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Posted 5 Nov 2002
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Perl Object Oriented Programming

, 12 Nov 2002
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The basics of Object Oriented Programming in Perl.

Camel POOP

Most people are not aware of the fact that Perl has support for object-oriented programming. If you've used another object-oriented programming language such as Java or C++ or been exposed to object-orientation, then object oriented programming in Perl is nothing like that. To do real useful object-oriented programming in Perl, you only need to use three simple rules as put forth by Larry Wall in Object Oriented Perl.

Object oriented programmers are familiar with the concept of object and classes, but I will review that here quickly. An object is a thing that provides access to or modification of data. A class is a description of the attributes of a particular kind of object and the manner in which those objects can be accessed and modified. A method is a means by which an object's data is accessed or modified. An object is an instance of a class.

An example would be a Person class in an HR system. The Person class describes the attributes of a person such as name, address, title, social security number, ID etc. A particular class instance or object would encapsulate data about a particular person e.g.: name, title, social security number, address, etc. Some methods to access that object's data would be name, address etc.

Package delivery

To create a class in Perl, we first build a package. A package is a self-contained unit of user-defined variables and subroutines, which can be re-used over and over again. They provide a separate namespace within a Perl program that keeps subroutines and variables from conflicting with those in other packages.

To declare a class named Person in Perl we do:

package Person; 

That's it. The scope of the package definition extends to the end of the file, or until another package keyword is encountered. Not very useful yet, but on to the next section.

There's a method to this madness

A method is a means by which an object's data is accessed or modified. In Perl, a method is just a subroutine defined within a particular package. So to define a method to print our Person object, we do:

sub print {
    my ($self) = @_;

    #print Person info
    printf( "Name:%s %s\n\n", $self->firstName, $self->lastName );

The subroutine print is now associated with the package Person. To call the method print on a Person object, we use the Perl "arrow" notation. If the variable $khurt contains a Person object, we would call print on that object by writing:


When the object method is invoked, a reference to the object is passed in along with any other arguments. This is important since the method now has access to the object on which it is to operate.

How do we create the invoking object?

Bless me father

To create an instance of a class (an object) we need an object constructor. This constructor is a method defined within the package. Most programmers choose to name this object constructor method new, but in Perl one can use any name.

One can use any kind of Perl variable as an object in Perl. Most Perl programmers choose either references to arrays or hashes.

Let's create our constructor for our Person class using a Perl hash reference;

sub new {
    my $self = {
        _firstName => undef,
        _lastName  => undef,
        _ssn       => undef,
        _address   => undef
    bless $self, 'Person';
    return $self;

What have we done? We created a subroutine called new associated with the package Person. The entries of the hash reference $self become the attributes of our object. We then use the bless function on the hash reference. The bless function takes two arguments: a reference to the variable to be marked and a string containing the name of the class. This indicates that the variable now belongs to the class Person.

To create an instance of our Person object:

my $khurt = new Person();

We have not defined accessor methods or done any error checking on the input values or keys or the anonymous hash reference, but we have the start of a Perl Person OO framework. To make our constructor more flexible and to make our class inheritable (more on that later), we can define it to use the $class variable to bless the hash reference.

sub new {
    my ($class) = @_;
    my $self = {
        _firstName => undef,
        _lastName  => undef,
        _ssn       => undef,
        _address   => undef
    bless $self, $class;
    return $self;

Other object-oriented languages have the concept of security of data to prevent a programmer from changing an object data directly and so provide accessor methods to modify object data. Perl does not have private variables but we can still use the concept of accessor methods and ask programmers to not mess with our object innards.

For our Person class, we should provides accessor methods for our object attributes; name, address, title, SSN.

#class Person
package Person;
 se strict;
use Address;    #Person class will contain an Address
sub new {
    my ($class) = @_;
    my $self = {
        _firstName => undef,
        _lastName  => undef,
        _ssn       => undef,
        _address   => undef
    bless $self, $class;
    return $self;

#accessor method for Person first name
sub firstName {
    my ( $self, $firstName ) = @_;
    $self->{_firstName} = $firstName if defined($firstName);
    return $self->{_firstName};

#accessor method for Person last name
sub lastName {
    my ( $self, $lastName ) = @_;
    $self->{_lastName} = $lastName if defined($lastName);
    return $self->{_lastName};

#accessor method for Person address
sub address {
    my ( $self, $address ) = @_;
    $self->{_address} = $address if defined($address);
    return $self->{_address};

#accessor method for Person social security number
sub ssn {
    my ( $self, $ssn ) = @_;
    $self->{_ssn} = $ssn if defined($ssn);
    return $self->{_ssn};

sub print {
    my ($self) = @_;

    #print Person info
    printf( "Name:%s %s\n\n", $self->firstName, $self->lastName );


Making babies

Object-oriented programming sometimes involves inheritance. Inheritance simply means allowing one class called the Child to inherit methods and attributes from another, called the Parent, so you don't have to write the same code again and again. For example, we can have a class Employee which inherits from Person. This is referred to as an "isa" relationship because an employee is a person. Perl has a special variable, @ISA, to help with this. @ISA governs (method) inheritance. So to create a new Employee class that will inherit methods and attributes from our Person class, we simply code:

# class Employee
package Employee;
 se Person;
use strict;
 ur @ISA = qw(Person);    # inherits from Person

What we have done is load the Person class and declare that Employee class inherits methods from it. We have declared no methods for Employee but an Employee object will behave just like a Person object. We should be able to write code:

#create Employee class instance
my $khurt =  new Employee();
#set object attributes

without any other changes.

