Here is a minimal usable .emacs
file for Perl programming.
;; Use cperl mode instead of the default perl mode
(defalias 'perl-mode 'cperl-mode)
;; Turn syntax highlighting on
;; 4 space indent in cperl mode
(setq cperl-indent-level 4)
;; Insert spaces instead of tabs
(setq-default indent-tabs-mode nil)
It is better to use Ilya's cperl mode than the default perl mode. The syntax highlighting is optional but recommended. The last two commands set the indent level and the tab expansion. Combined with cperl mode these replicate the vi tab stop behaviour.
It may also be worth adding a link to the Emacs Wiki which is a great source of information.
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