It was originally said to stand for "Practical Extraction and Reporting Language" but that name is no longer used. Larry Wall prefers the use of an upper-case "Perl" for the language itself and lower-case "perl" for any compiler or interpreter of Perl.
It is a script programming language that is alike in syntax to the C language and that involved many popular UNIX facilities like awk, sed and tr. It is an interpreted language that optionally can be compiled just before execution into either C code or cross-platform bytecode. While compiled, a Perl program is almost (but not quite) as quick as a fully precompiled C language program. It is regarded as a good option for developing common gateway interface (CGI) programs as it has good text manipulation facilities (although it also manages binary files). Larry Wall was invented.
Generally, it is easier to learn and faster to code in than the more structured C languages and C++ languages. However, Perl programs can be quite sophisticated. Perl tends to contain devoted adherents. A plug-in may be installed for some servers (for instance Apache) so that Perl is permanently loaded in memory, therefore reducing compile time and resulting in faster execution of CGI Perl scripts.
Perl is used for:
Web site and web application development:
It is one of the major players in this field though it makes less noise than some other languages.
There are various modern frameworks for web applications development in Perl such like Catalyst, Mojo, Jifty, and Titanium.Additionally, several companies maintaining their own stack of libraries for writing their web application.
A couple of web applications that are developed in Perl: WebGUI, Melody, Movable Type, LiveJournal, DreamWidth, The Internet Movie Database Ticketmaster & Booking.com. Just to name a few.
It has an extensive test framework and tools to test any application regardless of the language that was used for the application. It can be used to test, Databases, Web applications File systems, Networking devices, and even desktop applications. Just to name a few.
It has been packaged along with Clear Case and it is the most common language to create the customization level connecting the version control system, the build and packaging system with the bug tracking system and the testing system.
One of the original aims of Perl was to replace and unify all the small tools available on UNIX. Nowadays every UNIX system or Linux system comes with perl and many of them based on perl to do all the tasks associated to system management.E.g. SpamAssassin is one of the leading Spam filters.
There is a wealth of information for people in the field on the Bioperl.
Desktop Application Development:
It has less penetration in the Desktop application development market however there are at least three distinct toolkits to write cross-platform desktop applications. Gtk2 Perl, Perl/Tk, and wxPerl.
There are many open source applications in each one of the toolkits that you can see. For example Zim, the desktop wiki is written in Gtk2 Perl whereas Padre, the Perl IDE is written via wxPerl.
Remedie is a media player developed in Perl. This is a desktop application that runs in a browser.
The original Frozen Bubble is possibly the most well known game written in Perl. This is using the SDL Perl framework that lately saw a surge of new development.
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