Now let's add some methods.

# class Employee
package Employee;
 se Person;
use strict;
 ur @ISA = qw(Person);    # inherits from Person

sub new {
    my ($class) = @_;

    #call the constructor of the parent class, Person.
    my $self = $class->SUPER::new();
    $self->{_id}   = undef;
    $self->{_title} = undef;
    bless $self, $class;
    return $self;

#accessor method for  id
sub id {
    my ( $self, $id ) = @_;
    $self->{_id} = $id if defined($id);
    return ( $self->{_id} );

#accessor method for  title
sub title {
    my ( $self, $title ) = @_;
    $self->{_title} = $title if defined($title);
    return ( $self->{_title} );

sub print {
    my ($self) = @_;

    # we will call the print method of the parent class


Looking at the code, you will notice that we have a new method and a print method. Both the child class and its parent class have the same method defined. We have overridden the parent class' methods with the ones from the child. When those methods are called on an Employee object, we will get the Employee class' version of the method. This concept of using the methods of an existing object and modifying them is known as polymorphism.

Putting it together

So now that we have a complete set of classes, we can write a small program to test them.

use strict;
 se warnings;
use diagnostics;
 se Employee;

#create Employee class instance
my $khurt =  eval { new Employee(); }  or die ($@);
#set object attributes
$khurt->title('Executive Director');

$khurt->address( new Address() );

$khurt->address->street('10 Anywhere Lane');

#diplay Employee info

Let's execute our code and see the output:

$ ./
Name:Khurt Williams

Address:10 Anywhere Lane
Anytown, NJ 12345

It works! We covered the basics of object oriented programming in Perl and I hope this article was informative and useful.


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


About the Author

Khürt Williams
Technical Lead
United States United States
Khürt Williams is an independent information systems security consultant working for private industry and government in the Princeton area. He hold CISSP, CRISC and ITIL certifications. You can contact Khurt at or visit

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Comments and Discussions

Questionse and ur usage? Pin
Member 1276301527-Sep-16 11:55
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GeneralMy vote of 5 Pin
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QuestionThank You Pin
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QuestionVery Very GOOOOOOD ;thanks Pin
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QuestionError when running Pin
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QuestionPass initialization data to constructor? And multiple constructors? Pin
daluu12-Mar-11 19:38
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GeneralLove You!! Pin
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memberxuqiqi19-Oct-10 1:56 
GeneralLost you Pin
Inktpatronen11-Jun-10 12:26
memberInktpatronen11-Jun-10 12:26 
QuestionWhy is $self declared in the accessor methods? Pin
JasonBL22-Oct-09 4:05
memberJasonBL22-Oct-09 4:05 
Generalneed a code for this project Pin
kishore01617-Apr-09 19:38
memberkishore01617-Apr-09 19:38 
Create a class for beer. Then create a subclass of beer for ales, for stouts, and for lagers. Each class
should have a property for color, alcohol-by-volume, and a marketing description.
I need a code for the above statement please reply me
thank you,
QuestionReusing the text in this article Pin
Reswaran22-Apr-08 4:07
memberReswaran22-Apr-08 4:07 
GeneralRead-Only Accessor Pin
Daaron7-Apr-08 17:12
memberDaaron7-Apr-08 17:12 
QuestionWhy do we need 1;? Pin
Reswaran16-Nov-07 2:24
memberReswaran16-Nov-07 2:24 
AnswerRe: Why do we need 1;? Pin
GauranG Shah9-Dec-07 21:41
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GeneralRe: Why do we need 1;? Pin
Reswaran1-Jan-08 21:37
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Questionwhat is difference in pakage and module Pin
sanjaymaned11-Jun-07 19:46
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AnswerRe: what is difference in pakage and module Pin
atanation2-Jun-08 1:25
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Generalbless behavior Pin
sanjaymaned6-Jun-07 20:11
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GeneralRe: bless behavior Pin
Khurt Williams7-Jun-07 0:58
memberKhurt Williams7-Jun-07 0:58 
Questionwhat is difference in use and require ? Pin
sanjaymaned5-Jun-07 23:00
membersanjaymaned5-Jun-07 23:00 
AnswerRe: what is difference in use and require ? Pin
Khurt Williams6-Jun-07 15:48
memberKhurt Williams6-Jun-07 15:48 
GeneralRe: what is difference in use and require ? Pin
sanjaymaned6-Jun-07 20:09
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Questionwhat is difference in functions of s/// and tr/// ? Pin
sanjaymaned5-Jun-07 21:40
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AnswerRe: what is difference in functions of s/// and tr/// ? Pin
Khurt Williams6-Jun-07 15:54
memberKhurt Williams6-Jun-07 15:54 
GeneralRe: what is difference in functions of s/// and tr/// ? Pin
sanjaymaned6-Jun-07 20:13
membersanjaymaned6-Jun-07 20:13 

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