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Posted 13 Oct 2002

CPerlWrap - A class wrapper for embedding Perl into your MFC program

, 23 Feb 2012
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Simple class to allow fast, easy access to Perl and Perl variables.

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I often find myself having to decide between making a project in VC++ or Perl and having to make it one or the other, not both. Perl is wonderful for string manipulation, hashes and arrays of arbitrary objects, and DWIM (Do What I Mean) behavior. VC++ is fast, has excellent type checking and debugging, and the resulting program can be easily packaged up for other machines. Perl requires that the target machine has Perl already installed. Some operations are one or two lines in Perl and 100 or 200 lines in VC++ (and vice versa). Perl is very fast for prototyping, etc. ad nauseum.

I have seen the manual pages for Perl (perlguts, perlembed, perlapi, ...) showing how easy (ha!) it is to embed Perl into C/C++, but they are almost incomprehensible to somebody who doesn't get into the guts of Perl. Almost as bad as OLE! :-)

Further, even with the code to have embedded Perl, there is still the issue of getting C++ variables into and out of that instance of Perl. Even more arcane magic is required. This led me to spend some time reading and testing Perl embedding capabilities. Virtually everything I have here comes from the Perl manual pages, particularly perlguts, perlembed, and perlapi. These are not for the faint of heart. They certainly aren't for casual use.

This effort, plus a little experience in real-world applications using embedded Perl, yields the following:

Class CPerlWrap

Update (21-Feb-2012): See also CPerlWrapSTL in the source archive for a non-MFC version, courtesy of CodeProject member SLJW (a.k.a., jwilde).

This class allows you to create an instance of Perl, pass variables into and out of that instance, and run arbitrary scripts. The instance "stays alive" until explicitly destroyed, so you can run many different scripts without re-instantiating.

The three major variable types in Perl are the scalar ($abc), the list (@def), and the hash (%ghi) which correspond to MFC types of CString/int/double (for scalars), CStringArray (for lists), and CMapStringToString (for hashes). For each of these, there is a get and a set function:

// These are used to create and populate arbitrary variables.
// Good for setting up data to be processed by the script.
// They all return TRUE if the 'set' was successful.
// set scalar ($varName) to integer value
BOOL setIntVal(CString varName, int value); 
// set scalar ($varName) to double value
BOOL setFloatVal(CString varName, double value); 
// set scalar ($varName) to string value
BOOL setStringVal(CString varName, CString value); 
// set array (@varName) to CStringArray value
BOOL setArrayVal(CString varName, CStringArray &value); 
// set hash (%varName) to CMapStringToString value
BOOL setHashVal(CString varName, CMapStringToString &value); 
// These are used to get the values of arbitrary
// variables ($a, $abc, @xyx, %gwxy, etc.)
// They all return TRUE if the variable was defined and set
// get scalar ($varName) as an int
BOOL getIntVal(CString varName, int &val); 
// get scalar ($varName) as a double
BOOL getFloatVal(CString varName, double &val); 
// get scalar ($varName) as a string
BOOL getStringVal(CString varName, CString &val); 
// get array (@varName) as a CStringArray
BOOL getArrayVal(CString varName, CStringArray &values); 
// get hash (%varName) as a CMapStringToString
BOOL getHashVal(CString varName, CMapStringToString &value);

So if I have a CString that I want to do something Perlish on, for instance extracting all the words into an array of words, here is my VC++ code:

// perlInst is an instance of CPerlWrap
CString str("this is a verylong set of words"
   " that would be a pain to deal with in C++");
perlInst.doScript("@b = split(/\s+/, $string);");
CStringArray words;
perlInst.getArrayVal("b", words);

(Yes, this could be done in C++, but it's an easy example!)

Or perhaps I want to capitalize each word in that string, using the following VC++ code:

// perlInst is an instance of CPerlWrap
CString str("this is a verylong set of "
  "words that would be a pain to deal with in C++");
perlInst.doScript("$string =~ s/(\w+)/\u\L$1/g;");
perlInst.getStringVal("string", str);

The results:

This Is A Verylong Set Of Words That Would Be A Pain To Deal With In C++

Or how about getting the first non-trivial-sized plural word and some context?

// perlInst is an instance of CPerlWrap
CString str("this is a verylong set of words" 
     " that would be a pain to deal with in C++");
    "$str =~ m/(\w+)\s+(\w{3,}s)\s+(\w+)/;\n"
    "$match = \"lead context = '$1' "
    "match = '$2' trail context = '$3'\";"
CString match;
perlInst.getStringVal("match", match);

Which results in match containing:

lead context = 'of' match = 'words' trail context = 'that'

Ah! I have your attention now! Good.

