Perl Absolute Beginners Guide - Lesson One

First Steps

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Perl is a great first language for people with no programming experience. It is easy to install, and actually comes pre-installed on most non-Windows operating systems. It has a very open syntax which, although very complex, is also very forgiving. It has a huge and freely available library (CPAN, the Comprehensive Perl Archive Network) that covers almost every imaginable area of programming and makes it exceedingly simple to create useful programs, whatever your need.

It also has a huge, very friendly support group across the internet - literally thousands of tutorials, ready-made scripts and discussion groups are out there. With such a massive amount of readily available information, one of the largest problems that a beginner faces is knowing where and how to get started.

Getting Started

The first thing you'll need to do is install and test Perl. Once it's up and running, you can get your hands dirty with sample scripts and programs. If you're a Mac OS X user, Perl is most-likely already installed on your system and ready to run. Fire up your Terminal application in your utilities folder and type this on the command line:

perl -v
If Perl is installed and operating correctly, you'll see a large amount of information printed including the current version of Perl you are running. This same test applies to Linux and Unix systems (most of which come with Perl pre-installed), although the method of accessing the terminal may be different.

On a Windows system, installing Perl is a little more involved, but made very easy by ActiveState's ActivePerl.

I've written a step-by-step tutorial on installing Perl on Windows systems that should get you through the process in a few minutes.

Once you've gotten Perl installed, it's advisable (and somewhat traditional) to test the installation by writing out a simple Hello World application. This will begin to get you familiar with the basic structure of a Perl application and make sure you know how to get your exercises and sample scripts up and running throughout the learning process.

At this point, you should be ready to start learning some basic programming concepts by learning about Perl data types.

  1. Perl Data Types