Magazine_Article_05 - Yet Another Perl 6 Operator


Adriano Ferreira


Its published between September 18, 2007 and January 7, 2008 as a series of microarticles on and not changed since. Find the original under:



You surely heard about the upcoming Perl 6 ( language. This language will be endowed with a set of features so rich that every Greek and Trojan is eager to see a full working implementation. Among these features, there are operators, many of them. Perl 6 was even said () to be an operator-oriented language, with a yet larger diversity than Perl 5 already has.

The zip operator

Perl 6 has an operator Z, named zip, to interleave elements of two or more arrays.

 my @a = 1,2 Z -1,-2; # (1,-1),(2,-2)

The zip is one of the list generating operators that gives the language some flavor of functional programming. This gets further as the usual semantics for lists is to get lazy generation, which means easy/efficient handling of large lists (and also the extreme case of infinite lists).

String concatenation

Today's operator is a very simple one, the string concatenation operator.

 my $a = 'ab' ~ 'c'; # 'abc'

 my $b = 'def';
 my $c = $a ~ $b;    # 'abcdef'

Repeat Operators

Perl 6 has two repeat operators: one for replicating a string/buffer and the other for replicating lists.

String repeat x takes a string as the left argument and the number of times to replicate as the right argument.

 $string x $count

 my $s = 'a' x 3; # 'aaa'
 my $empty = 'foo' x 0; # ''
 my $n = 2; my $dots = '.' x ($n - 3); # '' because ($n-3)<1

Coercion operators

In Perl 5, we expect values to DWIM ("do what I mean") in various contexts. For example, if we use a string containg 42? as a number we expect it automagically act as a number. Perl 6 keeps this tradition of DWIMmery and introduces several new explicit coercion operations.

 ? to get booleans
 + to get numbers
 ~ to get strings

Comparisons - Part I

As expected, Perl 6 supports the usual comparison operators. This includes the numeric comparison operators:

 == != < <= > >=

(where != is a short for !==, the negated version of ==). These operators convert their terms into numbers before comparison.

The string comparisons operators are here as well.

Comparisons - Part II

In the the last article, we've seen some of the usual relational operators in Perl 6 and their enhanced syntax through chaining (which allows expressions like a < b < c).

Another kind of comparison operators are those that, instead of true/false returns, identify the relative order between its operands: before, equal, or after.

Boolean Operators

In the article on coercion operators, we got to know the prefix operator ? which converts values into Bool::True or Bool::False. Like it happens with ~ for strings, ? is recurrent for boolean operators.

In Perl 6, the usual infix boolean operators are:

 ?& - and
 ?| - or
 ?^ - xor

The Default Operator

Among the new Perl 6 operatoars, there is the handy operator //, known as defined-or or the default operator. This novelty was anticipated by the introduction of this syntactic bit in Perl 5 (see the upcoming 5.10 release) so you won't need to wait for Perl 6 to start using it.

 use 5.010;
 print "arg: '", shift // "?", "'\n";

 $ perl one
 arg: 'one'
 $ perl ""
 arg: ''
 $ perl
 arg: '?'

Range Operators

In Perl 6, you may construct ranges with expressions like

 $min  ..  $max
 $min ^..  $max
 $min  ..^ $max
 $min ^..^ $max

and even


Conditional Operator

The syntax of an if-then-else expression in Perl 6 is composed by the conditional operator.

 say "My answer is: ", $maybe ?? 'yes' !! 'no';

The expression above is equivalent to that, which uses the if-then-else statement within a do.

 say "My answer is: ", do {
     if $maybe {
     else {

The Cross Operator

Perl 6 provides an operator X, the cross operator, which combines its list operands into a sort of cartesian product of these arguments.

 1,2 X 3,4        # (1,3), (1,4), (2,3), (2,4)

 1,2 X 3,4 X 5,6  # (1,3,5), (1,3,6), (1,4,5), ..., (2,4,6)

Iterate Operator

If you are wondering how processing the lines of a file will look in Perl 6, the answer is something like this:

 my $h = open '<', $filename;

 for =$h {

Reduce operators

And that's time to take a look at another of the Perl 6 meta-operators: the reduction operator.

By surrounding with square brackets an (associative) infix operator, a new list operator is created.

 [*] 1..10      # that's 1*2*...*10 = 10!
 [~] <m oo s e> # 'moose' - [~] is basically Perl 5 join
 [,] 'a'..'e'   # <a b c d e> - [,] is a list builder

Mutating Operators

We already have seen two Perl 6 meta-operators in articles of this series: namely, the negate and the reduction operators. These are two of the five standard meta-operators of the language. What makes meta-operators interesting is how Perl automatically generates new operators from others (user-defined or builtins) with some straightforward semantics derived from the transformation of the base operators.

This time, we approach mutating operators, which are a shortcut for typical assignments where the assignment target and the first operand are the same variable.

 my $s = 'foo';
 $s x= 3;          # $a = 'foofoofoo'

 my $x;
 $x //= 'default'; # $x = 'default'

The Pair Constructor

Binary => is no longer just a "fancy comma". In Perl 6, it now constructs a Pair object that can, among other things, be used to pass named arguments to functions.

 my $pair = (one => 1);
 $pair.isa(Pair)        # Bool::True
 $pair.key              # 'one'
 $pair.value            # 1

Reduce Operators - Part II

In a previous article , we introduced the reduction operators (like [*] and [~]) which produced list operators from infix operators (like * and ~).

There is a variant of the reduction operator that operates over its list argument producing all intermediate results along with the final result of the ordinary reduction.

 [\+] 1..5   # (1, 3, 6, 10, 15)

which is equivalent to

 ([+] 1),
 ([+] 1, 2),
 ([+] 1, 2, 3),
 ([+] 1, 2, 3, 4),
 ([+] 1, 2, 3, 4, 5)


This article is not about some set of Perl 6 operators, but rather about what happened to Perl 5 filetests operators. Short answer: They are not operators anymore.

Where programmers were used to write

 # good ol' Perl 5
 if ( -e $filename ) { print "exists\n" }

they will now use pair methods that may be expressed as methods or smart patterns.

 if $filename.:e { say "exists" }
 # or
 if $filename ~~ :e { say "exists" }

Junction Operators

Perl 6 introduces a new scalar data-type: the junction. A junction is a single scalar value that can act like two or more values at once.

 # example               a value which acts like

 any(1,2,3)              1 or 2 or 3
 all(@vals)              all members of @vals at the same time
 one(<moe curly larry>)  one of the three stooges
 none(@bad_guys)         none of the listed bad guys

The operators |, & and ^ are now junction constructors, providing a syntactical complement to the functional variants any, all, one and none.

 $a  | $b                 any($a, $b)
 $x  & $y                 all($x, $y)
 $me ^ $you               one($me, $you)