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Man Page for PERLFORM

     perlform - Perl formats

     Perl has a mechanism to help you generate simple reports and
     charts.  To facilitate this, Perl helps you lay out your
     output page in your code in a fashion that's close to how it
     will look when it's printed.  It can keep track of things
     like how many lines on a page, what page you're, when to
     print page headers, etc.  The keywords used are borrowed
     from FORTRAN: format() to declare and write() to execute;
     see their entries in the manfunc manpage.  Fortunately, the
     layout is much more legible, more like BASIC's PRINT USING
     statement.  Think of it as a poor man's nroff(1).

     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
     though.) 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 having a
     format named "Foo".  However, the default name for the
     format associated with a given filehandle is the same as the
     name of the filehandle.  Thus, the default format for STDOUT
     is name "STDOUT", and the default format for filehandle TEMP
     is name "TEMP".  They just look the same.  They aren't.

     Output record formats are declared as follows:

         format NAME =

     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:

     1.  A comment, indicated by putting a '#' in the first

     2.  A "picture" line giving the format for one output  line.

     3.  An argument line supplying values to plug into the
         previous picture line.

     Picture lines are printed exactly as they look, except for
     certain fields that substitute values into the line.  Each
     field in a picture line starts with either "@" (at) or "^"
     (caret).  These lines do not undergo any kind of variable
     interpolation.  The at field (not to be confused with the
     array marker @) is the normal kind of field; the other kind,
     caret fields, are used to do rudimentary multi-line text
     block filling.  The length of the field is supplied by
     padding out the field with multiple "<", ">", or "|"
     characters to specify, respectively, left justification,
     right justification, or centering.  If the variable would
     exceed the width specified, it is truncated.

     As an alternate form of right justification, you may also
     use "#" characters (with an optional ".") to specify a
     numeric field.  This way you can line up the decimal points.
     If any value supplied for these fields contains a newline,
     only the text up to the newline is printed.  Finally, the
     special field "@*" can be used for printing multi-line,
     non-truncated  values; it should appear by itself on a line.

     The values are specified on the following line in the same
     order as the picture fields.  The expressions providing the
     values should be separated by commas.  The expressions are
     all evaluated in a list context before the line is
     processed, so a single list expression could produce
     multiple list elements.  The expressions may be spread out
     to more than one line if enclosed in braces.  If so, the
     opening brace must be the first token on the first line.

     Picture fields that begin with ^ rather than @ are treated
     specially.  With a # field, the field is blanked out if the
     value is undefined.  For other field types, the caret
     enables a kind of fill mode.  Instead of an arbitrary
     expression, the value supplied must be a scalar variable
     name that contains a text string.  Perl puts as much text as
     it can into the field, and then chops off the front of the
     string so that the next time the variable is referenced,
     more of the text can be printed.  (Yes, this means that the
     variable itself is altered during execution of the write()
     call, and is not returned.)  Normally you would use a
     sequence of fields in a vertical stack to print out a block
     of text.  You might wish to end the final field with the
     text "...", which will appear in the output if the text was
     too long to appear in its entirety.  You can change which
     characters are legal to break on by changing the variable $:
     (that's $FORMAT_LINE_BREAK_CHARACTERS if you're using the
     English module) to a list of the desired characters.

     Since use of caret fields can produce variable length
     records.  If the text to be formatted is short, you can
     suppress blank lines by putting a "~" (tilde) character
     anywhere in the line.  The tilde will be translated to a
     space upon output.  If you put a second tilde contiguous to
     the first, the line will be repeated until all the fields on
     the line are exhausted.  (If you use a field of the at
     variety, the expression you supply had better not give the
     same value every time forever!)

     Top-of-form processing is by default handled by a format
     with the same name as the current filehandle with "_TOP"
     concatenated to it.  It's triggered at the top of each page.
     See <perlfunc/write()>.


