Definition

Perl

Perl is a script programming language that is similar in syntax to the C language and that includes a number of popular UNIX facilities such as sed, awk, and tr. Perl is an interpreted language that can optionally be compiled just before execution into either C code or cross-platform bytecode. When compiled, a Perl program is almost (but not quite) as fast as a fully precompiled C language program. Perl is regarded as a good choice for developing common gateway interface (CGI) programs because it has good text manipulation facilities (although it also handles binary files). It was invented by Larry Wall.

In general, Perl is easier to learn and faster to code in than the more structured C and C++ languages. Perl programs can, however, be quite sophisticated. Perl tends to have devoted adherents. A plug-in can be installed for some servers (Apache, for example) so that Perl is loaded permanently in memory, thus reducing compile time and resulting in faster execution of CGI Perl scripts.

Perl was originally said to stand for "Practical Extraction and Reporting Language" but that name is no longer used. Larry Wall prefers the usage of an upper-case "Perl" for the language itself and lower-case "perl" for any interpreter or compiler of Perl.

Contributor(s): Jon Lenzer
This was last updated in September 2005
Posted by: Margaret Rouse

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