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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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4.9 Foreach Loops

The foreach loop iterates over a normal list value and sets the variable VAR to be each element of the list in turn. If the variable is preceded with the keyword my, then it is lexically scoped, and is therefore visible only within the loop. Otherwise, the variable is implicitly local to the loop and regains its former value upon exiting the loop. If the variable was previously declared with my, it uses that variable instead of the global one, but it's still localized to the loop. This implicit localisation occurs only in a foreach loop.

The foreach keyword is actually a synonym for the for keyword, so you can use foreach for readability or for for brevity. (Or because the Bourne shell is more familiar to you than csh, so writing for comes more naturally.) If VAR is omitted, $_ is set to each value.

If any element of LIST is an lvalue, you can modify it by modifying VAR inside the loop. Conversely, if any element of LIST is NOT an lvalue, any attempt to modify that element will fail. In other words, the foreach loop index variable is an implicit alias for each item in the list that you're looping over.

If any part of LIST is an array, foreach will get very confused if you add or remove elements within the loop body, for example with splice. So don't do that.

foreach probably won't do what you expect if VAR is a tied or other special variable. Don't do that either.

Examples:

for (@ary) { s/foo/bar/ }
for my $elem (@elements) {
    $elem *= 2;
}
for $count (10,9,8,7,6,5,4,3,2,1,'BOOM') {
    print $count, "\n"; sleep(1);
}
for (1..15) { print "Merry Christmas\n"; }
foreach $item (split(/:[\\\n:]*/, $ENV{TERMCAP})) {
    print "Item: $item\n";
}

Here's how a C programmer might code up a particular algorithm in Perl:

for (my $i = 0; $i < @ary1; $i++) {
    for (my $j = 0; $j < @ary2; $j++) {
        if ($ary1[$i] > $ary2[$j]) {
            last; # can't go to outer :-(
        }
        $ary1[$i] += $ary2[$j];
    }
    # this is where that last takes me
}

Whereas here's how a Perl programmer more comfortable with the idiom might do it:

OUTER: for my $wid (@ary1) {
INNER:   for my $jet (@ary2) {
            next OUTER if $wid > $jet;
            $wid += $jet;
         }
      }

See how much easier this is? It's cleaner, safer, and faster. It's cleaner because it's less noisy. It's safer because if code gets added between the inner and outer loops later on, the new code won't be accidentally executed. The next explicitly iterates the other loop rather than merely terminating the inner one. And it's faster because Perl executes a foreach statement more rapidly than it would the equivalent for loop.

ISBN 9781906966027Perl Language Reference ManualSee the print edition