Beginner's Guide to CGI Scripting with Perl

"Perilous to us all are the devices of an art deeper than we possess ourselves."

- J.R.R. Tolkien, The Two Towers


You may also download the complete tutorial for offline viewing:


This page is designed to help novice programmers learn the Perl programming language. Specifically, it's designed to help them learn enough to run CGI scripts on a Unix Web server.

This page grows out of my own experience. When I started out on the Web I was new to Unix, and had no formal training as a programmer. I wanted to create dynamic pages for my Web site, though, and everyone said Perl was the way to go. They were right: It was the way to go. It sounds trite to say that "Perl changed my life," but that's basically what happened.

Still, it was an uphill battle. In particular, many of the resources for learning Perl seemed to assume that I was already an experienced programmer, or at least an experienced Unix user. I've made some assumptions in these pages, but not those assumptions.

Assumptions I do make:

Before you get started, I'd like you to take a moment to consider the quotation at the top of this page. As a beginner, you'll find that the combination of Unix and Perl gives you more than enough rope to hang yourself. One of Perl's claims to fame is that it makes "easy things easy" - which it does, but among the things it makes easy are the accidental mangling of your files, or the opening up of gaping security holes on your Web server. So be careful. Or, as Perl's creator, Larry Wall, likes to say, "have the appropriate amount of fun."

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John Callender