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Tie::File(3pm)			 Perl Programmers Reference Guide		   Tie::File(3pm)

       Tie::File - Access the lines of a disk file via a Perl array

	       # This file documents Tie::File version 0.93

	       tie @array, 'Tie::File', filename or die ...;

	       $array[13] = 'blah';	# line 13 of the file is now 'blah'
	       print $array[42];	# display line 42 of the file

	       $n_recs = @array;	# how many records are in the file?
	       $#array -= 2;		# chop two records off the end

	       for (@array) {
		 s/PERL/Perl/g; 	# Replace PERL with Perl everywhere in the file

	       # These are just like regular push, pop, unshift, shift, and splice
	       # Except that they modify the file in the way you would expect

	       push @array, new recs...;
	       my $r1 = pop @array;
	       unshift @array, new recs...;
	       my $r1 = shift @array;
	       @old_recs = splice @array, 3, 7, new recs...;

	       untie @array;		# all finished

       "Tie::File" represents a regular text file as a Perl array.  Each element in the array
       corresponds to a record in the file.  The first line of the file is element 0 of the
       array; the second line is element 1, and so on.

       The file is not loaded into memory, so this will work even for gigantic files.

       Changes to the array are reflected in the file immediately.

       Lazy people and beginners may now stop reading the manual.


       What is a 'record'?  By default, the meaning is the same as for the "<...>" operator: It's
       a string terminated by $/, which is probably "\n".  (Minor exception: on dos and Win32
       systems, a 'record' is a string terminated by "\r\n".)  You may change the definition of
       "record" by supplying the "recsep" option in the "tie" call:

	       tie @array, 'Tie::File', $file, recsep => 'es';

       This says that records are delimited by the string "es".  If the file contained the fol-
       lowing data:

	       Curse these pesky flies!\n

       then the @array would appear to have four elements:

	       "Curse th"
	       "e p"
	       "ky fli"

       An undefined value is not permitted as a record separator.  Perl's special "paragraph
       mode" semantics (A la "$/ = """) are not emulated.

       Records read from the tied array do not have the record separator string on the end; this
       is to allow

	       $array[17] .= "extra";

       to work as expected.

       (See "autochomp", below.)  Records stored into the array will have the record separator
       string appended before they are written to the file, if they don't have one already.  For
       example, if the record separator string is "\n", then the following two lines do exactly
       the same thing:

	       $array[17] = "Cherry pie";
	       $array[17] = "Cherry pie\n";

       The result is that the contents of line 17 of the file will be replaced with "Cherry pie";
       a newline character will separate line 17 from line 18.	This means that this code will do

	       chomp $array[17];

       Because the "chomp"ed value will have the separator reattached when it is written back to
       the file.  There is no way to create a file whose trailing record separator string is

       Inserting records that contain the record separator string is not supported by this mod-
       ule.  It will probably produce a reasonable result, but what this result will be may
       change in a future version.  Use 'splice' to insert records or to replace one record with


       Normally, array elements have the record separator removed, so that if the file contains
       the text


       the tied array will appear to contain "("Gold", "Frankincense", "Myrrh")".  If you set
       "autochomp" to a false value, the record separator will not be removed.	If the file above
       was tied with

	       tie @gifts, "Tie::File", $gifts, autochomp => 0;

       then the array @gifts would appear to contain "("Gold\n", "Frankincense\n", "Myrrh\n")",
       or (on Win32 systems) "("Gold\r\n", "Frankincense\r\n", "Myrrh\r\n")".


       Normally, the specified file will be opened for read and write access, and will be created
       if it does not exist.  (That is, the flags "O_RDWR | O_CREAT" are supplied in the "open"
       call.)  If you want to change this, you may supply alternative flags in the "mode" option.
       See Fcntl for a listing of available flags.  For example:

	       # open the file if it exists, but fail if it does not exist
	       use Fcntl 'O_RDWR';
	       tie @array, 'Tie::File', $file, mode => O_RDWR;

	       # create the file if it does not exist
	       use Fcntl 'O_RDWR', 'O_CREAT';
	       tie @array, 'Tie::File', $file, mode => O_RDWR | O_CREAT;

	       # open an existing file in read-only mode
	       use Fcntl 'O_RDONLY';
	       tie @array, 'Tie::File', $file, mode => O_RDONLY;

       Opening the data file in write-only or append mode is not supported.


