array had been interpolated at that point.

     This interpolation combines with the facts that the opening
     and closing parentheses are optional (except when necessary
     for precedence) and lists may end with an optional comma to
     mean that multiple commas within lists are legal syntax. The
     list "1,,3" is a concatenation of two lists, "1," and 3, the
     first of which ends with that optional comma.  "1,,3" is
     "(1,),(3)" is "1,3" (And similarly for "1,,,3" is
     "(1,),(,),3" is "1,3" and so on.)  Not that we'd advise you
     to use this obfuscation.

     A list value may also be subscripted like a normal array.
     You must put the list in parentheses to avoid ambiguity.
     For example:

         # Stat returns list value.
         $time = (stat($file))[8];

         $time = stat($file)[8];  # OOPS, FORGOT PARENTHESES

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         # Find a hex digit.
         $hexdigit = ('a','b','c','d','e','f')[$digit-10];

         # A "reverse comma operator".
         return (pop(@foo),pop(@foo))[0];

     Lists may be assigned to only when each element of the list
     is itself legal to assign to:

         ($a, $b, $c) = (1, 2, 3);

         ($map{'red'}, $map{'blue'}, $map{'green'}) = (0x00f, 0x0f0, 0xf00);

     An exception to this is that you may assign to "undef" in a
     list. This is useful for throwing away some of the return
     values of a function:

         ($dev, $ino, undef, undef, $uid, $gid) = stat($file);

     List assignment in scalar context returns the number of ele-
     ments produced by the expression on the right side of the

         $x = (($foo,$bar) = (3,2,1));       # set $x to 3, not 2
         $x = (($foo,$bar) = f());           # set $x to f()'s return count

     This is handy when you want to do a list assignment in a
     Boolean context, because most list functions return a null
     list when finished, which when assigned produces a 0, which
     is interpreted as FALSE.

     It's also the source of a useful idiom for executing a func-
     tion or performing an operation in list context and then
     counting the number of return values, by assigning to an
     empty list and then using that assignment in scalar context.
     For example, this code:

         $count = () = $string =~ /\d+/g;

     will place into $count the number of digit groups found in
     $string. This happens because the pattern match is in list
     context (since it is being assigned to the empty list), and
     will therefore return a list of all matching parts of the
     string. The list assignment in scalar context will translate
     that into the number of elements (here, the number of times
     the pattern matched) and assign that to $count. Note that
     simply using

         $count = $string =~ /\d+/g;

     would not have worked, since a pattern match in scalar con-
     text will only return true or false, rather than a count of

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     The final element of a list assignment may be an array or a

         ($a, $b, @rest) = split;
         my($a, $b, %rest) = @_;

     You can actually put an array or hash anywhere in the list,
     but the first one in the list will soak up all the values,
     and anything after it will become undefined.  This may be
     useful in a my() or local().

     A hash can be initialized using a literal list holding pairs
     of items to be interpreted as a key and a value:

         # same as map assignment above
         %map = ('red',0x00f,'blue',0x0f0,'green',0xf00);

     While literal lists and named arrays are often interchange-
     able, that's not the case for hashes.  Just because you can
     subscript a list value like a normal array does not mean
     that you can subscript a list value as a hash.  Likewise,
     hashes included as parts of other lists (including parame-
     ters lists and return lists from functions) always flatten
     out into key/value pairs.  That's why it's good to use
     references sometimes.

     It is often more readable to use the "=>" operator between
     key/value pairs.  The "=>" operator is mostly just a more
     visually distinctive synonym for a comma, but it also
     arranges for its left-hand operand to be interpreted as a
     string -- if it's a bareword that would be a legal simple
     identifier ("=>" doesn't quote compound identifiers, that
     contain double colons). This makes it nice for initializing

         %map = (
                      red   => 0x00f,
                      blue  => 0x0f0,
                      green => 0xf00,

     or for initializing hash references to be used as records:

         $rec = {
                     witch => 'Mable the Merciless',
                     cat   => 'Fluffy the Ferocious',
                     date  => '10/31/1776',

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     or for using call-by-named-parameter to complicated func-

        $field = $query->radio_group(
                    name      => 'group_name',
                    values    => ['eenie','meenie','minie'],
                    default   => 'meenie',
                    linebreak => 'true',
                    labels    => \%labels

     Note that just because a hash is initialized in that order
     doesn't mean that it comes out in that order.  See "sort" in
     perlfunc for examples of how to arrange for an output order-


     An array is subscripted by specifying a dollar sign ("$"),
     then the name of the array (without the leading "@"), then
     the subscript inside square brackets.  For example:

         @myarray = (5, 50, 500, 5000);
         print "Element Number 2 is", $myarray[2], "\n";

     The array indices start with 0. A negative subscript
     retrieves its value from the end.  In our example, $myar-
     ray[-1] would have been 5000, and $myarray[-2] would have
     been 500.

     Hash subscripts are similar, only instead of square brackets
     curly brackets are used. For example:

         %scientists =
             "Newton" => "Isaac",
             "Einstein" => "Albert",
             "Darwin" => "Charles",
             "Feynman" => "Richard",

         print "Darwin's First Name is ", $scientists{"Darwin"}, "\n";


     A common way to access an array or a hash is one scalar ele-
     ment at a time.  You can also subscript a list to get a sin-
     gle element from it.

         $whoami = $ENV{"USER"};             # one element from the hash
         $parent = $ISA[0];                  # one element from the array
         $dir    = (getpwnam("daemon"))[7];  # likewise, but with list

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     A slice accesses several elements of a list, an array, or a
     hash simultaneously using a list of subscripts.  It's more
     convenient than writing out the individual elements as a
     list of separate scalar values.

