In order to be able to learn Perl, you’ll have to first get it installed on your favorite Operating System. This chapter will show you how.
When Perl users think Windows, one name comes to mind: http://www.ActiveState.com. ActiveState became famous for having the best Perl distribution for Windows around. The offer Perl for free, as well as Python and Tcl. ActiveState’s Perl distro comes with PPM – the Perl Package Manager, which has many precompiled modules for Windows and other architectures.
You can use PPM as a GUI or from the command line – whichever way you feel more comfortable. We’ll see more about PPM later on.
Although ActiveState became famous for its Windows distributions, it doesn’t stop there – you can also download Perl for Linux, Mac OS X, and Unix flavors AIX, Solaris, and HP-UX. And if you need to install it on any system not readily available, you can also get the source files for building. However, if you have a Unix or Linux distribution already running, then you probably already have Perl installed.
To see if you have Perl in your path, you can run which perl from the command line. It’s most likely under some default directory such as /bin or /usr/bin. If you’ve found it, you can run perl -v or perl -V for information regarding your distribution.
If you need a fresh install, for example in case you don’t have root access and need a newer perl release, you can compile one from source. The official Perl website is http://www.perl.org, and that’s where you’ll find the latest Perl release.
The steps for compiling Perl from source are out of the scope of this course, but it’s pretty straight forward – the configuration script is very verbose and it suggests the best values in case you don’t understand a certain question. Run ./configure, make, make test, make install and you’re done. Just have your favorite book handy, or another session to go through the documentation while the installation runs. It’s quite a lengthy process.
“Cygwin is a Linux-like environment for Windows”. It’s an EXCELLENT tool for those who wish they had Linux or Unix but can’t. You can get it from their official site: http://www.cygwin.com. It installs using a Graphical User Interface, where you can select the Cygwin modules. Many of your most favorite *nix tools have been ported to Cygwin, and there are dozens of mirrors worldwide.
For many years, Perl was selected for installation by default. Recent releases, however, require that you manually select it. There are also some Perl modules available. Don’t forget also to select the tools you’ll need to build Perl modules: gcc, make, and their dependencies.