What is Perl Programming Language?

Perl programming languageThe Perl programming language was developed as a Unix scripting language in the late 1980s by Larry Wall, and it helped Unix system administrators conduct and automate commands accurately and efficiently. When the Internet became popular in the 1990s, web developers used Perl for Common Gateway Interface scripts that resided on web servers and were used to generate web pages. Today, Perl has evolved into a group of high level programming languages that include the distinctive Perl 5 and Perl 6 languages. Although other scripting languages have since been developed to provide more elegant, long term solutions, Perl programming remains a staple skill in the toolkit of many information technology (IT) professionals. Here are some specific areas of programming where Perl is still used, ways for Perl programmers to hone their skills and perceived challenges of using Perl.

Who Still Uses Perl?

According to programming experts, Perl is consistently installed within Unix environments. Since it has been the default language of system administrators for so long, most new system administrators continue to learn the language in addition to more modern ones like Python. Knowledge of this language becomes very useful when quick, temporary modifications to scripts that were created by previous administrators are needed. IT professionals who maintain heritage web pages are likely to still use Perl. For example, the nearly 20 year old Booking.com, which is an e-commerce website that specializes in vacation rental property transactions, still incorporates Perl scripts within its architecture. The quick scripting capabilities that are characteristic of Perl also give network security professionals the tools that they need to create rapid prototypes that are usually discarded after use and are not employed as permanent components of computing systems. Some web graphics applications are also written using free Perl graphics modules.

Common Resources for Perl Developers of All Skill Levels

One of the reasons why some programmers begin to learn Perl and seek to maintain their Perl development skills is because of the extensive resources that are available to all types of Perl developers. Both seasoned and beginner Perl programmers benefit from written tutorials and interactive forums that allow them to solve most issues that they encounter while using the language. Published books like Learning Perl, Intermediate Perl and Mastering Perl by Brian Foy introduce programmers to the basics of quick scripting in Perl as well as how to use the language to write reusable code. Also, Martien Verbruggen’s Graphics Programming in Perl is an excellent resource for graphic designers who want to improve and modernize their web graphics. Some online tutorials for Perl programmers include Perl Monks, Perl in 20 pages and Mother of Perl. Forums that are supported by Perl enthusiasts are also great avenues to follow for quick answers to Perl programming issues; two Perl programming forums are the Perl Institute and Perl Builder, according to the Perl Monks website.

Perceived Challenges of Using the Perl Programming Language

Generating reusable code is perceived to be more difficult to do in Perl than in rival programming languages like Python. The primary reason for this is that Python is inherently an object oriented programming language. However, Perl gets object oriented programming language features from Moose which is an extension of its object system. According to most proficient programmers most reusable coding issues in Perl are solved by the correct application of Moose.

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Perl has remained a viable programming language for over 28 years largely due to the community of Perl developers who regularly contribute published code to the Comprehensive Perl Archive Network. The free and open source software on the CPAN allows Perl programming language developers to become even more efficient because its core set of modules ensure that they do not have to reinvent the wheel.