Over the last five years there has been an explosion of interest in Perl. This is largely because of the huge boost that Perl received when it was adopted as the de facto language for creating content on the World Wide Web. Perl’s powerful text manipulation facilities made it an obvious choice for writing Common Gateway Interface (CGI) scripts. In the wake of the web’s popularity, Perl has become one of the hottest programming languages currently in use.
Unfortunately, a side effect of this association with CGI programming has been the popular misconception that this is Perl’s sole function. Some people even believe that Perl was designed for use in CGI programming. This is clearly wrong as Perl was, in fact, written long before the design of the CGI protocol.
This book, then, is not about writing CGI scripts, but about another of the computing tasks for which Perl is particularly well suited—data munging.
Data munging encompasses all of those boring, everyday tasks to which most programmers devote a good deal of their time—the tasks of converting data from one format into another. This comes close to being a definitive statement of what programming is: taking input data, processing (or “munging”) it, and producing output data. This is what most programmers do most of the time.
Perl is particularly good at these kinds of tasks. It helps programmers write data conversion programs quickly. In fact, the same characteristics that make Perl ideal for CGI programming also make it ideal for data munging. (CGI programs are really data munging programs in flashy disguise.)
In keeping with the Perl community slogan, “There’s more than one way to do it,” this book examines a number of ways of dealing with various types of data. Hopefully, this book will provide some new “ways to do it” that will make your programming life more productive and more enjoyable.