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1=head1 NAME
2
cb1a09d0 3perldata - Perl data types
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4
5=head1 DESCRIPTION
6
7=head2 Variable names
8
9Perl has three data structures: scalars, arrays of scalars, and
10associative arrays of scalars, known as "hashes". Normal arrays are
11indexed by number, starting with 0. (Negative subscripts count from
12the end.) Hash arrays are indexed by string.
13
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14Values are usually referred to by name (or through a named reference).
15The first character of the name tells you to what sort of data
16structure it refers. The rest of the name tells you the particular
17value to which it refers. Most often, it consists of a single
18I<identifier>, that is, a string beginning with a letter or underscore,
19and containing letters, underscores, and digits. In some cases, it
20may be a chain of identifiers, separated by C<::> (or by C<'>, but
21that's deprecated); all but the last are interpreted as names of
5f05dabc 22packages, to locate the namespace in which to look
b88cefa9 23up the final identifier (see L<perlmod/Packages> for details).
184e9718 24It's possible to substitute for a simple identifier an expression
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25which produces a reference to the value at runtime; this is
26described in more detail below, and in L<perlref>.
27
28There are also special variables whose names don't follow these
29rules, so that they don't accidentally collide with one of your
30normal variables. Strings which match parenthesized parts of a
31regular expression are saved under names containing only digits after
32the C<$> (see L<perlop> and L<perlre>). In addition, several special
33variables which provide windows into the inner working of Perl have names
34containing punctuation characters (see L<perlvar>).
35
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36Scalar values are always named with '$', even when referring to a scalar
37that is part of an array. It works like the English word "the". Thus
38we have:
39
40 $days # the simple scalar value "days"
41 $days[28] # the 29th element of array @days
42 $days{'Feb'} # the 'Feb' value from hash %days
43 $#days # the last index of array @days
44
45but entire arrays or array slices are denoted by '@', which works much like
46the word "these" or "those":
47
48 @days # ($days[0], $days[1],... $days[n])
49 @days[3,4,5] # same as @days[3..5]
50 @days{'a','c'} # same as ($days{'a'},$days{'c'})
51
52and entire hashes are denoted by '%':
53
54 %days # (key1, val1, key2, val2 ...)
55
56In addition, subroutines are named with an initial '&', though this is
57optional when it's otherwise unambiguous (just as "do" is often
58redundant in English). Symbol table entries can be named with an
59initial '*', but you don't really care about that yet.
60
61Every variable type has its own namespace. You can, without fear of
62conflict, use the same name for a scalar variable, an array, or a hash
63(or, for that matter, a filehandle, a subroutine name, or a label).
64This means that $foo and @foo are two different variables. It also
748a9306 65means that C<$foo[1]> is a part of @foo, not a part of $foo. This may
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66seem a bit weird, but that's okay, because it is weird.
67
5f05dabc 68Because variable and array references always start with '$', '@', or '%',
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69the "reserved" words aren't in fact reserved with respect to variable
70names. (They ARE reserved with respect to labels and filehandles,
71however, which don't have an initial special character. You can't have
72a filehandle named "log", for instance. Hint: you could say
73C<open(LOG,'logfile')> rather than C<open(log,'logfile')>. Using uppercase
74filehandles also improves readability and protects you from conflict
5f05dabc 75with future reserved words.) Case I<IS> significant--"FOO", "Foo", and
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76"foo" are all different names. Names that start with a letter or
77underscore may also contain digits and underscores.
78
79It is possible to replace such an alphanumeric name with an expression
80that returns a reference to an object of that type. For a description
81of this, see L<perlref>.
82
5f05dabc 83Names that start with a digit may contain only more digits. Names
a0d0e21e 84which do not start with a letter, underscore, or digit are limited to
5f05dabc 85one character, e.g., C<$%> or C<$$>. (Most of these one character names
cb1a09d0 86have a predefined significance to Perl. For instance, C<$$> is the
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87current process id.)
88
89=head2 Context
90
91The interpretation of operations and values in Perl sometimes depends
92on the requirements of the context around the operation or value.
93There are two major contexts: scalar and list. Certain operations
94return list values in contexts wanting a list, and scalar values
95otherwise. (If this is true of an operation it will be mentioned in
96the documentation for that operation.) In other words, Perl overloads
97certain operations based on whether the expected return value is
98singular or plural. (Some words in English work this way, like "fish"
99and "sheep".)
