Perl overview


Perl is a programming language used widely in the UNIX/Linux world to write everything from quick scripts to powerful, broad-featured programs. The following is a description from the perlintro man page:

What is Perl?

Perl is a general-purpose programming language originally developed for text manipulation and now used for a wide range of tasks including system administration, web development, network programming, GUI development, and more.

The language is intended to be practical (easy to use, efficient, complete) rather than beautiful (tiny, elegant, minimal). Its major features are that it's easy to use, supports both procedural and object-oriented (OO) programming, has powerful built-in support for text processing, and has one of the world's most impressive collections of third-party modules.

Different definitions of Perl are given in perl, perlfaq1 and no doubt other places. From this, we can determine that Perl is different things to different people, but that lots of people think it's at least worth writing about.


Perl was created in the mid-1980s by Larry Wall. Its original intent was to fill in the gap between so-called "low-level" languages like C and C++, and the higher-level scripting languages like awk, sed, and shell scripts. It has evolved considerably since then, becoming the de facto language of choice for many *nix system administrators and power users. It has found broad appeal on the Internet (a mostly *nix based network) as the background code behind many sites on the World Wide Web. A notable example is Slashdot.

Perl on DreamHost

Path to the Perl interpreter

The path to Perl on DreamHost's servers is shown below. This path is standard on *nix-based systems and most scripts should not need to be modified.


mod_perl is currently not supported at DreamHost. You must use FastCGI instead.

Installing a custom Perl version

You can install a custom version of Perl under your username. View the following article for instructions:

Using Perl Modules

DreamHost has many Perl modules pre-installed. To check whether a Perl module is installed on DreamHost's servers, log into your shell account, and then type the following:

[server]$ perl -MThe::Module::Name -e0

where The::Module::Name is the name of the Perl module you are looking for.

The command outputs nothing when the module is found. If it's not found, an error is thrown.

Installing custom modules

You can install your own modules in your user's home directory. Follow these DreamHost-specific instructions for installing CPAN modules.


DreamHost runs suexec and requires that all CGI scripts and the directories in which they reside not be writable by anyone but the owner (i.e., user). This means that you must change the permissions of the script using chmod (see the following example):

[server]$ chmod -R 755 perldir

where perldir is the directory in which your Perl CGI resides.

See also

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