What is Perl?
Perl is a programming language. Perl stands for Practical Report and Extraction Language. You'll notice people refer to 'perl' and "Perl". "Perl" is the programming language as a whole whereas 'perl' is the name of the core executable. There is no language called "Perl5" -- that just means "Perl version 5". Versions of Perl prior to 5 are very old and very unsupported.
Some of Perl's many strengths are:
- Speed of development. You edit a text file, and just run it. You can develop programs very quickly like this. No separate compiler needed. I find Perl runs a program quicker than Java, let alone compare the complete modify-compile-run-oh-no-forgot-that-semicolon sequence.
- Power. Perl's regular expressions are some of the best available. You can work with objects, sockets...everything a systems administrator could want. And that's just the standard distribution. Add the wealth of modules available on CPAN and you have it all. Don't equate scripting languages with toy languages.
- Usuability. All that power and capability can be learnt in easy stages. If you can write a batch file you can program Perl. You don't have to learn object oriented programming, but you can write OO programs in Perl. If autoincrementing non-existent variables scares you, make perl refuse to let you. There is always more than one way to do it in Perl. You decide your style of programming, and Perl will accommodate you.
- Portability. On the Superhighway to the Portability Panacea, Perl's Porsche powers past Java's jaded jalopy. Many people develop Perl scripts on NT, or Win95, then just FTP them to a Unix server where they run. No modification necessary.
- Editing tools You don't need the latest Integrated Development Environment for Perl. You can develop Perl scripts with any text editor. Notepad, vi, MS Word 97, or even direct off the console. Of course, you can make things easy and use one of the many freeware or shareware programmer's file editors.
- Price. Yes, 0 guilders, pounds, dmarks, dollars or whatever. And the peer to peer support is also free, and often far better than you'd ever get by paying some company to answer the phone and tell you to do what you just tried several times already, then look up the same reference books you already own.