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6.3. The Invocation Arguments

Technically, the diamond operator isn't looking literally at the invocation arguments -- it works from the @ARGV array. This array is a special array that is preset by the Perl interpreter to be a list of the invocation arguments. In other words, this is just like any other array, (except for its funny, all-caps name), but when your program starts, @ARGV is already stuffed full of the list of invocation arguments.[150]

[150]C programmers may be wondering about argc (there isn't one in Perl), and what happened to the program's own name (that's found in Perl's special variable $0, not @ARGV). Also, depending upon how you've invoked your program, there may be a little more happening than we say here. See the perlrun manpage for the full details.

You can use @ARGV just like any other array; you could shift items off of it, perhaps, or use foreach to iterate over it. You could even check to see if any arguments start with a hyphen, so that you could process them as invocation options (like Perl does with its own -w option).[151]

[151]If you need more than just one or two such options, you should almost certainly use a module to process them in a standard way. See the documentation for the Getopt::Long and Getopt::Std modules, which are part of the standard distribution.

This is how the diamond operator knows what filenames it should use: it looks in @ARGV. If it finds an empty list, it uses the standard input stream; otherwise it uses the list of files that it finds. This means that after your program starts and before you start using the diamond, you've got a chance to tinker with @ARGV. For example, here we can process three specific files, regardless of what the user chose on the command line:

@ARGV = qw# larry moe curly #;  # force these three files to be read
while (<>) {
  print "It was $_ that I saw in some stooge-like file!\n";

In Chapter 11, "Filehandles and File Tests", we'll see how to open and close specific filenames at specific times. But this technique will suffice for the next few chapters.

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