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Chip Salzenberg > perl5.004 > perlwin32


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perlwin32 - Perl under Win32


These are instructions for building Perl under Windows NT (versions 3.51 or 4.0), using Visual C++ (versions 2.0 through 5.0). Currently, this port may also build under Windows95, but you can expect problems stemming from the unmentionable command shell that infests that platform. Note this caveat is only about building perl. Once built, you should be able to use it on either Win32 platform (modulo the problems arising from the inferior command shell).


Before you start, you should glance through the README file found in the top-level directory where the Perl distribution was extracted. Make sure you read and understand the terms under which this software is being distributed.

Also make sure you read the "BUGS AND CAVEATS" section below for the known limitations of this port.

The INSTALL file in the perl top-level has much information that is only relevant to people building Perl on Unix-like systems. In particular, you can safely ignore any information that talks about "Configure".

You may also want to look at two other options for building a perl that will work on Windows NT: the README.cygwin32 and README.os2 files, which give a different set of rules to build a Perl that will work on Win32 platforms. Those two methods will probably enable you to build a more Unix-compatible perl, but you will also need to download and use various other build-time and run-time support software described in those files.

This set of instructions is meant to describe a so-called "native" port of Perl to Win32 platforms. The resulting Perl requires no additional software to run (other than what came with your operating system). Currently, this port is only capable of using Microsoft's Visual C++ compiler. The ultimate goal is to support the other major compilers that can generally be used to build Win32 applications.

This port currently supports MakeMaker (the set of modules that is used to build extensions to perl). Therefore, you should be able to build and install most extensions found in the CPAN sites. See "Usage Hints" below for general hints about this.

Setting Up



Type "nmake test". This will run most of the tests from the testsuite (many tests will be skipped, and but no test should fail).

If some tests do fail, it may be because you are using a different command shell than the native "cmd.exe".

Please report any failures as described under "BUGS AND CAVEATS".


Type "nmake install". This will put the newly built perl and the libraries under "C:\perl" (actually whatever you set INST_TOP to in the Makefile). It will also install the pod documentation under $INST_TOP\lib\pod and HTML versions of the same under $INST_TOP\lib\pod\html. To use the Perl you just installed, set your PATH environment variable to "C:\perl\bin" (or $INST_TOP\bin, if you changed the default as above).

Usage Hints

Environment Variables

The installation paths that you set during the build get compiled into perl, so you don't have to do anything additional to start using that perl (except add its location to your PATH variable).

If you put extensions in unusual places, you can set PERL5LIB to a list of paths separated by semicolons where you want perl to look for libraries. Look for descriptions of other environment variables you can set in the perlrun podpage.

Sometime in the future, some of the configuration information for perl will be moved into the Windows registry.

Using perl from the command line

If you are accustomed to using perl from various command-line shells found in UNIX environments, you will be less than pleased with what Windows NT offers by way of a command shell.

The crucial thing to understand about the "cmd" shell (which is the default on Windows NT) is that it does not do any wildcard expansions of command-line arguments (so wildcards need not be quoted). It also provides only rudimentary quoting. The only (useful) quote character is the double quote ("). It can be used to protect spaces in arguments and other special characters. The Windows NT documentation has almost no description of how the quoting rules are implemented, but here are some general observations based on experiments: The shell breaks arguments at spaces and passes them to programs in argc/argv. Doublequotes can be used to prevent arguments with spaces in them from being split up. You can put a double quote in an argument by escaping it with a backslash and enclosing the whole argument within double quotes. The backslash and the pair of double quotes surrounding the argument will be stripped by the shell.

The file redirection characters "<", ">", and "|" cannot be quoted by double quotes (there are probably more such). Single quotes will protect those three file redirection characters, but the single quotes don't get stripped by the shell (just to make this type of quoting completely useless). The caret "^" has also been observed to behave as a quoting character (and doesn't get stripped by the shell also).

