Wednesday, May 22, 2024

Make Perl Scripts More Readable With perltidy

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I am of course sure that everyone reading this is well aware of scripting best practices and always writes beautifully neat and well-set-out scripts that will still have meaning when you return to them in six
months time. You might not then need perltidy for your own

Even so, from time to time you might come across a script left
over from before your time or written by a colleague in a hurry that on
examination bears a strong resemblance to alphabet spaghetti.

Enter perltidy, a program generated from the Perl module
Perl::Tidy, which saves you time by unmangling Perl code for you. You can
download it from CPAN, or it may be available through your distro. (Debian and
Ubuntu both provide it.)

Basic operation is simply to type perltidy This
will leave the initial file alone and create a new tidied-up file with a
.tdy extension.

Alternatively, you can use the -b switch to do the opposite: Make a backup of the original file and then edit it in-line. The -syn switch will run a syntax check of the original code at the same time.

I tried it out on the second
prize entry in the 5th annual Obfuscated Perl Contest
. Although it didn’t simplify the program logic any, it definitely made it more
readable and gave a better chance of figuring out what was going on. Try it
out for yourself, and see if it can save you some time and mental effort in
disentangling confusing code.

This article was first published on

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