The scripts needn't be one liners.

CString script(
        "$a = \"this is a verylong set of " 
        "words that would be a pain to deal with in C++\";\n"
        "$a=~ s/(\w+)/\u\L$1/g;"

As it happens, this particular script doesn't really need the embedded new-line \n, but if you want the errors message to point to something other than line 1, you'll add new-lines.

Error detection and error messages

Error messages? Well, startling as it may seem, sometimes there are errors in the Perl script that you run. It never happens to me (#include <NoseGettingLonger>) of course, but I've included some support for it. Here is an example showing an error and getting access to the problem report from Perl:

// this is missing the ';' at the end of the first line
CString script(
        "my $d = 'this is a verylong set of words'\n"
        "$d =~ m/(\w+)\s+(\w{3,}s)\s+(\w+)/;"
        CString errmsg = perlInst.getErrorMsg();
                 errmsg = getWarnings();
        MessageBox(errmsg,"Script Failure");

Which yields:

Scalar found where operator expected at (eval 18)
                      line 2, near "'this is a verylong set of words'
        (Missing operator before

By default, warnings are not considered errors and all warnings are cleared before a script is executed. But if you want to easily detect warnings and errors, you can use these two functions to tune CPerlWrap's behavior:

// set to TRUE if warnings cause doScript() to return FALSE
BOOL SetfailOnWarning(BOOL);
// set to TRUE if warnings are
// cleared before executing a doScript()
BOOL SetclearWarningsOnScript(BOOL);

Putting CPerlWrap into your project

First and foremost, to build a project with CPerlWrap, you need to have Perl 5.14 (or later) installed on your build machine. It is not necessary for Perl to be installed on the target machine, but it must be on your build machine. Your target machine must have the Perl512.dll file (or Perl514.dll or whatever you built against), so don't forget to package that up with your executable!

However, if you use a Perl package, then you may be better off with Perl installed on your target machine.

Go to and download the free Windows Perl. The price is right. Then install it. I'll wait here until that is done.

Finished? Good. Took you long enough!

Next, copy PerlWrap.h and PerlWrap.cpp into your project's directory. Use Project->Add to Project->Files... (or whatever the latest Visual Studio mechanism is) to add them to your project. Don't build quite yet; there is something else that needs doing.

You need to add the Include directory for the Perl CORE files:

  • In Project->Settings...
  • Settings for: All Configurations (don't just leave it on Win32 Debug!)
  • C/C++ tab
  • Category: Preprocessor
  • Additional include directories: C:\Perl\lib\CORE (yes, it says 'lib' even though this is for file includes!)

This assumes you have installed Perl into C:\Perl. If you have installed elsewhere, make the appropriate adjustment and make a similar adjustment to the top of PerlWrap.h.

// Adjust this to point to the proper .lib file for Perl on your machine
// Remember to package Perl514.dll along with your project when you install
// onto other machines!
#if !defined(NOIMPLINK) && (defined(_MSC_VER) || defined(__BORLANDC__))
#       pragma comment(lib,"C:/Perl/lib/CORE/Perl514.lib")

Now rebuild. Check that you can browse the CPerlWrap class. If so, then it is time to do something with it!

Add a member variable to the class where you are doing your work. For me, this tends to be something like CMyProjectView and I add:

// Implementation
    CPerlWrap perlInstance;
    virtual ~CCPerlWrapperView();
#ifdef _DEBUG
    virtual void AssertValid() const;
    virtual void Dump(CDumpContext& dc) const;

If you like (recommended), you can tune Perl's behavior:

void CMyProjectView::OnInitialUpdate()
    // blah, blah ...

Hints and gotchas


The hardest part about using CPerlWrap is the backslashes (\). If you have a string that you want evaluated (interpolated) in Perl, such as "$var1 is xyz to $var2", then that string must be surrounded by " characters and you must escape those quotes in your VC++ code:

CString script("$string = \"$var1 is xyz to $var2\";");

On the other hand, if you just want to have a string that is not interpolated, then use single-quotes:

CString script("$string = 'this is an uninterpolated string';");

If you need to have a backslash in the script, you need to double it up so that VC++ doesn't get it. Note the \\d is to get a \d (the match-a-digit pattern) into the script:

CString script(
    "$string =~ m/(\\d+)/;\n"
    "$firstNumber = $1;"
CString firstNumber;

It gets really ugly if you need to insert a backslash:

perlInst.doScript("$StartDir =~ s%/%\\\\%g; "
   "# change '/' to Windows-style '\'")

Processes within Perl

For reasons that I have not been able to discover, this embedded Perl doesn't allow for sub-processes (note: this statement is from 2003; the situation may have changed by now in 2012). So Perl favorites like:

open(F,"./unzip.exe -p |") or die("Cannot open pipe from unzip, $!");
@uncompressed = <F>; # suck in entire file, one line per list element

just don't work! Same thing with using the backtick “`” or the system() function. Just don't work. If anybody has a fix for this, please let me know, as it has been a source of frustration for me.

