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Current Perl documentation can be found at

Here is our local, out-dated (pre-5.6) version:


perlport - Writing portable Perl


Perl runs on a variety of operating systems. While most of them share a lot in common, they also have their own very particular and unique features.

This document is meant to help you to find out what constitutes portable Perl code, so that once you have made your decision to write portably, you know where the lines are drawn, and you can stay within them.

There is a tradeoff between taking full advantage of a particular type of computer, and taking advantage of a full range of them. Naturally, as you make your range bigger (and thus more diverse), the common denominators drop, and you are left with fewer areas of common ground in which you can operate to accomplish a particular task. Thus, when you begin attacking a problem, it is important to consider which part of the tradeoff curve you want to operate under. Specifically, whether it is important to you that the task that you are coding needs the full generality of being portable, or if it is sufficient to just get the job done. This is the hardest choice to be made. The rest is easy, because Perl provides lots of choices, whichever way you want to approach your problem.

Looking at it another way, writing portable code is usually about willfully limiting your available choices. Naturally, it takes discipline to do that.

Be aware of two important points:

Not all Perl programs have to be portable

There is no reason why you should not use Perl as a language to glue Unix tools together, or to prototype a Macintosh application, or to manage the Windows registry. If it makes no sense to aim for portability for one reason or another in a given program, then don't bother.

The vast majority of Perl is portable

Don't be fooled into thinking that it is hard to create portable Perl code. It isn't. Perl tries its level-best to bridge the gaps between what's available on different platforms, and all the means available to use those features. Thus almost all Perl code runs on any machine without modification. But there are some significant issues in writing portable code, and this document is entirely about those issues.

Here's the general rule: When you approach a task that is commonly done using a whole range of platforms, think in terms of writing portable code. That way, you don't sacrifice much by way of the implementation choices you can avail yourself of, and at the same time you can give your users lots of platform choices. On the other hand, when you have to take advantage of some unique feature of a particular platform, as is often the case with systems programming (whether for Unix, Windows, Mac OS, VMS, etc.), consider writing platform-specific code.

When the code will run on only two or three operating systems, then you may only need to consider the differences of those particular systems. The important thing is to decide where the code will run, and to be deliberate in your decision.

The material below is separated into three main sections: main issues of portability (ISSUES, platform-specific issues (PLATFORMS, and builtin perl functions that behave differently on various ports (FUNCTION IMPLEMENTATIONS.

This information should not be considered complete; it includes possibly transient information about idiosyncrasies of some of the ports, almost all of which are in a state of constant evolution. Thus this material should be considered a perpetual work in progress (<IMG SRC=``yellow_sign.gif'' ALT=``Under Construction''>).



In most operating systems, lines in files are terminated with newlines. Just what is used as a newline may vary from OS to OS. Unix traditionally uses \012, one kind of Windows I/O uses \015\012, and Mac OS uses \015.

Perl uses \n to represent the ``logical'' newline, where what is logical may depend on the platform in use. In MacPerl, \n always means \015. In DOSish perls, \n usually means \012, but when accessing a file in ``text'' mode, STDIO translates it to (or from) \015\012.

Due to the ``text'' mode translation, DOSish perls have limitations of using seek and tell when a file is being accessed in ``text'' mode. Specifically, if you stick to seek-ing to locations you got from tell (and no others), you are usually free to use seek and tell even in ``text'' mode. In general, using seek or tell or other file operations that count bytes instead of characters, without considering the length of \n, may be non-portable. If you use binmode on a file, however, you can usually use seek and tell with arbitrary values quite safely.

A common misconception in socket programming is that \n eq \012 everywhere. When using protocols such as common Internet protocols, \012 and \015 are called for specifically, and the values of the logical \n and \r (carriage return) are not reliable.

    print SOCKET "Hi there, client!\r\n";      # WRONG
    print SOCKET "Hi there, client!\015\012";  # RIGHT

[NOTE: this does not necessarily apply to communications that are filtered by another program or module before sending to the socket; the the most popular EBCDIC webserver, for instance, accepts \r\n, which translates those characters, along with all other characters in text streams, from EBCDIC to ASCII.]

