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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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10.3 Technical Note on the Syntax of Variable Names

Variable names in Perl can have several formats. Usually, they must begin with a letter or underscore, in which case they can be arbitrarily long (up to an internal limit of 251 characters) and may contain letters, digits, underscores, or the special sequence :: or '. In this case, the part before the last :: or ' is taken to be a package qualifier; see "Perl modules (packages and symbol tables)" (perlmod) in the Perl Library Reference Manual (Volume 2).

Perl variable names may also be a sequence of digits or a single punctuation or control character. These names are all reserved for special uses by Perl; for example, the all-digits names are used to hold data captured by backreferences after a regular expression match. Perl has a special syntax for the single-control-character names: It understands ^X (caret X) to mean the control-X character. For example, the notation $^W (dollar-sign caret W) is the scalar variable whose name is the single character control-W. This is better than typing a literal control-W into your program.

Finally, new in Perl 5.6, Perl variable names may be alphanumeric strings that begin with control characters (or better yet, a caret). These variables must be written in the form ${^Foo}; the braces are not optional. ${^Foo} denotes the scalar variable whose name is a control-F followed by two o's. These variables are reserved for future special uses by Perl, except for the ones that begin with ^_ (control-underscore or caret-underscore). No control-character name that begins with ^_ will acquire a special meaning in any future version of Perl; such names may therefore be used safely in programs. $^_ itself, however, is reserved.

Perl identifiers that begin with digits, control characters, or punctuation characters are exempt from the effects of the package declaration and are always forced to be in package main; they are also exempt from strict 'vars' errors. A few other names are also exempt in these ways:

ENV             STDIN
INC             STDOUT
ARGV            STDERR
ARGVOUT         _

In particular, the new special ${^_XYZ} variables are always taken to be in package main, regardless of any package declarations presently in scope.

ISBN 9781906966027Perl Language Reference ManualSee the print edition