100
101In a reciprocal fashion, an operation provides either a scalar or a
102list context to each of its arguments. For example, if you say
103
104 int( <STDIN> )
105
184e9718 106the integer operation provides a scalar context for the E<lt>STDINE<gt>
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107operator, which responds by reading one line from STDIN and passing it
108back to the integer operation, which will then find the integer value
109of that line and return that. If, on the other hand, you say
110
111 sort( <STDIN> )
112
184e9718 113then the sort operation provides a list context for E<lt>STDINE<gt>, which
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114will proceed to read every line available up to the end of file, and
115pass that list of lines back to the sort routine, which will then
116sort those lines and return them as a list to whatever the context
117of the sort was.
118
119Assignment is a little bit special in that it uses its left argument to
120determine the context for the right argument. Assignment to a scalar
121evaluates the righthand side in a scalar context, while assignment to
122an array or array slice evaluates the righthand side in a list
123context. Assignment to a list also evaluates the righthand side in a
124list context.
125
126User defined subroutines may choose to care whether they are being
127called in a scalar or list context, but most subroutines do not
128need to care, because scalars are automatically interpolated into
129lists. See L<perlfunc/wantarray>.
130
131=head2 Scalar values
132
4633a7c4 133All data in Perl is a scalar or an array of scalars or a hash of scalars.
a0d0e21e 134Scalar variables may contain various kinds of singular data, such as
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135numbers, strings, and references. In general, conversion from one form to
136another is transparent. (A scalar may not contain multiple values, but
137may contain a reference to an array or hash containing multiple values.)
5f05dabc 138Because of the automatic conversion of scalars, operations, and functions
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139that return scalars don't need to care (and, in fact, can't care) whether
140the context is looking for a string or a number.
141
142Scalars aren't necessarily one thing or another. There's no place to
143declare a scalar variable to be of type "string", or of type "number", or
144type "filehandle", or anything else. Perl is a contextually polymorphic
145language whose scalars can be strings, numbers, or references (which
d28ebecd 146includes objects). While strings and numbers are considered pretty
b88cefa9 147much the same thing for nearly all purposes, references are strongly-typed
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148uncastable pointers with built-in reference-counting and destructor
149invocation.
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150
151A scalar value is interpreted as TRUE in the Boolean sense if it is not
152the null string or the number 0 (or its string equivalent, "0"). The
4633a7c4 153Boolean context is just a special kind of scalar context.
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154
155There are actually two varieties of null scalars: defined and
156undefined. Undefined null scalars are returned when there is no real
157value for something, such as when there was an error, or at end of
158file, or when you refer to an uninitialized variable or element of an
159array. An undefined null scalar may become defined the first time you
160use it as if it were defined, but prior to that you can use the
161defined() operator to determine whether the value is defined or not.
162
cb1a09d0 163To find out whether a given string is a valid non-zero number, it's usually
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164enough to test it against both numeric 0 and also lexical "0" (although
165this will cause B<-w> noises). That's because strings that aren't
184e9718 166numbers count as 0, just as they do in B<awk>:
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167
168 if ($str == 0 && $str ne "0") {
169 warn "That doesn't look like a number";
170 }
171
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172That's usually preferable because otherwise you won't treat IEEE notations
173like C<NaN> or C<Infinity> properly. At other times you might prefer to
174use a regular expression to check whether data is numeric. See L<perlre>
175for details on regular expressions.
176
177 warn "has nondigits" if /\D/;
178 warn "not a whole number" unless /^\d+$/;
179 warn "not an integer" unless /^[+-]?\d+$/
180 warn "not a decimal number" unless /^[+-]?\d+\.?\d*$/
181 warn "not a C float"
182 unless /^([+-]?)(?=\d|\.\d)\d*(\.\d*)?([Ee]([+-]?\d+))?$/;
183
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184The length of an array is a scalar value. You may find the length of
185array @days by evaluating C<$#days>, as in B<csh>. (Actually, it's not
5f05dabc 186the length of the array, it's the subscript of the last element, because
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187there is (ordinarily) a 0th element.) Assigning to C<$#days> changes the
188length of the array. Shortening an array by this method destroys
189intervening values. Lengthening an array that was previously shortened
190I<NO LONGER> recovers the values that were in those elements. (It used to
b88cefa9 191in Perl 4, but we had to break this to make sure destructors were
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192called when expected.) You can also gain some measure of efficiency by
193preextending an array that is going to get big. (You can also extend
194an array by assigning to an element that is off the end of the array.)