However, using \015\012 (or \cM\cJ, or \x0D\x0A) can be tedious and unsightly, as well as confusing to those maintaining the code. As such, the Socket module supplies the Right Thing for those who want it.

    use Socket qw(:DEFAULT :crlf);
    print SOCKET "Hi there, client!$CRLF"      # RIGHT

When reading from a socket, remember that the default input record separator ($/) is \n, but code like this should recognize $/ as \012 or \015\012:

    while (<SOCKET>) {
        # ...


    use Socket qw(:DEFAULT :crlf);
    local($/) = LF;      # not needed if $/ is already \012

    while (<SOCKET>) {
        s/$CR?$LF/\n/;   # not sure if socket uses LF or CRLF, OK
    #   s/\015?\012/\n/; # same thing

And this example is actually better than the previous one even for Unix platforms, because now any \015's (\cM's) are stripped out (and there was much rejoicing).

Numbers endianness and Width

Different CPUs store integers and floating point numbers in different orders (called endianness) and widths (32-bit and 64-bit being the most common). This affects your programs if they attempt to transfer numbers in binary format from a CPU architecture to another over some channel: either 'live' via network connections or storing the numbers to secondary storage such as a disk file.

Conflicting storage orders make utter mess out of the numbers: if a little-endian host (Intel, Alpha) stores 0x12345678 (305419896 in decimal), a big-endian host (Motorola, MIPS, Sparc, PA) reads it as 0x78563412 (2018915346 in decimal). To avoid this problem in network (socket) connections use the pack() and unpack() formats "n" and "N", the ``network'' orders, they are guaranteed to be portable.

Different widths can cause truncation even between platforms of equal endianness: the platform of shorter width loses the upper parts of the number. There is no good solution for this problem except to avoid transferring or storing raw binary numbers.

One can circumnavigate both these problems in two ways: either transfer and store numbers always in text format, instead of raw binary, or consider using modules like Data::Dumper (included in the standard distribution as of Perl 5.005) and Storable.


Most platforms these days structure files in a hierarchical fashion. So, it is reasonably safe to assume that any platform supports the notion of a ``path'' to uniquely identify a file on the system. Just how that path is actually written, differs.

While they are similar, file path specifications differ between Unix, Windows, Mac OS, OS/2, VMS, RISC OS and probably others. Unix, for example, is one of the few OSes that has the idea of a single root directory.

VMS, Windows, and OS/2 can work similarly to Unix with / as path separator, or in their own idiosyncratic ways (such as having several root directories and various ``unrooted'' device files such NIL: and LPT:).

Mac OS uses : as a path separator instead of /.

RISC OS perl can emulate Unix filenames with / as path separator, or go native and use . for path separator and : to signal filing systems and disc names.

As with the newline problem above, there are modules that can help. The File::Spec modules provide methods to do the Right Thing on whatever platform happens to be running the program.

    use File::Spec;
    chdir(File::Spec->;updir());        # go up one directory
    $file = File::Spec->;catfile(
        File::Spec->;curdir(), 'temp', 'file.txt'
    # on Unix and Win32, './temp/file.txt'
    # on Mac OS, ':temp:file.txt'

File::Spec is available in the standard distribution, as of version 5.004_05.

In general, production code should not have file paths hardcoded; making them user supplied or from a configuration file is better, keeping in mind that file path syntax varies on different machines.

This is especially noticeable in scripts like Makefiles and test suites, which often assume / as a path separator for subdirectories.

Also of use is File::Basename, from the standard distribution, which splits a pathname into pieces (base filename, full path to directory, and file suffix).

