How to Learn Perl

Learning a programming language like Perl can seem quite daunting. It's a complex and powerful language, however, it's not that difficult to pick up. With the right tutorials and expert guidance in programming forums, you will be on your way to writing complex and even profitable Perl programs.


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    Download and install a Perl interpreter. ActivePerl is a good choice for Windows users. If you are using Linux or Mac OS X, Perl may already be installed on your system. To check, open a terminal and type perl -v into the command line. If you get a message stating the current version of Perl, then Perl is installed on your system. If you get a "Command not found" error, you will have to install Perl yourself, either by installing a package for your operating system, or by building from source.
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    Find some good tutorials that teach the basics of Perl. There are many books and online references that will teach the basics of Perl. Learning Perl is a good choice for those who are unfamiliar with Perl, or even programming in general. People who already know the basics of programming may want to look at Programming Perl, which is designed for those who are already experienced programmers. Programming Perl is also a good book to read after reading Learning Perl.. Also, getting a good .pdf desktop reference can help when you need something a little more specific than perldoc and a little quicker than flipping open the Camel Book.
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    Read the documentation. In addition with tutorials, Perl comes with many pages worth of documentation that can be accessed inside your terminal with the perldoc command. You can also browse the documentation online by visiting
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    Practice! Unfortunately, just reading the books will not make you a good programmer. In order to really learn Perl, you need to write it. Many books and tutorials have example code to try out, as well as exercises to solve. Even though it can be tedious writing sample programs, it builds a good foundation which more advanced programming techniques can use. Read source code written by experienced programmers and take mental (and physical) note of the techniques they employ.
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    Give back to the Perl community. One of the best ways to help people out and improve your programming skills is to give back to the Perl community. One way is by writing modules for CPAN. This allows you to release your Perl modules to the world, help others out by writing libraries that make their lives easier, and learn a bit about packaging software too!


  • Check your local library and see whether they have any Perl books. Since programming books can sometimes cost $30-50, it can save you money in the long run.
  • Have fun! It takes a while to become really good at it, so pace yourself.
  • If you really like the language and want to meet other local programmers, try seeing if there is an active Perl Mongers group near your hometown.
  • When reading tutorials, try not to jump ahead of yourself, don't get overwhelmed at long blocks of code, go one step at a time, and focus. Do the examples until you understand them before moving on.
  • Get involved in the Perl community, join Perl Monks, comp.lang.perl.misc, and other forums community's where you can get advice and just have a good time discussing you new favorite language.
  • In addition to being a command-line language, Perl can also be used to write Web applications (also known as CGI scripts). However, this requires the additional knowledge of HTML, CGI, and general server programming, so it is not covered here.

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Categories: Web Programming