195You can truncate an array down to nothing by assigning the null list ()
196to it. The following are equivalent:
197
198 @whatever = ();
199 $#whatever = $[ - 1;
200
201If you evaluate a named array in a scalar context, it returns the length of
202the array. (Note that this is not true of lists, which return the
203last value, like the C comma operator.) The following is always true:
204
205 scalar(@whatever) == $#whatever - $[ + 1;
206
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207Version 5 of Perl changed the semantics of C<$[>: files that don't set
208the value of C<$[> no longer need to worry about whether another
209file changed its value. (In other words, use of C<$[> is deprecated.)
5f05dabc 210So in general you can assume that
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211
212 scalar(@whatever) == $#whatever + 1;
213
d28ebecd 214Some programmers choose to use an explicit conversion so nothing's
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215left to doubt:
216
217 $element_count = scalar(@whatever);
218
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219If you evaluate a hash in a scalar context, it returns a value which is
220true if and only if the hash contains any key/value pairs. (If there
221are any key/value pairs, the value returned is a string consisting of
222the number of used buckets and the number of allocated buckets, separated
5f05dabc 223by a slash. This is pretty much useful only to find out whether Perl's
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224(compiled in) hashing algorithm is performing poorly on your data set.
225For example, you stick 10,000 things in a hash, but evaluating %HASH in
226scalar context reveals "1/16", which means only one out of sixteen buckets
227has been touched, and presumably contains all 10,000 of your items. This
228isn't supposed to happen.)
229
230=head2 Scalar value constructors
231
232Numeric literals are specified in any of the customary floating point or
233integer formats:
234
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235 12345
236 12345.67
237 .23E-10
238 0xffff # hex
239 0377 # octal
240 4_294_967_296 # underline for legibility
241
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242String literals are usually delimited by either single or double
243quotes. They work much like shell quotes: double-quoted string
244literals are subject to backslash and variable substitution;
245single-quoted strings are not (except for "C<\'>" and "C<\\>").
246The usual Unix backslash rules apply for making characters such as
247newline, tab, etc., as well as some more exotic forms. See
248L<perlop/Quote and Quotelike Operators> for a list.
a0d0e21e 249
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250Octal or hex representations in string literals (e.g. '0xffff') are not
251automatically converted to their integer representation. The hex() and
252oct() functions make these conversions for you. See L<perlfunc/hex> and
253L<perlfunc/oct> for more details.
254
5f05dabc 255You can also embed newlines directly in your strings, i.e., they can end
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256on a different line than they begin. This is nice, but if you forget
257your trailing quote, the error will not be reported until Perl finds
258another line containing the quote character, which may be much further
259on in the script. Variable substitution inside strings is limited to
260scalar variables, arrays, and array slices. (In other words,
b88cefa9 261names beginning with $ or @, followed by an optional bracketed
a0d0e21e 262expression as a subscript.) The following code segment prints out "The
184e9718 263price is $Z<>100."
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264
265 $Price = '$100'; # not interpreted
266 print "The price is $Price.\n"; # interpreted
267
b88cefa9 268As in some shells, you can put curly brackets around the name to
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269delimit it from following alphanumerics. In fact, an identifier
270within such curlies is forced to be a string, as is any single
271identifier within a hash subscript. Our earlier example,
272
273 $days{'Feb'}
274
275can be written as
276
277 $days{Feb}
278
279and the quotes will be assumed automatically. But anything more complicated
280in the subscript will be interpreted as an expression.
281
282Note that a
a0d0e21e 283single-quoted string must be separated from a preceding word by a
5f05dabc 284space, because single quote is a valid (though deprecated) character in
b88cefa9 285a variable name (see L<perlmod/Packages>).
a0d0e21e 286
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287Three special literals are __FILE__, __LINE__, and __PACKAGE__, which
288represent the current filename, line number, and package name at that
289point in your program. They may be used only as separate tokens; they
290will not be interpolated into strings. If there is no current package
291(due to a C<package;> directive), __PACKAGE__ is the undefined value.
292
293The tokens __END__ and __DATA__ may be used to indicate the logical end
294of the script before the actual end of file. Any following text is
295ignored, but may be read via a DATA filehandle: main::DATA for __END__,
296or PACKNAME::DATA (where PACKNAME is the current package) for __DATA__.
297The two control characters ^D and ^Z are synonyms for __END__ (or
298__DATA__ in a module). See L<SelfLoader> for more description of
299__DATA__, and an example of its use.
a0d0e21e 300
748a9306 301A word that has no other interpretation in the grammar will
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302be treated as if it were a quoted string. These are known as
303"barewords". As with filehandles and labels, a bareword that consists
304entirely of lowercase letters risks conflict with future reserved
305words, and if you use the B<-w> switch, Perl will warn you about any
306such words. Some people may wish to outlaw barewords entirely. If you
307say
308
309 use strict 'subs';
310
311then any bareword that would NOT be interpreted as a subroutine call
312produces a compile-time error instead. The restriction lasts to the
313end of the enclosing block. An inner block may countermand this
314by saying C<no strict 'subs'>.
