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11.5 The Top-of-Page Format

Many reports end up on some hardcopy device, like a printer. Printer paper is generally clipped into page-size chunks, because most of us stopped reading paper in scrolls a long time ago. So the text being fed to a printer typically has to take page boundaries into consideration by putting in blank lines or formfeed characters to skip across the perforations. Now, you could take the output of a Perl program and feed it through some utility (maybe even one written in Perl) that does this pagination, but there's an easier way.

Perl allows you to define a top-of-page format that triggers a page-processing mode. Perl counts each line of output generated by any format invocation to a particular filehandle. When the next format output cannot fit on the remainder of the current page, Perl spits out a formfeed followed by an automatic invocation of the top-of-page format, and finally the text from the invoked format. That way, the result of one write invocation will never be split across page boundaries (unless it is so large that it won't even fit on a page by itself).

The top-of-page format is defined just like any other format. The default name of a top-of-page format for a particular filehandle is the name of the filehandle followed by _TOP (in uppercase only).

Perl defines the variable $% to be the number of times the top-of-page format has been called for a particular filehandle, so you can use this variable in your top-of-page format to number the pages properly. For example, adding the following format definition to the previous program fragment prevents labels from being broken across page boundaries and also numbers consecutive pages:

My Addresses -- Page @<

The default page length is 60 lines. You can change this by setting a special variable, described shortly.

Perl doesn't notice whether you also print to the same filehandle, so that might throw the number of lines on the current page off a bit. You can either rewrite your code to use formats to send everything or fudge the "number of lines on the current page" variable after you do your print . In a moment, we'll see how to change this value.