Getting Started with Perl

Every now and then, a friend will express an interest in Perl, and wants to know how to get started learning and using it. Here's what I send them.

—Bill Odom


On Windows, ActiveState's ActivePerl distribution is a good choice:

On UNIX (or variants such as Linux, FreeBSD, and even Mac OS X), then you're in luck — Perl is probably already available. To install a different (perhaps more recent) version, you can just go to CPAN, grab the sources for the release you want, and build it locally:

If that's not your style, ActiveState also provides binary distributions for Solaris, Linux, and Mac OS X. Just follow the ActiveState link above and select the appropriate download.


The two main Perl websites:

Perl 101, "Things Every Perl Programmer Should Know":

A helpful site for people new to Perl:

A searchable interface to the Comprehensive Perl Archive Network (CPAN):

A online version of the Perl documentation:
(These docs are also included as part of any typical Perl installation.), "a common blogging platform for the Perl community":

Perl community news and individual blogs:

Community support site (and general hangout) for Perl people:


Learning Perl (4rd Edition)
A good book for people with at least a little programming experience.

Programming Perl (3rd Edition)
The definitive reference for Perl, co-authored by Larry Wall, the creator of Perl.

Perl Cookbook (2nd Edition)
Many short examples of how to do very specific tasks in Perl, like “Computing Union, Intersection, or Difference of Unique Lists” or “Writing an Inheritable Class.” A wonderful book.

Perl Best Practices
A set of practical guidelines to help you write reliable, maintainable Perl applications.

The Perl CD Bookshelf, Version 4.0
Many of the O’Reilly Perl books on CD, in HTML, with a search utility. Incredibly useful.

Mailing Lists

Perl Beginners Mailing List
There are lots (and I do mean lots) of Perl mailing lists, but this is a fairly newbie-friendly place where you can ask questions without getting attacked.

Perl Beginners CGI Mailing List
If you're specifically interested in CGI (and similar technologies), try this one.

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