315
316Array variables are interpolated into double-quoted strings by joining all
317the elements of the array with the delimiter specified in the C<$">
184e9718 318variable (C<$LIST_SEPARATOR> in English), space by default. The following
4633a7c4 319are equivalent:
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320
321 $temp = join($",@ARGV);
322 system "echo $temp";
323
324 system "echo @ARGV";
325
326Within search patterns (which also undergo double-quotish substitution)
327there is a bad ambiguity: Is C</$foo[bar]/> to be interpreted as
328C</${foo}[bar]/> (where C<[bar]> is a character class for the regular
329expression) or as C</${foo[bar]}/> (where C<[bar]> is the subscript to array
330@foo)? If @foo doesn't otherwise exist, then it's obviously a
331character class. If @foo exists, Perl takes a good guess about C<[bar]>,
332and is almost always right. If it does guess wrong, or if you're just
333plain paranoid, you can force the correct interpretation with curly
334brackets as above.
335
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336A line-oriented form of quoting is based on the shell "here-doc"
337syntax. Following a C<E<lt>E<lt>> you specify a string to terminate
338the quoted material, and all lines following the current line down to
339the terminating string are the value of the item. The terminating
340string may be either an identifier (a word), or some quoted text. If
341quoted, the type of quotes you use determines the treatment of the
342text, just as in regular quoting. An unquoted identifier works like
343double quotes. There must be no space between the C<E<lt>E<lt>> and
344the identifier. (If you put a space it will be treated as a null
3fe9a6f1 345identifier, which is valid, and matches the first empty line.) The
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346terminating string must appear by itself (unquoted and with no
347surrounding whitespace) on the terminating line.
a0d0e21e 348
c07a80fd 349 print <<EOF;
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350 The price is $Price.
351 EOF
352
353 print <<"EOF"; # same as above
354 The price is $Price.
355 EOF
356
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357 print <<`EOC`; # execute commands
358 echo hi there
359 echo lo there
360 EOC
361
362 print <<"foo", <<"bar"; # you can stack them
363 I said foo.
364 foo
365 I said bar.
366 bar
367
d28ebecd 368 myfunc(<<"THIS", 23, <<'THAT');
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369 Here's a line
370 or two.
371 THIS
372 and here another.
373 THAT
374
375Just don't forget that you have to put a semicolon on the end
376to finish the statement, as Perl doesn't know you're not going to
377try to do this:
378
379 print <<ABC
380 179231
381 ABC
382 + 20;
383
384
385=head2 List value constructors
386
387List values are denoted by separating individual values by commas
388(and enclosing the list in parentheses where precedence requires it):
389
390 (LIST)
391
748a9306 392In a context not requiring a list value, the value of the list
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393literal is the value of the final element, as with the C comma operator.
394For example,
395
396 @foo = ('cc', '-E', $bar);
397
398assigns the entire list value to array foo, but
399
400 $foo = ('cc', '-E', $bar);
401
402assigns the value of variable bar to variable foo. Note that the value
403of an actual array in a scalar context is the length of the array; the
404following assigns to $foo the value 3:
405
406 @foo = ('cc', '-E', $bar);
407 $foo = @foo; # $foo gets 3
408
409You may have an optional comma before the closing parenthesis of an
410list literal, so that you can say:
411
412 @foo = (
413 1,
414 2,
415 3,
416 );
417
418LISTs do automatic interpolation of sublists. That is, when a LIST is
419evaluated, each element of the list is evaluated in a list context, and
420the resulting list value is interpolated into LIST just as if each
421individual element were a member of LIST. Thus arrays lose their
422identity in a LIST--the list
423
424 (@foo,@bar,&SomeSub)
425
426contains all the elements of @foo followed by all the elements of @bar,
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427followed by all the elements returned by the subroutine named SomeSub when
428it's called in a list context.
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429To make a list reference that does I<NOT> interpolate, see L<perlref>.
430
431The null list is represented by (). Interpolating it in a list
432has no effect. Thus ((),(),()) is equivalent to (). Similarly,
433interpolating an array with no elements is the same as if no
434array had been interpolated at that point.
435
436A list value may also be subscripted like a normal array. You must
437put the list in parentheses to avoid ambiguity. Examples:
438
439 # Stat returns list value.
440 $time = (stat($file))[8];
441
4633a7c4 442 # SYNTAX ERROR HERE.
