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11.3. Overriding Built-in Functions

Many built-in functions may be overridden, although (like knocking holes in your walls) you should do this only occasionally and for good reason. Typically, this might be done by a package attempting to emulate missing built-in functionality on a non-Unix system. (Do not confuse overriding with overloading, which adds additional object-oriented meanings to built-in operators, but doesn't override much of anything. See the discussion of the overload module in Chapter 13, "Overloading" for more on that.)

Overriding may be done only by importing the name from a module--ordinary predeclaration isn't good enough. To be perfectly forthcoming, it's the assignment of a code reference to a typeglob that triggers the override, as in *open = \&myopen. Furthermore, the assignment must occur in some other package; this makes accidental overriding through typeglob aliasing intentionally difficult. However, if you really want to do your own overriding, don't despair, because the subs pragma lets you predeclare subroutines via the import syntax, so those names then override the built-in ones:

use subs qw(chdir chroot chmod chown);
chdir $somewhere;
sub chdir { ... }
In general, modules should not export built-in names like open or chdir as part of their default @EXPORT list, since these names may sneak into someone else's namespace and change the semantics unexpectedly. If the module includes the name in the @EXPORT_OK list instead, importers will be forced to explicitly request that the built-in name be overridden, thus keeping everyone honest.

The original versions of the built-in functions are always accessible via the CORE pseudopackage. Therefore, CORE::chdir will always be the version originally compiled into Perl, even if the chdir keyword has been overridden.

Well, almost always. The foregoing mechanism for overriding built-in functions is restricted, quite deliberately, to the package that requests the import. But there is a more sweeping mechanism you can use when you wish to override a built-in function everywhere, without regard to namespace boundaries. This is achieved by defining the function in the CORE::GLOBAL pseudopackage. Below is an example that replaces the glob operator with something that understands regular expressions. (Note that this example does not implement everything needed to cleanly override Perl's built-in glob, which behaves differently depending on whether it appears in a scalar or list context. Indeed, many Perl built-ins have such context-sensitive behaviors, and any properly written override should adequately support these. For a fully functional example of glob overriding, study the File::Glob module bundled with Perl.) Anyway, here's the antisocial version:

*CORE::GLOBAL::glob = sub {
    my $pat = shift;
    my @got;
    local *D;
    if (opendir D, '.') {
        @got = grep /$pat/, readdir D;
        closedir D;
    }
    return @got;
}

package Whatever;

print <^[a-z_]+\.pm\$>;       # show all pragmas in the current directory
By overriding glob globally, this preemptively forces a new (and subversive) behavior for the glob operator in every namespace, without the cognizance or cooperation of modules that own those namespaces. Naturally, this must be done with extreme caution--if it must be done at all. And it probably mustn't.

Our overriding philosophy is: it's nice to be important, but it's more important to be nice.



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