Even when on a single platform (if you can call UNIX a single platform), remember not to count on the existence or the contents of system-specific files, like /etc/passwd, /etc/sendmail.conf, or /etc/resolv.conf. For example the /etc/passwd may exist but it may not contain the encrypted passwords because the system is using some form of enhanced security-- or it may not contain all the accounts because the system is using NIS. If code does need to rely on such a file, include a description of the file and its format in the code's documentation, and make it easy for the user to override the default location of the file.

Do not have two files of the same name with different case, like and <>, as many platforms have case-insensitive filenames. Also, try not to have non-word characters (except for .) in the names, and keep them to the 8.3 convention, for maximum portability.

Likewise, if using AutoSplit, try to keep the split functions to 8.3 naming and case-insensitive conventions; or, at the very least, make it so the resulting files have a unique (case-insensitively) first 8 characters.

Don't assume < won't be the first character of a filename. Always use > explicitly to open a file for reading:

    open(FILE, "<$existing_file") or die $!;

System Interaction

Not all platforms provide for the notion of a command line, necessarily. These are usually platforms that rely on a Graphical User Interface (GUI) for user interaction. So a program requiring command lines might not work everywhere. But this is probably for the user of the program to deal with.

Some platforms can't delete or rename files that are being held open by the system. Remember to close files when you are done with them. Don't unlink or rename an open file. Don't tie to or open a file that is already tied to or opened; untie or close first.

Don't open the same file more than once at a time for writing, as some operating systems put mandatory locks on such files.

Don't count on a specific environment variable existing in %ENV. Don't count on %ENV entries being case-sensitive, or even case-preserving.

Don't count on signals.

Don't count on filename globbing. Use opendir, readdir, and closedir instead.

Don't count on per-program environment variables, or per-program current directories.

Interprocess Communication (IPC)

In general, don't directly access the system in code that is meant to be portable. That means, no system, exec, fork, pipe, ``, perlman:perlop, open with a |, nor any of the other things that makes being a Unix perl hacker worth being.

Commands that launch external processes are generally supported on most platforms (though many of them do not support any type of forking), but the problem with using them arises from what you invoke with them. External tools are often named differently on different platforms, often not available in the same location, often accept different arguments, often behave differently, and often represent their results in a platform-dependent way. Thus you should seldom depend on them to produce consistent results.

One especially common bit of Perl code is opening a pipe to sendmail:

    open(MAIL, '|/usr/lib/sendmail -t') or die $!;

This is fine for systems programming when sendmail is known to be available. But it is not fine for many non-Unix systems, and even some Unix systems that may not have sendmail installed. If a portable solution is needed, see the Mail::Send and Mail::Mailer modules in the MailTools distribution. Mail::Mailer provides several mailing methods, including mail, sendmail, and direct SMTP (via Net::SMTP) if a mail transfer agent is not available.

The rule of thumb for portable code is: Do it all in portable Perl, or use a module (that may internally implement it with platform-specific code, but expose a common interface).

The UNIX System V IPC ( msg*(), sem*(), shm*()) is not available even in all UNIX platforms.

External Subroutines (XS)

XS code, in general, can be made to work with any platform; but dependent libraries, header files, etc., might not be readily available or portable, or the XS code itself might be platform-specific, just as Perl code might be. If the libraries and headers are portable, then it is normally reasonable to make sure the XS code is portable, too.

There is a different kind of portability issue with writing XS code: availability of a C compiler on the end-user's system. C brings with it its own portability issues, and writing XS code will expose you to some of those. Writing purely in perl is a comparatively easier way to achieve portability.

Standard Modules

In general, the standard modules work across platforms. Notable exceptions are (which currently makes connections to external programs that may not be available), platform-specific modules (like ExtUtils::MM_VMS), and DBM modules.

There is no one DBM module that is available on all platforms. SDBM_File and the others are generally available on all Unix and DOSish ports, but not in MacPerl, where only NBDM_File and DB_File are available.