Variable scope

In Perl, the my operator is used to declare a variable in the current scope. Scope is determined, much like in VC++, by surrounding {} pairs. The doScript() function performs a Perl eval {script} (note the {} pair) and so any variable declared with my will not be available with the get* and put* functions; they are local to that instance of the eval. If you like to have use strict; in your code, then you will have to define all your "global" variables using the put* functions (which puts them into the main:: module).

Using Perl modules

One of the great advantages of Perl is the long list of available modules. These are the Perl equivalent of C/C++ libraries. Modules are included using the syntax:

use CGI;
use Win32;

where CGI and Win32 are two such modules. These modules are usually included in the directory tree where Perl is installed. Which means that using a Perl module in CPerlWrap requires that the tree be around on the target machine.

If the module in question is pure Perl (no embedded C functions), then you can copy the module (,, or whatever) to the target machine and tell Perl where to find it with the use lib('some new directory'); pragma.

But (there is always a but), if you want a module that has embedded C functions (such as, sadly, Win32), then you will have to diddle the xs_init() function (found in PerlWrap.cpp) and that is 'way beyond what I know about'. I have put some comments (gleaned from the manual pages) to get you started, but I really know nothing about it. If you need such a module, start with perlguts, perlapi, and perlembed.

Update: Recent versions of Perl have better support for this kind of thing. In fact, these two commands are your friends:

# gets a list of libraries that you can reference with:
# #pragma comment(lib,"libraryName.lib")
perl -MExtUtils::Embed -e ccopts -e ldopts    
# creates the xs_init() function with the hooks for compiled modules 
perl -MExtUtils::Embed -e xsinit -- -o perlxsi.c


CPerlWrap will probably always be a work in progress, so I will try and update this article when I make significant changes. I suspect that the greatest source of changes will be fixes to bugs all of you have pointed out!

I don't pretend to be a perlguts expert -- everything is in the Perl manual pages and all I've done is to try and wrap it up so that it is easy to use. See the disclaimers below.


Your Mileage May Vary. Void where prohibited. Do not take internally. Not intended for ophthalmic use. Not intended for children under the age of 65. Do not use while sleeping. Warning: May cause drowsiness. For indoor or outdoor use only. For off-road use only. For office use only. Do not attempt to stop chain with your hands or genitals. Remember, objects in the mirror are actually behind you. This product not tested on animals. No humans were harmed or even used in the creation of this page. Not to be taken internally, literally, or seriously.

Some assimilation required. Resistance is futile.

This product is meant for educational purposes only. The manufacturer will not be responsible for any damages or inconvenience that may result and no claim to the contrary may legitimately be expressed or implied. Some assembly required. Use only as directed. No other warranty expressed or implied. Do not use while operating a motor vehicle or heavy equipment. May be too intense for some viewers. No user-serviceable parts inside. Subject to change without notice. Breaking seal constitutes acceptance of agreement. Contains a substantial amount of non-tobacco ingredients. Use of this product may cause a temporary discoloring of your teeth. Not responsible for direct, indirect, incidental, or consequential damages resulting from any defect, error, or failure to perform. Don't try this in your living room; these are trained professionals. Sign here without admitting guilt. Out to lunch. The author is not responsible for any mental distress caused. Use under adult supervision. Not responsible for typographical errors. Do not put the base of this ladder on frozen manure. Some of the trademarks mentioned in this product appear for identification purposes only. Objects in mirror may be closer than they appear. These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease. Not authorized for use as critical components in life support devices or systems. In the unlikely event of an emergency, participants may be liable for any rescue or evacuation costs incurred either on their behalf or as a result of their actions. In certain states, some of the above limitations may not apply to you. This supersedes all previous notices unless indicated otherwise.


