I had too much free time today, so I created a new perl man page. It's been surprisingly useful for other people already.


perldocs - Perl documentation documentation


This documents the perl documentation


If you have perl, you should have the documentation.

Before perl existed, it had no documention. Then version 1 came along and that changed. As I write this, perl is up to version 5.8 (and up to 5.16 as I update this) and it has over a thousand pages of documentation that comes with perl itself.

I generally advise people to read the documentation first, but it's too late for that in most cases, and even if you did, it would take you a long time to finish. The trick is to know where to look to get what you need.

Reading the Frickin' Manual

The perl manual pages are on your system somewhere (unless you have Mac OS X, it seems: stay tuned for updates). You can use the perldoc command line program to read a particular page. If you want to find out how to use it, use the perldoc command to read its documentation.

        perldoc perldoc

Any time you want to read a perl manual page, just tell perldoc to display that page. If I want to read perltoc, I use perldoc.

        perldoc perltoc

Your system may also have the documentation in other formats, such as HTML or Windows Help files.

You can also read the perl docs on the web:

Enough POD to be dangerous

POD is ``Plain old documentation''. It's a minimal plain text format that most perlers use to write things. Its format is explained in perlpod.

        perldoc perlpod

You can look at the POD source with perldoc's -m switch.

        perldoc -m perlpod

You can check your (or somebody else's) POD with podchecker or the Test::Pod module.

You can convert POD to other formats, including LaTeX, HTML, and text. Look for the pod2latex, pod2html, and pod2text. You need to give it the file name to convert, which you can get with perldoc's -l switch.

        pod2html `perldoc -l perl` > perl.html


If you don't know which page you need to read, start with perltoc, which is the table of contents for the rest of the core perl documentation.

        perldoc perltoc


Even if you are one in a million, that leaves 5,000 people just like you, and if only 1 in a thousand use perl, that's still 5 perl programmers just like you. Every one of those 5 people have already asked your question, twice. The answer might be in perlfaq somewhere.

There are nine perlfaq pages, broken into broad categories. perlfaq is a table of contents.

You can search the perlfaq pages with perldoc's -q switch.

        perldoc -q perldoc

You can read the perlfaq online at

Parts of the perlfaq are regularly posted to the usenet group comp.lang.perl.misc .

If you want to see the latest version of the perlfaq, you can check out the sources from CVS.


perlfunc lists the documentation for each perl function, and although you should read it through at least once in your life, you can read the documentation for a single function with perldoc's -f switch.

        perldoc -f localtime


Use the perldoc command to read the documentation for installed modules.

        perldoc Module::Starter

CPAN search sites

Look on CPAN Search,, or MetaCPAN,, for documentation on modules that you haven't installed.

Randal's columns

Randal has spent way too much time writing about Perl for it all to go to waste. Most of his columns are available online.


Learn to use Google to find things. Use perl as a keyword. You only think this is obvious, but read the questions in usenet groups or on Perlmonks for a while to find out just how many people can't use a search engine.

For instance, you can limit your search to a particular site with in a Google search. This query limits itself to CGI

You can search Randal's articles for ``deep copy'', "deep copy"

or search Perlmonks for @ISA @ISA

or search CPAN Search for ``pop3 ssl'' POP3 ssl

The Camel

You don't have to buy ``Programming Perl'', also known as the Camel book, but you also don't have to have any free time either. It's your choice. Every copy you buy supports starving children in Mountain View.

The Llama

The Llama book is ``Learning Perl''. You don't have to learn Perl, but it helps. You'd be surprised how many people try to get by without learning Perl.

The Ram

A lot of people like ``The Perl Cookbook''. When you aren't reading its hundreds of pages for Perl recipes, it makes a darned good paperweight or a doorstop.

Comprehensive Perl Archive Network (CPAN)

Most of what you think of CPAN probably isn't: it's just the archive. CPAN Search, module uploads,, and other things are not CPAN.

CPAN has its own FAQ that explains it all.

Perl Authors Upload Server (PAUSE)

PAUSE is the author interface to CPAN, and it has its own documentation.

brian d foy <>