The good news is that at least some DBM module should be available, and AnyDBM_File will use whichever module it can find. Of course, then the code needs to be fairly strict, dropping to the lowest common denominator (e.g., not exceeding 1K for each record).

Time and Date

The system's notion of time of day and calendar date is controlled in widely different ways. Don't assume the timezone is stored in $ENV{TZ}, and even if it is, don't assume that you can control the timezone through that variable.

Don't assume that the epoch starts at 00:00:00, January 1, 1970, because that is OS-specific. Better to store a date in an unambiguous representation. The ISO 8601 standard defines YYYY-MM-DD as the date format. A text representation (like 1 Jan 1970) can be easily converted into an OS-specific value using a module like Date::Parse. An array of values, such as those returned by localtime, can be converted to an OS-specific representation using Time::Local.

Character sets and character encoding

Assume very little about character sets. Do not assume anything about the numerical values (ord(), chr()) of characters. Do not assume that the alphabetic characters are encoded contiguously (in numerical sense). Do no assume anything about the ordering of the characters. The lowercase letters may come before or after the uppercase letters, the lowercase and uppercase may be interlaced so that both 'a' and 'A' come before the 'b', the accented and other international characters may be interlaced so that ä comes before the 'b'.


If you may assume POSIX (a rather large assumption, that: in practise that means UNIX) you may read more about the POSIX locale system from the perllocale manpage. The locale system at least attempts to make things a little bit more portable or at least more convenient and native-friendly for non-English users. The system affects character sets and encoding, and date and time formatting, among other things.

System Resources

If your code is destined for systems with severely constrained (or missing!) virtual memory systems then you want to be especially mindful of avoiding wasteful constructs such as:

    # NOTE: this is no longer "bad" in perl5.005
    for (0..10000000) {}                       # bad
    for (my $x = 0; $x <= 10000000; ++$x) {}   # good

    @lines = <VERY_LARGE_FILE>;                # bad

    while (<FILE>) {$file .= $_}               # sometimes bad
    $file = join('', <FILE>);                  # better

The last two may appear unintuitive to most people. The first of those two constructs repeatedly grows a string, while the second allocates a large chunk of memory in one go. On some systems, the latter is more efficient that the former.


Most multi-user platforms provide basic levels of security that is usually felt at the file-system level. Other platforms usually don't (unfortunately). Thus the notion of user id, or ``home'' directory, or even the state of being logged-in, may be unrecognizable on many platforms. If you write programs that are security conscious, it is usually best to know what type of system you will be operating under, and write code explicitly for that platform (or class of platforms).


For those times when it is necessary to have platform-specific code, consider keeping the platform-specific code in one place, making porting to other platforms easier. Use the Config module and the special variable $^O to differentiate platforms, as described in PLATFORMS.

CPAN Testers

Modules uploaded to CPAN are tested by a variety of volunteers on different platforms. These CPAN testers are notified by mail of each new upload, and reply to the list with PASS, FAIL, NA (not applicable to this platform), or UNKNOWN (unknown), along with any relevant notations.

The purpose of the testing is twofold: one, to help developers fix any problems in their code that crop up because of lack of testing on other platforms; two, to provide users with information about whether or not a given module works on a given platform.

Mailing list:
Testing results:


As of version 5.002, Perl is built with a $^O variable that indicates the operating system it was built on. This was implemented to help speed up code that would otherwise have to use Config; and use the value of $Config{'osname'}. Of course, to get detailed information about the system, looking into %Config is certainly recommended.