References on CodeProject that relate:

Release history

  • 14-Oct-2002
    • Initial release to an unsuspecting public.
  • 18-Oct-2002
    • Minor changes prompted by reader comments.
  • 30-July-2003
    • Changed downloadable class and demo files to use Perl58.dll instead of Perl56.dll.
    • Moved Perl CORE header includes down to PerlWrap.cpp to reduce namespace pollution (see PixiGreg's article above).
  • 22-Feb-2012
    • Updated to Perl 5.14, including the latest interface mechanism.
    • Cleaned up code using PC-Lint.
    • Added VS2005 Project (which you can open with VS2008 or VS2010 to get automatic conversion).
    • Added STL versions (PerlWrapSTL.h and PerlWrapSTL.cpp) courtesy of an extended comment by CodeProject member SLJW (a.k.a., jwilde) whose profile is virtually empty. Thanks, SLJW!
    • Little tweaks dealing with the "safe" CRT functions used in VS2005. See StdAfx.h for more details.


This article, along with any associated source code and files, is licensed under The Code Project Open License (CPOL)


About the Author

Harold Bamford
Software Developer (Senior) Thales Visionix
United States United States
No Biography provided

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Comments and Discussions

GeneralMy vote of 2 Pin
xComaWhitex5-Sep-12 15:58
memberxComaWhitex5-Sep-12 15:58 
GeneralRe: My vote of 2 Pin
Harold Bamford13-Sep-12 0:10
memberHarold Bamford13-Sep-12 0:10 
GeneralRe: My vote of 2 Pin
xComaWhitex13-Sep-12 6:40
memberxComaWhitex13-Sep-12 6:40 
GeneralMy vote of 5 Pin
unitrunker23-Feb-12 12:51
memberunitrunker23-Feb-12 12:51 
Generali can't build cperlwrap on visual studio 2005 [modified] Pin
changmin jeon22-Aug-07 4:47
memberchangmin jeon22-Aug-07 4:47 
AnswerRe: i can't build cperlwrap on visual studio 2005 Pin
Harold Bamford22-Aug-07 5:20
memberHarold Bamford22-Aug-07 5:20 
GeneralRe: i can't build cperlwrap on visual studio 2005 [modified] Pin
changmin jeon22-Aug-07 20:43
memberchangmin jeon22-Aug-07 20:43 
GeneralRe: i can't build cperlwrap on visual studio 2005 Pin
Harold Bamford23-Aug-07 8:40
memberHarold Bamford23-Aug-07 8:40 
GeneralMemory consumption Pin
blinde_200018-Dec-06 2:04
memberblinde_200018-Dec-06 2:04 
GeneralRe: Memory consumption Pin
Harold Bamford18-Dec-06 7:59
memberHarold Bamford18-Dec-06 7:59 
GeneralRe: Memory consumption Pin
blinde_200020-Dec-06 4:30
memberblinde_200020-Dec-06 4:30 
GeneralRe: Memory consumption Pin
Harold Bamford20-Dec-06 6:43
memberHarold Bamford20-Dec-06 6:43 
GeneralRe: Memory consumption Pin
blinde_200020-Dec-06 6:47
memberblinde_200020-Dec-06 6:47 
GeneralRe: Memory consumption Pin
Harold Bamford20-Dec-06 7:48
memberHarold Bamford20-Dec-06 7:48 
GeneralIssue when running DoScript twice. Pin
blinde_200013-Dec-06 22:52
memberblinde_200013-Dec-06 22:52 
GeneralRe: Issue when running DoScript twice. Pin
Harold Bamford14-Dec-06 6:04
memberHarold Bamford14-Dec-06 6:04 
GeneralRe: Issue when running DoScript twice. Pin
blinde_200014-Dec-06 6:42
memberblinde_200014-Dec-06 6:42 
QuestionIs there a way to add callback to c/c++ ? Pin
Avri27-Jul-06 2:30
memberAvri27-Jul-06 2:30 
AnswerRe: Is there a way to add callback to c/c++ ? Pin
Harold Bamford27-Jul-06 7:11
memberHarold Bamford27-Jul-06 7:11 
Generalerrors in embedding Pin
gurneen21-Feb-06 4:46
membergurneen21-Feb-06 4:46 
GeneralRe: errors in embedding Pin
Harold Bamford21-Feb-06 5:40
memberHarold Bamford21-Feb-06 5:40 
GeneralRe: errors in embedding Pin
gurneen22-Feb-06 3:25
membergurneen22-Feb-06 3:25 
GeneralRe: errors in embedding Pin
Harold Bamford22-Feb-06 5:02
memberHarold Bamford22-Feb-06 5:02 
GeneralError handling Pin
Nic++10-Dec-05 5:24
memberNic++10-Dec-05 5:24 
GeneralRe: Error handling Pin
Nic++12-Dec-05 8:22
memberNic++12-Dec-05 8:22 

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