[thelist] An Informal Perl Survey

John Kipling Lewis jklewis at umich.edu
Fri Mar 1 10:11:23 CST 2002

On Thu, 28 Feb 2002, Mohammad Burhan Khalid wrote:

> Hello list :
> 	As some of you might have noticed, I was having slight issues with Perl
> today, which got me to thinking, what is the best use for this powerful
> language? What is it best suited for? I know that it has been around for a
> long time, and for a while was the king of CGI based internet exchanges.
> But, I wonder with the advent of new technologies (ASP, PHP, CF, etc.),
> which can do pretty much the same things as Perl; has Perl become outdated?
> I realize that many *nix people swear by the language, and it is used for
> many reporting purposes. I had to learn it as part of my Linux+
> Certification course.  I am speaking from a web developer point of view.
> What are your best uses of Perl?
> Thoughts? Opinions?

Perl is a wonderful language for text manipulation.  Since unix uses text
for almost all of it's configuration files and it's main interface is a
command line, Perl is amazingly useful for scripting.  Perl's weakness is
that it can do anything and do it in multiple ways.  This leaves the
novice Perl programmer in the odd situation of a free slate.  There is not
*right* way to do anything in Perl.

When Perl became a standard for CGI, it was because it matched the medium
better than any other language.  HTML is essentially just text, which Perl
is ideal at working with.  Because you can do anything with Perl, it
quickly evolved specific mods to allow for HTML and web interactions.

PHP, ASP, & CF were languages designed for web content from the ground
up.  Since they are focused in one direction, their very often is only one
*right* way to do things.  Where Perl might require a complicated set of
commands or a specific mod to accomplish some of it's web work, PHP and
ASP have single commands for the same action.

I found that Perl was ideal for web content when I first started working
with CGI, but shortly after that I found PHP.  The difference was, to me,
clear.  PHP was focused and easy to use, with enough Perl like syntax that
I could jump right in.  I've never used ASP or CF, but I understand that
they too work well in this regard.

I hope that answers something for you. ;-)

John -

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