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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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pack TEMPLATE,LIST

Takes a LIST of values and converts it into a string using the rules given by the TEMPLATE. The resulting string is the concatenation of the converted values. Typically, each converted value looks like its machine-level representation. For example, on 32-bit machines an integer may be represented by a sequence of 4 bytes, which will in Perl be presented as a string that's 4 characters long.

See "Tutorial on pack and unpack" (perlpacktut) in Perl Tutorials for an introduction to this function.

The TEMPLATE is a sequence of characters that give the order and type of values, as follows:

a A string with arbitrary binary data, will be null padded.
A A text (ASCII) string, will be space padded.
Z A null-terminated (ASCIZ) string, will be null padded.
b A bit string (ascending bit order inside each byte, like vec()).
B A bit string (descending bit order inside each byte).
h A hex string (low nybble first).
H A hex string (high nybble first).
c A signed char (8-bit) value.
C An unsigned char (octet) value.
W An unsigned char value (can be greater than 255).
s A signed short (16-bit) value.
S An unsigned short value.
l A signed long (32-bit) value.
L An unsigned long value.
q A signed quad (64-bit) value.
Q An unsigned quad value. (Quads are available only if your system supports 64-bit integer values and if Perl has been compiled to support those. Raises an exception otherwise.)
i A signed integer value.
I A unsigned integer value. (This 'integer' is at least 32 bits wide. Its exact size depends on what a local C compiler calls 'int'.)
n An unsigned short (16-bit) in "network" (big-endian) order.
N An unsigned long (32-bit) in "network" (big-endian) order.
v An unsigned short (16-bit) in "VAX" (little-endian) order.
V An unsigned long (32-bit) in "VAX" (little-endian) order.
j A Perl internal signed integer value (IV).
J A Perl internal unsigned integer value (UV).
f A single-precision float in native format.
d A double-precision float in native format.
F A Perl internal floating-point value (NV) in native format
D A float of long-double precision in native format. (Long doubles are available only if your system supports long double values and if Perl has been compiled to support those. Raises an exception otherwise.)
p A pointer to a null-terminated string.
P A pointer to a structure (fixed-length string).
u A uuencoded string.
U A Unicode character number. Encodes to a character in character mode and UTF-8 (or UTF-EBCDIC in EBCDIC platforms) in byte mode.
w A BER compressed integer (not an ASN.1 BER, see perlpacktut for details). Its bytes represent an unsigned integer in base 128, most significant digit first, with as few digits as possible. Bit eight (the high bit) is set on each byte except the last.
x A null byte (a.k.a ASCII NUL, "\000", chr(0))
X Back up a byte.
@ Null-fill or truncate to absolute position, counted from the start of the innermost ()-group.
. Null-fill or truncate to absolute position specified by the value.
( Start of a ()-group.
One or more modifiers below may optionally follow certain letters in the TEMPLATE (the second column lists letters for which the modifier is valid):
! sSlLiI Forces native (short, long, int) sizes instead of fixed (16-/32-bit) sizes.
xX Make x and X act as alignment commands.
nNvV Treat integers as signed instead of unsigned.
@. Specify position as byte offset in the internal representation of the packed string. Efficient but dangerous.
> sSiIlLqQ Force big-endian byte-order on the type.
jJfFdDpP (The "big end" touches the construct.)
< sSiIlLqQ Force little-endian byte-order on the type.
jJfFdDpP (The "little end" touches the construct.)
The > and < modifiers can also be used on () groups to force a particular byte-order on all components in that group, including all its subgroups. The following rules apply: Examples:
$foo = pack("WWWW",65,66,67,68);
# foo eq "ABCD"
$foo = pack("W4",65,66,67,68);
# same thing
$foo = pack("W4",0x24b6,0x24b7,0x24b8,0x24b9);
# same thing with Unicode circled letters.
$foo = pack("U4",0x24b6,0x24b7,0x24b8,0x24b9);
# same thing with Unicode circled letters. You don't get the UTF-8
# bytes because the U at the start of the format caused a switch to
# U0-mode, so the UTF-8 bytes get joined into characters
$foo = pack("C0U4",0x24b6,0x24b7,0x24b8,0x24b9);
# foo eq "\xe2\x92\xb6\xe2\x92\xb7\xe2\x92\xb8\xe2\x92\xb9"
# This is the UTF-8 encoding of the string in the previous example
$foo = pack("ccxxcc",65,66,67,68);
# foo eq "AB\0\0CD"
# NOTE: The examples above featuring "W" and "c" are true
# only on ASCII and ASCII-derived systems such as ISO Latin 1
# and UTF-8.  On EBCDIC systems, the first example would be
#      $foo = pack("WWWW",193,194,195,196);
$foo = pack("s2",1,2);
# "\1\0\2\0" on little-endian
# "\0\1\0\2" on big-endian
$foo = pack("a4","abcd","x","y","z");
# "abcd"
$foo = pack("aaaa","abcd","x","y","z");
# "axyz"
$foo = pack("a14","abcdefg");
# "abcdefg\0\0\0\0\0\0\0"
$foo = pack("i9pl", gmtime);
# a real struct tm (on my system anyway)
$utmp_template = "Z8 Z8 Z16 L";
$utmp = pack($utmp_template, @utmp1);
# a struct utmp (BSDish)
@utmp2 = unpack($utmp_template, $utmp);
# "@utmp1" eq "@utmp2"
sub bintodec {
    unpack("N", pack("B32", substr("0" x 32 . shift, -32)));
}
$foo = pack('sx2l', 12, 34);
# short 12, two zero bytes padding, long 34
$bar = pack('s@4l', 12, 34);
# short 12, zero fill to position 4, long 34
# $foo eq $bar
$baz = pack('s.l', 12, 4, 34);
# short 12, zero fill to position 4, long 34
$foo = pack('nN', 42, 4711);
# pack big-endian 16- and 32-bit unsigned integers
$foo = pack('S>L>', 42, 4711);
# exactly the same
$foo = pack('s<l<', -42, 4711);
# pack little-endian 16- and 32-bit signed integers
$foo = pack('(sl)<', -42, 4711);
# exactly the same
The same template may generally also be used in unpack().
ISBN 9781906966027Perl Language Reference ManualSee the print edition