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Perl Language Reference Manual
by Larry Wall and others
Paperback (6"x9"), 724 pages
ISBN 9781906966027
RRP £29.95 ($39.95)

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5.4 Scalar value constructors

Numeric literals are specified in any of the following floating point or integer formats:

12345
12345.67
.23E-10             # a very small number
3.14_15_92          # a very important number
4_294_967_296       # underscore for legibility
0xff                # hex
0xdead_beef         # more hex   
0377                # octal (only numbers, begins with 0)
0b011011            # binary

You are allowed to use underscores (underbars) in numeric literals between digits for legibility. You could, for example, group binary digits by threes (as for a Unix-style mode argument such as 0b110_100_100) or by fours (to represent nibbles, as in 0b1010_0110) or in other groups.

String literals are usually delimited by either single or double quotes. They work much like quotes in the standard Unix shells: double-quoted string literals are subject to backslash and variable substitution; single-quoted strings are not (except for \' and \\). The usual C-style backslash rules apply for making characters such as newline, tab, etc., as well as some more exotic forms. See 7.29 for a list.

Hexadecimal, octal, or binary, representations in string literals (e.g. '0xff') are not automatically converted to their integer representation. The hex() and oct() functions make these conversions for you. See and for more details.

You can also embed newlines directly in your strings, i.e., they can end on a different line than they begin. This is nice, but if you forget your trailing quote, the error will not be reported until Perl finds another line containing the quote character, which may be much further on in the script. Variable substitution inside strings is limited to scalar variables, arrays, and array or hash slices. (In other words, names beginning with $ or @, followed by an optional bracketed expression as a subscript.) The following code segment prints out "The price is ${}100."

$Price = '$100';    # not interpolated
print "The price is $Price.\n";     # interpolated

There is no double interpolation in Perl, so the $100 is left as is.

By default floating point numbers substituted inside strings use the dot (".") as the decimal separator. If use locale is in effect, and POSIX::setlocale() has been called, the character used for the decimal separator is affected by the LC_NUMERIC locale. See "Perl locale handling (internationalization and localization)" (perllocale) in the Perl Unicode and Locales Manual and "Perl interface to IEEE Std 1003.1" (POSIX) in the Perl Library Reference Manual (Volume 3).

As in some shells, you can enclose the variable name in braces to disambiguate it from following alphanumerics (and underscores). You must also do this when interpolating a variable into a string to separate the variable name from a following double-colon or an apostrophe, since these would be otherwise treated as a package separator:

$who = "Larry";
print PASSWD "${who}::0:0:Superuser:/:/bin/perl\n";
print "We use ${who}speak when ${who}'s here.\n";

Without the braces, Perl would have looked for a $whospeak, a $who::0, and a $who's variable. The last two would be the $0 and the $s variables in the (presumably) non-existent package who.

In fact, an identifier within such curlies is forced to be a string, as is any simple identifier within a hash subscript. Neither need quoting. Our earlier example, $days{'Feb'} can be written as $days{Feb} and the quotes will be assumed automatically. But anything more complicated in the subscript will be interpreted as an expression. This means for example that $version{2.0}++ is equivalent to $version{2}++, not to $version{'2.0'}++.

ISBN 9781906966027Perl Language Reference ManualSee the print edition