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Programming Perl, 3rd Edition by Jon Orwant, Tom Christiansen, Larry Wall

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Chapter 7. Formats

Perl has a mechanism to help you generate simple reports and charts. To facilitate this, Perl helps you code up your output page close to how it will look when it's printed. It can keep track of things like how many lines are on a page, the current page number, when to print page headers, and so on. Keywords are borrowed from FORTRAN: format to declare and write to execute; see the relevant entries in Chapter 29. Fortunately, the layout is much more legible, more like the PRINT USING statement of BASIC. Think of it as a poor man's nroff (1). (If you know nroff, that may not sound like a recommendation.)

Formats, like packages and subroutines, are declared rather than executed, so they may occur at any point in your program. (Usually it's best to keep them all together.) They have their own namespace apart from all the other types in Perl. This means that if you have a function named "Foo", it is not the same thing as a format named "Foo". However, the default name for the format associated with a given filehandle is the same as the name of that filehandle. Thus, the default format for STDOUT is named "STDOUT", and the default format for filehandle TEMP is named "TEMP". They just look the same. They aren't.

Output record formats are declared as follows:

format NAME =
FORMLIST
.

If NAME is omitted, format STDOUT is defined. FORMLIST consists of a sequence of lines, each of which may be of one of three types:

  • A comment, indicated by putting a # in the first column. ...

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