Perl works on a bewildering variety of Unix and Unix-like platforms (see e.g. most of the files in the hints/ directory in the source code kit). On most of these systems, the value of $^O (hence $Config{'osname'}, too) is determined by lowercasing and stripping punctuation from the first field of the string returned by typing uname -a (or a similar command) at the shell prompt. Here, for example, are a few of the more popular Unix flavors:

    uname        $^O        $Config{'archname'}
    AIX          aix        aix
    FreeBSD      freebsd    freebsd-i386    
    Linux        linux      i386-linux
    HP-UX        hpux       PA-RISC1.1
    IRIX         irix       irix
    OSF1         dec_osf    alpha-dec_osf
    SunOS        solaris    sun4-solaris
    SunOS        solaris    i86pc-solaris
    SunOS4       sunos      sun4-sunos

Note that because the $Config{'archname'} may depend on the hardware architecture it may vary quite a lot, much more than the $^O.

DOS and Derivatives

Perl has long been ported to PC style microcomputers running under systems like PC-DOS, MS-DOS, OS/2, and most Windows platforms you can bring yourself to mention (except for Windows CE, if you count that). Users familiar with COMMAND.COM and/or CMD.EXE style shells should be aware that each of these file specifications may have subtle differences:

    $filespec0 = "c:/foo/bar/file.txt";
    $filespec1 = "c:\\foo\\bar\\file.txt";
    $filespec2 = 'c:\foo\bar\file.txt';
    $filespec3 = 'c:\\foo\\bar\\file.txt';

System calls accept either / or \ as the path separator. However, many command-line utilities of DOS vintage treat / as the option prefix, so they may get confused by filenames containing /. Aside from calling any external programs, / will work just fine, and probably better, as it is more consistent with popular usage, and avoids the problem of remembering what to backwhack and what not to.

The DOS FAT filesystem can only accommodate ``8.3'' style filenames. Under the ``case insensitive, but case preserving'' HPFS (OS/2) and NTFS (NT) filesystems you may have to be careful about case returned with functions like readdir or used with functions like open or opendir.

DOS also treats several filenames as special, such as AUX, PRN, NUL, CON, COM1, LPT1, LPT2 etc. Unfortunately these filenames won't even work if you include an explicit directory prefix, in some cases. It is best to avoid such filenames, if you want your code to be portable to DOS and its derivatives.

Users of these operating systems may also wish to make use of scripts such as pl2bat.bat or pl2cmd as appropriate to put wrappers around your scripts.

Newline (\n) is translated as \015\012 by STDIO when reading from and writing to files. binmode(FILEHANDLE) will keep \n translated as \012 for that filehandle. Since it is a noop on other systems, binmode should be used for cross-platform code that deals with binary data.

The $^O variable and the $Config{'archname'} values for various DOSish perls are as follows:

    OS            $^O        $Config{'archname'}
    MS-DOS        dos
    PC-DOS        dos
    OS/2          os2
    Windows 95    MSWin32    MSWin32-x86
    Windows NT    MSWin32    MSWin32-x86
    Windows NT    MSWin32    MSWin32-alpha
    Windows NT    MSWin32    MSWin32-ppc

Also see:

The djgpp environment for DOS,
The EMX environment for DOS, OS/2, etc.,
Build instructions for Win32, perlwin32.
The ActiveState Pages,

Mac OS

Any module requiring XS compilation is right out for most people, because MacPerl is built using non-free (and non-cheap!) compilers. Some XS modules that can work with MacPerl are built and distributed in binary form on CPAN. See MacPerl: Power and Ease and CPAN Testers for more details.

Directories are specified as:

    volume:folder:file              for absolute pathnames
    volume:folder:                  for absolute pathnames
    :folder:file                    for relative pathnames
    :folder:                        for relative pathnames
    :file                           for relative pathnames
    file                            for relative pathnames

Files in a directory are stored in alphabetical order. Filenames are limited to 31 characters, and may include any character except :, which is reserved as a path separator.

Instead of flock, see FSpSetFLock and FSpRstFLock in the Mac::Files module.

In the MacPerl application, you can't run a program from the command line; programs that expect @ARGV to be populated can be edited with something like the following, which brings up a dialog box asking for the command line arguments.

    if (!@ARGV) {
        @ARGV = split /\s+/, MacPerl::Ask('Arguments?');

A MacPerl script saved as a droplet will populate @ARGV with the full pathnames of the files dropped onto the script.

