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Perldoc for Non-Computer People

by HughBris (Acolyte)
on May 05, 2006 at 01:12 UTC ( [id://547548]=perlquestion: print w/replies, xml ) Need Help??

HughBris has asked for the wisdom of the Perl Monks concerning the following question:


I do not know if this is the right place to put this, or how I go about finding it again if someone does answer it, but here goes:

I have seen a lot of people suggest reading the perldocs to figure out how to do things in Perl. What language is that written in, and is there anyplace that I can get an English translation?

Unfortunately, unlike everyone else on this site, I do not have a degree in "Things That Only I Know" from from the Digital University. I have a degree in Wrench Turning from the School of Hard Knocks. I do not even know why I decided to learn how to program. But I did, and now I can not stop until either I get in a drunken bar fight with someone from this club or I get extridited back to Mexico.

If anyone can help me, and speak in small words, it would be much appreciated. Tony Ah, you are a layman, then let me speak in technical terms.

Replies are listed 'Best First'.
Re: Perldoc for Non-Computer People
by davido (Cardinal) on May 05, 2006 at 02:20 UTC

    "What language is that written in, and is there anyplace that I can get an English translation?" Yes. Learning Perl, by Tom Phoenix, Randal Schwartz, and Brian D. Foy is a "Plain Old English" introduction to Perl. Having worked your way through that book, you'll be much better equipped to understand Perl's Plain Old Documentation. Regarding the POD, don't be discouraged if there are documents or portions thereof that you don't initially comprehend. perlintro ought to be about the first one you 'get', and little by little it all falls into place.

    There are a lot of people here who don't have CS degrees, myself included. Everyone starts somewhere.... at least everyone who starts in the first place. ;)


      I'd have to agree.

      Learning Perl is one of the best introductions to a programming language that I have encountered. Eminently readable and I tend to prefer "dead tree versions" and it fits nicely into the other O'Reilley tomes like the famous Camel (Programming Perl).

      You can use the book to pace learning through topics and use the online docs to pad out knowledge that interests you.

Re: Perldoc for Non-Computer People
by BerntB (Deacon) on May 05, 2006 at 01:43 UTC
    The command "perldoc" bootstraps you quite well.

    (I.e. tells about the "-h" option and "perldoc perldoc".)

    Otherwise, check if the Perl documentation is installed as man pages. (The Activestate html implementation is nice, as previous poster wrote.)

    That is strict internal documentation for Perl. You really need to get a few books and e.g. read tutorials on this site (which have an how-to-learn part) and articles at

    (Second take: You used the term "perldoc", which is a specific part of Perl documentation. It seems, on consideration, as if you asked for "Perl documentation". Start with the "Tutorials" linked at the top of the page. They are quite good, IMHO.)

Re: Perldoc for Non-Computer People
by GrandFather (Saint) on May 05, 2006 at 01:33 UTC

    If you are using Windows and an ActiveState Perl install then you can read the docs by pointing your browser at file:///C:/Perl/html/index.html (the path will be different if you installed to somewhere other than the default location).

    DWIM is Perl's answer to Gödel
      Even better, just go to your start menu and look for ActiveState, then you can drill down and find a link to the entire documentation set, including all the module docs.

      But to be perfectly honest, that is not the place to start! Get yourself a copy of "Learning Perl", currently in its 4th edition and read, mark and inwardly digest the contents thereof.


        Even if I use the CLI version also under Windows, if he finds himself consulting the HTML version of the docs quite often, then a link on the desktop (mine is almost empty) or on the personal toolbar may result to be even easier points of access to it. Just an idea...

Re: Perldoc for Non-Computer People
by ikegami (Patriarch) on May 05, 2006 at 03:46 UTC

    You can get to the docs online, via Perl Monks.

    If you type doc://index in the search, you'll get the front page of the latest Perl docs.

    If you type doc://perlXXX in the search, you'll get the perlXXX man page. Keep in mind that perlfunc lists all the functions.

    If you type doc://FUNC in the search, you'll get the documentation for function FUNC.

    All of these (currently) redirect you to nicely formatted documents at

Re: Perldoc for Non-Computer People
by zentara (Archbishop) on May 05, 2006 at 12:00 UTC
    and speak in small words

    Read "perldoc perldoc". :-)

    For a beginner all you need to know is

    "perldoc -f somefunction" will give the documentation for a perl function (if it exists )

    "perldoc -q somekeyword" will search the excellent Perl faqs for that keyword, and will return all the references to the keyword in the faqs. Like "perldoc -q number"

    When you are in a perldoc session, and you want to search for a word in it, hit /, followed by the search word and enter. Then that word will be found and highlighted.