Here are some examples of usage of the "cmd" shell:

This prints two doublequotes:

    perl -e "print '\"\"' "

This does the same:

    perl -e "print \"\\\"\\\"\" "

This prints "bar" and writes "foo" to the file "blurch":

    perl -e "print 'foo'; print STDERR 'bar'" > blurch

This prints "foo" ("bar" disappears into nowhereland):

    perl -e "print 'foo'; print STDERR 'bar'" 2> nul

This prints "bar" and writes "foo" into the file "blurch":

    perl -e "print 'foo'; print STDERR 'bar'" 1> blurch

This prints "foo" and writes "bar" to the file "blurch":

    perl -e "print 'foo'; print STDERR 'bar'" 2> blurch

This pipes "foo" to the "less" pager and prints "bar" on the console:

    perl -e "print 'foo'; print STDERR 'bar'" | less

This pipes "foo\nbar\n" to the less pager:

    perl -le "print 'foo'; print STDERR 'bar'" |& less

This does the same thing as the above:

    perl -le "print 'foo'; print STDERR 'bar'" 2>&1 | less

This pipes "foo" to the pager and writes "bar" in the file "blurch":

    perl -e "print 'foo'; print STDERR 'bar'" 2> blurch | less

Discovering the usage of the "" shell on Windows95 is left as an exercise to the reader :)

Building Extensions

The Comprehensive Perl Archive Network (CPAN) offers a wealth of extensions, some of which require a C compiler to build. Look in for more information on CPAN.

Most extensions (whether they require a C compiler or not) can be built, tested and installed with the standard mantra:

    perl Makefile.PL
    nmake test
    nmake install

Note the NMAKE that comes with Visual C++ is required. Some extensions may not provide a testsuite (so "nmake test" may not do anything, or fail), but most serious ones do.

If a module implements XSUBs, you will need a C compiler (Visual C++ versions 2.0 and above are currently supported). You must make sure you have set up the environment for the compiler for command-line compilation.

If a module does not build for some reason, carefully look at why it failed, and report problems to the module author. If it looks like the extension building support is at fault, report that with full details of how the build failed using the perlbug utility.

Win32 Specific Extensions

A number of extensions specific to the Win32 platform are available from CPAN. You may find that many of these extensions are meant to be used under the Activeware port of Perl, which used to be the only native port for the Win32 platform. Since the Activeware port does not have adequate support for Perl's extension building tools, these extensions typically do not support those tools either, and therefore cannot be built using the generic steps shown in the previous section.

To ensure smooth transitioning of existing code that uses the Activeware port, there is a bundle of Win32 extensions that contains all of the Activeware extensions and most other Win32 extensions from CPAN in source form, along with many added bugfixes, and with MakeMaker support. This bundle is available at:

See the README in that distribution for building and installation instructions. Look for later versions that may be available at the same location.

It is expected that authors of Win32 specific extensions will begin distributing their work in MakeMaker compatible form subsequent to the 5.004 release of perl, at which point the need for a dedicated bundle such as the above should diminish.

Miscellaneous Things

A full set of HTML documentation is installed, so you should be able to use it if you have a web browser installed on your system.

perldoc is also a useful tool for browsing information contained in the documentation, especially in conjunction with a pager like less (recent versions of which have Win32 support). You may have to set the PAGER environment variable to use a specific pager. "perldoc -f foo" will print information about the perl operator "foo".

If you find bugs in perl, you can run perlbug to create a bug report (you may have to send it manually if perlbug cannot find a mailer on your system).


This port has not been tested as extensively as we'd like, and therefore should be considered beta quality software. You should expect changes in virtually all of these areas: build process, installation structure, supported utilities/modules, and supported perl functionality. In particular, functionality specific to the Win32 environment may ultimately be supported as either core modules or extensions. This means that you should be prepared to recompile extensions when binary incompatibilites arise due to changes in the internal structure of the code.

If you have had prior exposure to Perl on Unix platforms, you will notice this port exhibits behavior different from what is documented. Most of the differences fall under one of these categories. We do not consider any of them to be serious limitations (especially when compared to the limited nature of some of the Win32 OSes themselves :)

Please send detailed descriptions of any problems and solutions that you may find to <>, along with the output produced by perl -V.


Gary Ng <71564.1743@CompuServe.COM>
Gurusamy Sarathy <>
Nick Ing-Simmons <>




This port was originally contributed by Gary Ng around 5.003_24, and borrowed from the Hip Communications port that was available at the time.

Nick Ing-Simmons and Gurusamy Sarathy have made numerous and sundry hacks since then.

Last updated: 15 May 1997

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