Mac users can use programs on a kind of command line under MPW (Macintosh Programmer's Workshop, a free development environment from Apple). MacPerl was first introduced as an MPW tool, and MPW can be used like a shell:

    perl myscript.plx some arguments

ToolServer is another app from Apple that provides access to MPW tools from MPW and the MacPerl app, which allows MacPerl programs to use system, backticks, and piped open.

``Mac OS'' is the proper name for the operating system, but the value in $^O is ``MacOS''. To determine architecture, version, or whether the application or MPW tool version is running, check:

    $is_app    = $MacPerl::Version =~ /App/;
    $is_tool   = $MacPerl::Version =~ /MPW/;
    ($version) = $MacPerl::Version =~ /^(\S+)/;
    $is_ppc    = $MacPerl::Architecture eq 'MacPPC';
    $is_68k    = $MacPerl::Architecture eq 'Mac68K';

Mac OS X, to be based on NeXT's OpenStep OS, will be able to run MacPerl natively (in the Blue Box, and even in the Yellow Box, once some changes to the toolbox calls are made), but Unix perl will also run natively.

Also see:

The MacPerl Pages,
The MacPerl mailing list,


Perl on VMS is discussed in vms/perlvms.pod in the perl distribution. Note that perl on VMS can accept either VMS- or Unix-style file specifications as in either of the following:

    $ perl -ne "print if /perl_setup/i" SYS$LOGIN:LOGIN.COM
    $ perl -ne "print if /perl_setup/i" /sys$login/

but not a mixture of both as in:

    $ perl -ne "print if /perl_setup/i" sys$login:/
    Can't open sys$login:/ file specification syntax error

Interacting with Perl from the Digital Command Language (DCL) shell often requires a different set of quotation marks than Unix shells do. For example:

    $ perl -e "print ""Hello, world.\n"""
    Hello, world.

There are a number of ways to wrap your perl scripts in DCL .COM files if you are so inclined. For example:

    $ write sys$output "Hello from DCL!"
    $ if p1 .eqs. ""
    $ then perl -x 'f$environment("PROCEDURE")
    $ else perl -x - 'p1 'p2 'p3 'p4 'p5 'p6 'p7 'p8
    $ deck/dollars="__END__"

    print "Hello from Perl!\n";

    $ endif

Do take care with $ ASSIGN/nolog/user SYS$COMMAND: SYS$INPUT if your perl-in-DCL script expects to do things like $read = <STDIN>;.

Filenames are in the format ``name.extension;version''. The maximum length for filenames is 39 characters, and the maximum length for extensions is also 39 characters. Version is a number from 1 to 32767. Valid characters are /[A-Z0-9$_-]/.

VMS' RMS filesystem is case insensitive and does not preserve case. readdir returns lowercased filenames, but specifying a file for opening remains case insensitive. Files without extensions have a trailing period on them, so doing a readdir with a file named A.;5 will return a. (though that file could be opened with open(FH, 'A')).

RMS had an eight level limit on directory depths from any rooted logical (allowing 16 levels overall) prior to VMS 7.2. Hence PERL_ROOT:[LIB.] is a valid directory specification but PERL_ROOT:[LIB.] is not. Makefile.PL authors might have to take this into account, but at least they can refer to the former as /PERL_ROOT/lib/2/3/4/5/6/7/8/.

The VMS::Filespec module, which gets installed as part of the build process on VMS, is a pure Perl module that can easily be installed on non-VMS platforms and can be helpful for conversions to and from RMS native formats.

What \n represents depends on the type of file that is open. It could be \015, \012, \015\012, or nothing. Reading from a file translates newlines to \012, unless binmode was executed on that handle, just like DOSish perls.

TCP/IP stacks are optional on VMS, so socket routines might not be implemented. UDP sockets may not be supported.

