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10.17. Program: Sorting Your Mail

The program in Example 10.1 sorts a mailbox by subject by reading input a paragraph at a time, looking for one with a "From" at the start of a line. When it finds one, it searches for the subject, strips it of any "Re: " marks, and stores its lowercased version in the @sub array. Meanwhile, the messages themselves are stored in a corresponding @msgs array. The $msgno variable keeps track of the message number.

Example 10.1: bysub1

#!/usr/bin/perl 
# 

bysub1 - simple sort by subject
my(@msgs, @sub);
my $msgno = -1;
$/ = '';                    # paragraph reads
while (<>) {
    if (/^From/m) {
        /^Subject:\s*(?:Re:\s*)*(.*)/mi;
        $sub[++$msgno] = lc($1) || '';
    }
    $msgs[$msgno] .= $_;
} 
for my $i (sort { $sub[$a] cmp $sub[$b] || $a <=> $b } (0 .. $#msgs)) {
    print $msgs[$i];
}

That sort is only sorting array indices. If the subjects are the same, cmp returns 0, so the second part of the || is taken, which compares the message numbers in the order they originally appeared.

If sort were fed a list like (0,1,2,3) , that list would get sorted into a different permutation, perhaps (2,1,3,0) . We iterate across them with a for loop to print out each message.

Example 10.2 shows how an awk programmer might code this program, using the -00 switch to read paragraphs instead of lines.

Example 10.2: bysub2

#!/usr/bin/perl -n00
# 

bysub2 - awkish sort-by-subject
BEGIN { $msgno = -1 }
$sub[++$msgno] = (/^Subject:\s*(?:Re:\s*)*(.*)/mi)[0] if /^From/m;
$msg[$msgno] .= $_;
END { print @msg[ sort { $sub[$a] cmp $sub[$b] || $a <=> $b } (0 .. $#msg) ] }

Perl has kept parallel arrays since its early days. Keeping each message in a hash is a more elegant solution. We'll sort on each field in the hash, by making an anonymous hash as described in Chapter 11 .

Example 10.3 is a program similar in spirit to Example 10.1 and Example 10.2 .

Example 10.3: bysub3

#!/usr/bin/perl -00
# bysub3

 - sort by subject using hash records
use strict;
my @msgs = ();
while (<>) {
    push @msgs, {
        SUBJECT => /^Subject:\s*(?:Re:\s*)*(.*)/mi,
        NUMBER  => scalar @msgs,   # which msgno this is
        TEXT    => '',
    } if /^From/m;
    $msgs[-1]{TEXT} .= $_;
} 

for my $msg (sort {     
                        $a->{SUBJECT} cmp $b->{SUBJECT} 
                                       || 
                        $a->{NUMBER}  <=> $b->{NUMBER} 
                  } @msgs
         )
{
    print $msg->{TEXT};
} 

Once we have real hashes, adding further sorting criteria is simple. A common way to sort a folder is subject major, date minor order. The hard part is figuring out how to parse and compare dates. Date::Manip does this, returning a string we can compare; however, the datesort program in Example 10.4 , which uses Date::Manip, runs more than 10 times slower than the previous one. Parsing dates in unpredictable formats is extremely slow.

Example 10.4: datesort (continued)

#!/usr/bin/perl -00
# 

datesort - sort mbox by subject then date
use strict;
use Date::Manip;
my @msgs = ();
while (<>) {
    next unless /^From/m;
    my $date = '';
    if (/^Date:\s*(.*)/m) {
        ($date = $1) =~ s/\s+\(.*//;  # library hates (MST)
        $date = ParseDate($date);
    } 
    push @msgs, {
        SUBJECT => /^Subject:\s*(?:Re:\s*)*(.*)/mi,
        DATE    => $date,
        NUMBER  => scalar @msgs,
        TEXT    => '',
    }; 
} continue {
    $msgs[-1]{TEXT} .= $_;
}

for my $msg (sort {     
                        $a->{SUBJECT} cmp $b->{SUBJECT} 
                                       || 
                        $a->{DATE}    cmp $b->{DATE} 
                                       || 
                        $a->{NUMBER}  <=> $b->{NUMBER} 

                  } @msgs
         )
{
    print $msg->{TEXT};
}

Example 10.4 is written to draw attention to the continue block. When a loop's end is reached, either because it fell through to that point or got there from a next , the whole continue block is executed. It corresponds to the third portion of a three-part for loop, except that the continue block isn't restricted to an expression. It's a full block, with separate statements.

See Also

The sort function in Chapter 3 of Programming Perl and in perlfunc (1); the discussion of the $/ variable in Chapter 2 of Programming Perl , perlvar (1), and the Introduction to Chapter 8, File Contents ; Recipe 3.7 ; Recipe 4.15 ; Recipe 5.9 ; Recipe 11.9











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