      # a report on the /etc/passwd file
      format STDOUT_TOP =
                              Passwd File
      Name                Login    Office   Uid   Gid 	Home
      format STDOUT =
      @<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<@||||||| @<<<<<< @>>>> @>>>> @<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<< $name, $login, $office,$uid,$gid, $home . # a report from a bug report form format STDOUT_TOP="Bug" Reports @<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<< @||| @>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>> $system, $%, $date . format STDOUT="Subject:" @<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<< $subject Index: @<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<< ^<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<< $index, $description Priority: @<<<<<<<<<< Date: @<<<<<<< ^<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<< $priority, $date, $description From: @<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<< ^<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<< $from, $description Assigned to: @<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<< ^<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<< $programmer, $description ~ ^<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<< $description ~ ^<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<< $description ~ ^<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<< $description ~ ^<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<< . It is possible to intermix print()s with write()s on the same output channel, but you'll have to handle $- ($FORMAT_LINES_LEFT) yourself. Format Variables The current format name is stored in the variable $~ ($FORMAT_NAME), and the current top of form format name is in $^ ($FORMAT_TOP_NAME). The current output page number is stored in $% ($FORMAT_PAGE_NUMBER), and the number of lines on the page is in $="($FORMAT_LINES_PER_PAGE)." Whether to autoflush output on this handle is stored in $<$|> ($OUTPUT_AUTOFLUSH). The string output before each top of page (except the first) is stored in $^L ($FORMAT_FORMFEED). These variables are set on a per-filehandle basis, so you'll need to select() into a different one to affect them:

                 $~ = "My_Other_Format",
                 $^ = "My_Top_Format"

     Pretty ugly, eh?  It's a common idiom though, so don't be
     too surprised when you see it.  You can at least use a
     temporary variable to hold the previous filehandle: (this is
     a much better approach in general, because not only does
     legibility improve, you now have intermediary stage in the
     expression to single-step the debugger through):

         $ofh = select(OUTF);
         $~ = "My_Other_Format";
         $^ = "My_Top_Format";

     If you use the English module, you can even read the
     variable names:

         use English;
         $ofh = select(OUTF);
         $FORMAT_NAME     = "My_Other_Format";
         $FORMAT_TOP_NAME = "My_Top_Format";

     But you still have those funny select()s.  So just use the
     FileHandle module.  Now, you can access these special
     variables using lower-case method names instead:

         use FileHandle;
         format_name     OUTF "My_Other_Format";
         format_top_name OUTF "My_Top_Format";

     Much better!

     Since the values line may contain arbitrary expression (for
     at fields, not caret fields), you can farm out any more
     sophisticated processing to other functions, like sprintf()
     or one of your own.  For example:

         format Ident =
             @<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<&commify($n) . To get a real at or caret into the field, do this: format Ident="I" have an @ here. "@" . To center a whole line of text, do something like this: format Ident="@|||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||" "Some text line" . There is no builtin way to say "float this to the right hand side of the page, however wide it is." You have to specify where it goes. The truly desperate can generate their own format on the fly, based on the current number of columns, and then eval() it:

         $format  = "format STDOUT = 0;
                  . '^' . '<' x $cols . "0;
                  . '$entry' . "0;
                  . "^" . "<" x ($cols-8) . "~~0;
                  . '$entry' . "0;
                  . ".0;
         print $format if $Debugging;
         eval $format;
         die $@ if $@;

     Which would generate a format looking something like this:

      format STDOUT =
      ^<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<< $entry ^<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<~~ $entry . Here's a little program that's somewhat like fmt(1): format="^<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<" ~~ $_ . $/ ; while (<>) { s/0s*/ /g; write; } Footers While $FORMAT_TOP_NAME contains the name of the current header format, there is no corresponding mechanism to automatically do the same thing for a footer. Not knowing how big a format is going to be until you evaluate it is one of the major problems. It's on the TODO list. Here's one strategy: If you have a fixed-size footer, you can get footers by checking $FORMAT_LINES_LEFT before each write() and print the footer yourself if necessary.

     Here's another strategy; open a pipe to yourself, using
     open(MESELF, "|-") (see the open() entry in the perlfunc
     manpage) and always write() to MESELF instead of STDOUT.
     Have your child process postprocesses its STDIN to rearrange
     headers and footers however you like.  Not very convenient,
     but doable.

     Accessing Formatting Internals

     For low-level access to the formatting mechanism.  you may
     use formline() and access $^A (the $ACCUMULATOR variable)

     For example:

         $str = formline <<'END', 1,2,3;
         @<<<@||| @>>>

         print "Wow, I just stored `$^A' in the accumulator!0;

     Or to make an swrite() subroutine which is to write() what
     sprintf() is to printf(), do this:

         use English;
         use Carp;
         sub swrite {
             croak "usage: swrite PICTURE ARGS" unless @ARG;
             return $ACCUMULATOR;

         $string = swrite(<<'END', 1, 2, 3);
      Check me out
      @<<<@||| @>>>
         print $string;

     During the execution of a format, only global variables are
     visible, or dynamically-scoped ones declared with local().
     Lexically scoped variables declared with my() are NOT
     available, as they are not considered to reside in the same
     lexical scope as the format.


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