         ($him, $her)   = @folks[0,-1];              # array slice
         @them          = @folks[0 .. 3];            # array slice
         ($who, $home)  = @ENV{"USER", "HOME"};      # hash slice
         ($uid, $dir)   = (getpwnam("daemon"))[2,7]; # list slice

     Since you can assign to a list of variables, you can also
     assign to an array or hash slice.

         @days[3..5]    = qw/Wed Thu Fri/;
                        = (0xff0000, 0x0000ff, 0x00ff00);
         @folks[0, -1]  = @folks[-1, 0];

     The previous assignments are exactly equivalent to

         ($days[3], $days[4], $days[5]) = qw/Wed Thu Fri/;
         ($colors{'red'}, $colors{'blue'}, $colors{'green'})
                        = (0xff0000, 0x0000ff, 0x00ff00);
         ($folks[0], $folks[-1]) = ($folks[-1], $folks[0]);

     Since changing a slice changes the original array or hash
     that it's slicing, a "foreach" construct will alter some--or
     even all--of the values of the array or hash.

         foreach (@array[ 4 .. 10 ]) { s/peter/paul/ }

         foreach (@hash{qw[key1 key2]}) {
             s/^\s+//;           # trim leading whitespace
             s/\s+$//;           # trim trailing whitespace
             s/(\w+)/\u\L$1/g;   # "titlecase" words

     A slice of an empty list is still an empty list.  Thus:

         @a = ()[1,0];           # @a has no elements
         @b = (@a)[0,1];         # @b has no elements
         @c = (0,1)[2,3];        # @c has no elements


         @a = (1)[1,0];          # @a has two elements
         @b = (1,undef)[1,0,2];  # @b has three elements

     This makes it easy to write loops that terminate when a null
     list is returned:

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         while ( ($home, $user) = (getpwent)[7,0]) {
             printf "%-8s %s\n", $user, $home;

     As noted earlier in this document, the scalar sense of list
     assignment is the number of elements on the right-hand side
     of the assignment. The null list contains no elements, so
     when the password file is exhausted, the result is 0, not 2.

     If you're confused about why you use an '@' there on a hash
     slice instead of a '%', think of it like this.  The type of
     bracket (square or curly) governs whether it's an array or a
     hash being looked at. On the other hand, the leading symbol
     ('$' or '@') on the array or hash indicates whether you are
     getting back a singular value (a scalar) or a plural one (a

     Typeglobs and Filehandles

     Perl uses an internal type called a typeglob to hold an
     entire symbol table entry.  The type prefix of a typeglob is
     a "*", because it represents all types.  This used to be the
     preferred way to pass arrays and hashes by reference into a
     function, but now that we have real references, this is sel-
     dom needed.

     The main use of typeglobs in modern Perl is create symbol
     table aliases. This assignment:

         *this = *that;

     makes $this an alias for $that, @this an alias for @that,
     %this an alias for %that, &this an alias for &that, etc.
     Much safer is to use a reference. This:

         local *Here::blue = \$There::green;

     temporarily makes $Here::blue an alias for $There::green,
     but doesn't make @Here::blue an alias for @There::green, or
     %Here::blue an alias for %There::green, etc.  See "Symbol
     Tables" in perlmod for more examples of this.  Strange
     though this may seem, this is the basis for the whole module
     import/export system.

     Another use for typeglobs is to pass filehandles into a
     function or to create new filehandles.  If you need to use a
     typeglob to save away a filehandle, do it this way:

         $fh = *STDOUT;

     or perhaps as a real reference, like this:

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         $fh = \*STDOUT;

     See perlsub for examples of using these as indirect filehan-
     dles in functions.

     Typeglobs are also a way to create a local filehandle using
     the local() operator.  These last until their block is
     exited, but may be passed back. For example:

         sub newopen {
             my $path = shift;
             local  *FH;  # not my!
             open   (FH, $path)          or  return undef;
             return *FH;
         $fh = newopen('/etc/passwd');

     Now that we have the *foo{THING} notation, typeglobs aren't
     used as much for filehandle manipulations, although they're
     still needed to pass brand new file and directory handles
     into or out of functions. That's because *HANDLE{IO} only
     works if HANDLE has already been used as a handle. In other
     words, *FH must be used to create new symbol table entries;
     *foo{THING} cannot.  When in doubt, use *FH.

     All functions that are capable of creating filehandles
     (open(), opendir(), pipe(), socketpair(), sysopen(),
     socket(), and accept()) automatically create an anonymous
     filehandle if the handle passed to them is an uninitialized
     scalar variable. This allows the constructs such as "open(my
     $fh, ...)" and "open(local $fh,...)" to be used to create
     filehandles that will conveniently be closed automatically
     when the scope ends, provided there are no other references
     to them. This largely eliminates the need for typeglobs when
     opening filehandles that must be passed around, as in the
     following example:

         sub myopen {
             open my $fh, "@_"
                  or die "Can't open '@_': $!";
             return $fh;

             my $f = myopen("</etc/motd");
             print <$f>;
             # $f implicitly closed here

     Note that if an initialized scalar variable is used instead
     the result is different: "my $fh='zzz'; open($fh, ...)" is
     equivalent to "open( *{'zzz'}, ...)". "use strict 'refs'"

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     forbids such practice.

     Another way to create anonymous filehandles is with the Sym-
     bol module or with the IO::Handle module and its ilk.  These
     modules have the advantage of not hiding different types of
     the same name during the local().  See the bottom of
     "open()" in perlfunc for an example.


     See perlvar for a description of Perl's built-in variables
     and a discussion of legal variable names.  See perlref,
     perlsub, and "Symbol Tables" in perlmod for more discussion
     on typeglobs and the *foo{THING} syntax.

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