       This is an upper limit on the amount of memory that "Tie::File" will consume at any time
       while managing the file.  This is used for two things: managing the read cache and manag-
       ing the deferred write buffer.

       Records read in from the file are cached, to avoid having to re-read them repeatedly.  If
       you read the same record twice, the first time it will be stored in memory, and the second
       time it will be fetched from the read cache.  The amount of data in the read cache will
       not exceed the value you specified for "memory".  If "Tie::File" wants to cache a new
       record, but the read cache is full, it will make room by expiring the least-recently vis-
       ited records from the read cache.

       The default memory limit is 2Mib.  You can adjust the maximum read cache size by supplying
       the "memory" option.  The argument is the desired cache size, in bytes.

	       # I have a lot of memory, so use a large cache to speed up access
	       tie @array, 'Tie::File', $file, memory => 20_000_000;

       Setting the memory limit to 0 will inhibit caching; records will be fetched from disk
       every time you examine them.

       The "memory" value is not an absolute or exact limit on the memory used.  "Tie::File"
       objects contains some structures besides the read cache and the deferred write buffer,
       whose sizes are not charged against "memory".


       (This is an advanced feature.  Skip this section on first reading.)

       If you use deferred writing (See "Deferred Writing", below) then data you write into the
       array will not be written directly to the file; instead, it will be saved in the deferred
       write buffer to be written out later.  Data in the deferred write buffer is also charged
       against the memory limit you set with the "memory" option.

       You may set the "dw_size" option to limit the amount of data that can be saved in the
       deferred write buffer.  This limit may not exceed the total memory limit.  For example, if
       you set "dw_size" to 1000 and "memory" to 2500, that means that no more than 1000 bytes of
       deferred writes will be saved up.  The space available for the read cache will vary, but
       it will always be at least 1500 bytes (if the deferred write buffer is full) and it could
       grow as large as 2500 bytes (if the deferred write buffer is empty.)

       If you don't specify a "dw_size", it defaults to the entire memory limit.

       Option Format

       "-mode" is a synonym for "mode".  "-recsep" is a synonym for "recsep".  "-memory" is a
       synonym for "memory".  You get the idea.

Public Methods
       The "tie" call returns an object, say $o.  You may call

	       $rec = $o->FETCH($n);
	       $o->STORE($n, $rec);

       to fetch or store the record at line $n, respectively; similarly the other tied array
       methods.  (See perltie for details.)  You may also call the following methods on this



       will lock the tied file.  "MODE" has the same meaning as the second argument to the Perl
       built-in "flock" function; for example "LOCK_SH" or "LOCK_EX | LOCK_NB".  (These constants
       are provided by the "use Fcntl ':flock'" declaration.)

       "MODE" is optional; the default is "LOCK_EX".

       "Tie::File" promises that the following sequence of operations will be safe:

	       my $o = tie @array, "Tie::File", $filename;

       In particular, "Tie::File" will not read or write the file during the "tie" call.  (Excep-
       tion: Using "mode => O_TRUNC" will, of course, erase the file during the "tie" call.  If
       you want to do this safely, then open the file without "O_TRUNC", lock the file, and use
       "@array = ()".)

       The best way to unlock a file is to discard the object and untie the array.  It is proba-
       bly unsafe to unlock the file without also untying it, because if you do, changes may
       remain unwritten inside the object.  That is why there is no shortcut for unlocking.  If
       you really want to unlock the file prematurely, you know what to do; if you don't know
       what to do, then don't do it.

       All the usual warnings about file locking apply here.  In particular, note that file lock-
       ing in Perl is advisory, which means that holding a lock will not prevent anyone else from
       reading, writing, or erasing the file; it only prevents them from getting another lock at
       the same time.  Locks are analogous to green traffic lights: If you have a green light,
       that does not prevent the idiot coming the other way from plowing into you sideways; it
       merely guarantees to you that the idiot does not also have a green light at the same time.


	       my $old_value = $o->autochomp(0);    # disable autochomp option
	       my $old_value = $o->autochomp(1);    #  enable autochomp option

	       my $ac = $o->autochomp();   # recover current value

       See "autochomp", above.