    To read a module's documentation, it's "perldoc fullmodulename", like "perldoc Tk::Canvas" or "perldoc "MIME::Lite".

    For the inner workings of pod, look at juerd's pod tutorial

    I'm not really a human, but I play one on earth. flash japh
Re: Perldoc for Non-Computer People
by TedPride (Priest) on May 05, 2006 at 05:13 UTC
    perlfunc and perlvar aren't very hard to understand if you already have some programming experience. I suggest starting with those. Of course, they could be made much simpler by boiling them down to just the parts that people use a lot, and regex is complicated no matter how you package it, but I wouldn't go so far as to say the docs are useless in their present form.

    You may also have missed the massive numbers of categorized code snippets in the Q & A section.

Re: Perldoc for Non-Computer People
by Anonymous Monk on May 05, 2006 at 06:29 UTC
Re: Perldoc for Non-Computer People
by spiritway (Vicar) on May 05, 2006 at 15:08 UTC

    Hi, [id://HughBris]. It's difficult to use perldoc, true. It's written in a somewhat foreign language, using various terms of art that are baffling to a newcomer. But what you're asking is similar to an English-speaker asking how to learn Spanish, without having to learn all those foreign words.

    I don't know the percentages, but a large number of the monks here learned programming on their own, and not through formal training. Certainly, not "everyone else on this site" has a degree in computer science.

    Finally, I question your claim of understanding only "little words". Your handle suggests otherwise.

Re: Perldoc for Non-Computer People
by brian_d_foy (Abbot) on May 05, 2006 at 20:45 UTC

    I think you want my Perl documentation documentation.

    If you're using perldoc, you are now a computer person. You won't get an ID card or a free t-shirt, and you're where everyone else started: at the beginning.

    Good luck :)

    brian d foy <>
    Subscribe to The Perl Review
Re: Perldoc for Non-Computer People
by planetscape (Chancellor) on May 06, 2006 at 04:08 UTC
Re: Perldoc for Non-Computer People
by DaWolf (Curate) on May 05, 2006 at 21:31 UTC
Re: Perldoc for Non-Computer People
by graff (Chancellor) on May 05, 2006 at 03:36 UTC
    Greetings back atcha. I'm inclined to say that "Seekers of Perl Wisdom" at PerlMonks isn't the right place for your particular question, because the "question" is just rhetorical (or flame bait? or self pity? whatever it is, it's ineffective as a request for help).

    Now, suppose instead that you were to quote a particular passage from some perl documentation -- maybe even say what you were hoping to accomplish with perl when you decided to look this up and read it -- and then ask what the passage really means. For that sort of question, this is the right place.

    Do you have a question of that sort?

Re: Perldoc for Non-Computer People
by monarch (Priest) on May 08, 2006 at 16:13 UTC

    I learned programming from the "school of hard knocks" too. Whilst I have a university degree it was not at university that I picked up most of my programming skills and knowledge.

    That said, HughBris, you will still be helped but not because you class yourself as a poor "layman". Just ask your question and be prepared to look silly - and spend hours googling if you don't wish to look silly.

    PS: no proficient computer programmer or technician got good without burning whole days trying to solve some of the most basic questions like "how do I get Windows to work with my new CDROM drive" or "why does my program keep throwing a syntax error" or even "where is the darn documentation for this product". So when you talk school of hard knocks, this is the kinda knock you gotta be prepared to take.. the knock of failure after failure till you discover how to do it!

Re: Perldoc for Non-Computer People
by HughBris (Acolyte) on May 09, 2006 at 12:06 UTC

    I would like to give a deeply heartfelt thank you to all of you who answered my qustion. I was honestly expecting half the answers to say something like "you are just too stupid to learn Perl", instead I found people who honestly wanted to help.

    I am definitely going to check out the books that you have recomended.

    Also, as a personal aside: I am glad that none of you answered with that cryptic "u r 1337" stuff that you see on almost every other website. have yet to learn to translate any of that.

    Once again, thank you all very much.


      Hi Tony,
      yeah, I hate all of that 21st century "txt" slang too. It seems to me that a lot of those people graduated from mobile phones to computers and still type with their thumbs.
      I don't mind the occasional "imho" or smileys though, as they can moderate what might otherwise be taken as arrogance (imho I probably should have added a smiley to my first statement. Oh well, prepare to be downvoted
      Bill H
      perl -e 'print sub { "Hello @{[shift]}!\n" }->("World")'

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