5f05dabc 443 $time = stat($file)[8]; # OOPS, FORGOT PARENTHESES
4633a7c4 444
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445 # Find a hex digit.
446 $hexdigit = ('a','b','c','d','e','f')[$digit-10];
447
448 # A "reverse comma operator".
449 return (pop(@foo),pop(@foo))[0];
450
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451You may assign to C<undef> in a list. This is useful for throwing
452away some of the return values of a function:
453
454 ($dev, $ino, undef, undef, $uid, $gid) = stat($file);
455
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456Lists may be assigned to if and only if each element of the list
457is legal to assign to:
458
459 ($a, $b, $c) = (1, 2, 3);
460
461 ($map{'red'}, $map{'blue'}, $map{'green'}) = (0x00f, 0x0f0, 0xf00);
462
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463Array assignment in a scalar context returns the number of elements
464produced by the expression on the right side of the assignment:
465
466 $x = (($foo,$bar) = (3,2,1)); # set $x to 3, not 2
467 $x = (($foo,$bar) = f()); # set $x to f()'s return count
468
469This is very handy when you want to do a list assignment in a Boolean
5f05dabc 470context, because most list functions return a null list when finished,
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471which when assigned produces a 0, which is interpreted as FALSE.
472
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473The final element may be an array or a hash:
474
475 ($a, $b, @rest) = split;
476 local($a, $b, %rest) = @_;
477
4633a7c4 478You can actually put an array or hash anywhere in the list, but the first one
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479in the list will soak up all the values, and anything after it will get
480a null value. This may be useful in a local() or my().
481
482A hash literal contains pairs of values to be interpreted
483as a key and a value:
484
485 # same as map assignment above
486 %map = ('red',0x00f,'blue',0x0f0,'green',0xf00);
487
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488While literal lists and named arrays are usually interchangeable, that's
489not the case for hashes. Just because you can subscript a list value like
490a normal array does not mean that you can subscript a list value as a
491hash. Likewise, hashes included as parts of other lists (including
492parameters lists and return lists from functions) always flatten out into
493key/value pairs. That's why it's good to use references sometimes.
a0d0e21e 494
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495It is often more readable to use the C<=E<gt>> operator between key/value
496pairs. The C<=E<gt>> operator is mostly just a more visually distinctive
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497synonym for a comma, but it also arranges for its left-hand operand to be
498interpreted as a string, if it's a bareword which would be a legal identifier.
499This makes it nice for initializing hashes:
a0d0e21e 500
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501 %map = (
502 red => 0x00f,
503 blue => 0x0f0,
504 green => 0xf00,
505 );
506
507or for initializing hash references to be used as records:
508
509 $rec = {
510 witch => 'Mable the Merciless',
511 cat => 'Fluffy the Ferocious',
512 date => '10/31/1776',
513 };
514
515or for using call-by-named-parameter to complicated functions:
516
517 $field = $query->radio_group(
518 name => 'group_name',
519 values => ['eenie','meenie','minie'],
520 default => 'meenie',
521 linebreak => 'true',
522 labels => \%labels
523 );
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524
525Note that just because a hash is initialized in that order doesn't
526mean that it comes out in that order. See L<perlfunc/sort> for examples
527of how to arrange for an output ordering.
528
5f05dabc 529=head2 Typeglobs and Filehandles
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530
531Perl uses an internal type called a I<typeglob> to hold an entire
532symbol table entry. The type prefix of a typeglob is a C<*>, because
533it represents all types. This used to be the preferred way to
534pass arrays and hashes by reference into a function, but now that
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535we have real references, this is seldom needed. It also used to be the
536preferred way to pass filehandles into a function, but now
537that we have the *foo{THING} notation it isn't often needed for that,
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538either. It is still needed to pass new filehandles into functions
539(*HANDLE{IO} only works if HANDLE has already been used).
540
541If you need to use a typeglob to save away a filehandle, do it this way:
542
543 $fh = *STDOUT;
544
545or perhaps as a real reference, like this:
546
547 $fh = \*STDOUT;
548
549This is also a way to create a local filehandle. For example:
550
551 sub newopen {
552 my $path = shift;
553 local *FH; # not my!
554 open (FH, $path) || return undef;
e05a3a1e 555 return *FH;
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556 }
557 $fh = newopen('/etc/passwd');
558
559Another way to create local filehandles is with IO::Handle and its ilk,
560see the bottom of L<perlfunc/open()>.
cb1a09d0 561
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562See L<perlref>, L<perlsub>, and L<perlmod/"Symbol Tables"> for more
563discussion on typeglobs.