The value of $^O on OpenVMS is ``VMS''. To determine the architecture that you are running on without resorting to loading all of %Config you can examine the content of the @INC array like so:

    if (grep(/VMS_AXP/, @INC)) {
        print "I'm on Alpha!\n";
    } elsif (grep(/VMS_VAX/, @INC)) {
        print "I'm on VAX!\n";
    } else {
        print "I'm not so sure about where $^O is...\n";

Also see:

vmsperl list,

Put words SUBSCRIBE VMSPERL in message body.

vmsperl on the web,

EBCDIC Platforms

Recent versions of Perl have been ported to platforms such as OS/400 on AS/400 minicomputers as well as OS/390 for IBM Mainframes. Such computers use EBCDIC character sets internally (usually Character Code Set ID 00819 for OS/400 and IBM-1047 for OS/390). Note that on the mainframe perl currently works under the ``Unix system services for OS/390'' (formerly known as OpenEdition).

As of R2.5 of USS for OS/390 that Unix sub-system did not support the #! shebang trick for script invocation. Hence, on OS/390 perl scripts can executed with a header similar to the following simple script:

    : # use perl
        eval 'exec /usr/local/bin/perl -S $0 ${1+"$@"}'
            if 0;
    #!/usr/local/bin/perl     # just a comment really

    print "Hello from perl!\n";

On these platforms, bear in mind that the EBCDIC character set may have an effect on what happens with some perl functions (such as chr, pack, print, printf, ord, sort, sprintf, unpack), as well as bit-fiddling with ASCII constants using operators like ^, & and |, not to mention dealing with socket interfaces to ASCII computers (see NEWLINES).

Fortunately, most web servers for the mainframe will correctly translate the \n in the following statement to its ASCII equivalent (note that \r is the same under both Unix and OS/390):

    print "Content-type: text/html\r\n\r\n";

The value of $^O on OS/390 is ``os390''.

Some simple tricks for determining if you are running on an EBCDIC platform could include any of the following (perhaps all):

    if ("\t" eq "\05")   { print "EBCDIC may be spoken here!\n"; }

    if (ord('A') == 193) { print "EBCDIC may be spoken here!\n"; }

    if (chr(169) eq 'z') { print "EBCDIC may be spoken here!\n"; }

Note that one thing you may not want to rely on is the EBCDIC encoding of punctuation characters since these may differ from code page to code page (and once your module or script is rumoured to work with EBCDIC, folks will want it to work with all EBCDIC character sets).

Also see:

perl-mvs list

The list is for discussion of porting issues as well as general usage issues for all EBCDIC Perls. Send a message body of ``subscribe perl-mvs'' to

AS/400 Perl information at


As Acorns use ASCII with newlines (\n) in text files as \012 like Unix and Unix filename emulation is turned on by default, it is quite likely that most simple scripts will work ``out of the box''. The native filing system is modular, and individual filing systems are free to be case-sensitive or insensitive, and are usually case-preserving. Some native filing systems have name length limits which file and directory names are silently truncated to fit - scripts should be aware that the standard disc filing system currently has a name length limit of 10 characters, with up to 77 items in a directory, but other filing systems may not impose such limitations.

Native filenames are of the form



    Special_Field is not usually present, but may contain . and $ .
    Filesystem =~ m|[A-Za-z0-9_]|
    DsicName   =~ m|[A-Za-z0-9_/]|
    $ represents the root directory
    . is the path separator
    @ is the current directory (per filesystem but machine global)
    ^ is the parent directory
    Directory and File =~ m|[^\0- "\.\$\%\&:\@\\^\|\177]+|

The default filename translation is roughly perlman:perlop

Note that "ADFS::HardDisc.$.File" ne 'ADFS::HardDisc.$.File' and that the second stage of $ interpolation in regular expressions will fall foul of the $. if scripts are not careful.

