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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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23.1 The Perl Debugger

If you invoke Perl with the -d switch, your script runs under the Perl source debugger. This works like an interactive Perl environment, prompting for debugger commands that let you examine source code, set breakpoints, get stack backtraces, change the values of variables, etc. This is so convenient that you often fire up the debugger all by itself just to test out Perl constructs interactively to see what they do. For example:

$ perl -d -e 42

In Perl, the debugger is not a separate program the way it usually is in the typical compiled environment. Instead, the -d flag tells the compiler to insert source information into the parse trees it's about to hand off to the interpreter. That means your code must first compile correctly for the debugger to work on it. Then when the interpreter starts up, it preloads a special Perl library file containing the debugger.

The program will halt right before the first run-time executable statement (but see below regarding compile-time statements) and ask you to enter a debugger command. Contrary to popular expectations, whenever the debugger halts and shows you a line of code, it always displays the line it's about to execute, rather than the one it has just executed.

Any command not recognized by the debugger is directly executed (eval'd) as Perl code in the current package. (The debugger uses the DB package for keeping its own state information.)

Note that the said eval is bound by an implicit scope. As a result any newly introduced lexical variable or any modified capture buffer content is lost after the eval. The debugger is a nice environment to learn Perl, but if you interactively experiment using material which should be in the same scope, stuff it in one line.

For any text entered at the debugger prompt, leading and trailing whitespace is first stripped before further processing. If a debugger command coincides with some function in your own program, merely precede the function with something that doesn't look like a debugger command, such as a leading ; or perhaps a +, or by wrapping it with parentheses or braces.

ISBN 9781906966027Perl Language Reference ManualSee the print edition