Logical paths specified by system variables containing comma-separated search lists are also allowed, hence System:Modules is a valid filename, and the filesystem will prefix Modules with each section of System$Path until a name is made that points to an object on disc. Writing to a new file System:Modules would only be allowed if System$Path contains a single item list. The filesystem will also expand system variables in filenames if enclosed in angle brackets, so <System$Dir>.Modules would look for the file $ENV{'System$Dir'} . 'Modules'. The obvious implication of this is that B<fully qualified filenames can start with <> and should be protected when open is used for input.

Because . was in use as a directory separator and filenames could not be assumed to be unique after 10 characters, Acorn implemented the C compiler to strip the trailing .c .h perlman:perlop and .o suffix from filenames specified in source code and store the respective files in subdirectories named after the suffix. Hence files are translated:

    C:foo.h        (logical path variable)
    sys/os.h        sys.h.os       (C compiler groks Unix-speak)
    10charname.c    c.10charname
    10charname.o    o.10charname
    11charname_.c   c.11charname   (assuming filesystem truncates at 10)

The Unix emulation library's translation of filenames to native assumes that this sort of translation is required, and allows a user defined list of known suffixes which it will transpose in this fashion. This may appear transparent, but consider that with these rules foo/bar/baz.h and foo/bar/h/baz both map to, and that readdir and glob cannot and do not attempt to emulate the reverse mapping. Other .s in filenames are translated to /.

As implied above the environment accessed through %ENV is global, and the convention is that program specific environment variables are of the form Program$Name. Each filing system maintains a current directory, and the current filing system's current directory is the global current directory. Consequently, sociable scripts don't change the current directory but rely on full pathnames, and scripts (and Makefiles) cannot assume that they can spawn a child process which can change the current directory without affecting its parent (and everyone else for that matter).

As native operating system filehandles are global and currently are allocated down from 255, with 0 being a reserved value the Unix emulation library emulates Unix filehandles. Consequently, you can't rely on passing STDIN, STDOUT, or STDERR to your children.

The desire of users to express filenames of the form <Foo$Dir>.Bar on the command line unquoted causes problems, too: `` command output capture has to perform a guessing game. It assumes that a string <[^<>]+\$[^<>]> is a reference to an environment variable, whereas anything else involving < or > is redirection, and generally manages to be 99% right. Of course, the problem remains that scripts cannot rely on any Unix tools being available, or that any tools found have Unix-like command line arguments.

Extensions and XS are, in theory, buildable by anyone using free tools. In practice, many don't, as users of the Acorn platform are used to binary distribution. MakeMaker does run, but no available make currently copes with MakeMaker's makefiles; even if/when this is fixed, the lack of a Unix-like shell can cause problems with makefile rules, especially lines of the form cd sdbm && make all, and anything using quoting.

``RISC OS'' is the proper name for the operating system, but the value in $^O is ``riscos'' (because we don't like shouting).

Also see:

perl list

Other perls

Perl has been ported to a variety of platforms that do not fit into any of the above categories. Some, such as AmigaOS, BeOS, QNX, and Plan 9, have been well-integrated into the standard Perl source code kit. You may need to see the ports/ directory on CPAN for information, and possibly binaries, for the likes of: aos, atari, lynxos, riscos, Tandem Guardian, vos, etc. (yes we know that some of these OSes may fall under the Unix category, but we are not a standards body.)

See also:

Atari, Guido Flohr's page
HP 300 MPE/iX
Novell Netware

A free perl5-based PERL.NLM for Novell Netware is available from


Listed below are functions unimplemented or implemented differently on various platforms. Following each description will be, in parentheses, a list of platforms that the description applies to.

The list may very well be incomplete, or wrong in some places. When in doubt, consult the platform-specific README files in the Perl source distribution, and other documentation resources for a given port.

Be aware, moreover, that even among Unix-ish systems there are variations.

For many functions, you can also query %Config, exported by default from For example, to check if the platform has the lstat call, check $Config{'d_lstat'}. See for a full description of available variables.

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