       "defer", "flush", "discard", and "autodefer"

       See "Deferred Writing", below.

Tying to an already-opened filehandle
       If $fh is a filehandle, such as is returned by "IO::File" or one of the other "IO" mod-
       ules, you may use:

	       tie @array, 'Tie::File', $fh, ...;

       Similarly if you opened that handle "FH" with regular "open" or "sysopen", you may use:

	       tie @array, 'Tie::File', \*FH, ...;

       Handles that were opened write-only won't work.	Handles that were opened read-only will
       work as long as you don't try to modify the array.  Handles must be attached to seekable
       sources of data---that means no pipes or sockets.  If "Tie::File" can detect that you sup-
       plied a non-seekable handle, the "tie" call will throw an exception.  (On Unix systems, it
       can detect this.)

Deferred Writing
       (This is an advanced feature.  Skip this section on first reading.)

       Normally, modifying a "Tie::File" array writes to the underlying file immediately.  Every
       assignment like "$a[3] = ..." rewrites as much of the file as is necessary; typically,
       everything from line 3 through the end will need to be rewritten.  This is the simplest
       and most transparent behavior.  Performance even for large files is reasonably good.

       However, under some circumstances, this behavior may be excessively slow.  For example,
       suppose you have a million-record file, and you want to do:

	       for (@FILE) {
		 $_ = "> $_";

       The first time through the loop, you will rewrite the entire file, from line 0 through the
       end.  The second time through the loop, you will rewrite the entire file from line 1
       through the end.  The third time through the loop, you will rewrite the entire file from
       line 2 to the end.  And so on.

       If the performance in such cases is unacceptable, you may defer the actual writing, and
       then have it done all at once.  The following loop will perform much better for large

	       (tied @a)->defer;
	       for (@a) {
		 $_ = "> $_";
	       (tied @a)->flush;

       If "Tie::File"'s memory limit is large enough, all the writing will done in memory.  Then,
       when you call "->flush", the entire file will be rewritten in a single pass.

       (Actually, the preceding discussion is something of a fib.  You don't need to enable
       deferred writing to get good performance for this common case, because "Tie::File" will do
       it for you automatically unless you specifically tell it not to.  See "autodeferring",

       Calling "->flush" returns the array to immediate-write mode.  If you wish to discard the
       deferred writes, you may call "->discard" instead of "->flush".	Note that in some cases,
       some of the data will have been written already, and it will be too late for "->discard"
       to discard all the changes.  Support for "->discard" may be withdrawn in a future version
       of "Tie::File".

       Deferred writes are cached in memory up to the limit specified by the "dw_size" option
       (see above).  If the deferred-write buffer is full and you try to write still more
       deferred data, the buffer will be flushed.  All buffered data will be written immediately,
       the buffer will be emptied, and the now-empty space will be used for future deferred

       If the deferred-write buffer isn't yet full, but the total size of the buffer and the read
       cache would exceed the "memory" limit, the oldest records will be expired from the read
       cache until the total size is under the limit.

       "push", "pop", "shift", "unshift", and "splice" cannot be deferred.  When you perform one
       of these operations, any deferred data is written to the file and the operation is per-
       formed immediately.  This may change in a future version.

       If you resize the array with deferred writing enabled, the file will be resized immedi-
       ately, but deferred records will not be written.  This has a surprising consequence: "@a =
       (...)" erases the file immediately, but the writing of the actual data is deferred.  This
       might be a bug.	If it is a bug, it will be fixed in a future version.


       "Tie::File" tries to guess when deferred writing might be helpful, and to turn it on and
       off automatically.

	       for (@a) {
		 $_ = "> $_";

       In this example, only the first two assignments will be done immediately; after this, all
       the changes to the file will be deferred up to the user-specified memory limit.

       You should usually be able to ignore this and just use the module without thinking about
       deferring.  However, special applications may require fine control over which writes are
       deferred, or may require that all writes be immediate.  To disable the autodeferment fea-
       ture, use

	       (tied @o)->autodefer(0);


	       tie @array, 'Tie::File', $file, autodefer => 0;

       Similarly, "->autodefer(1)" re-enables autodeferment, and "->autodefer()" recovers the
       current value of the autodefer setting.

       (That's Latin for 'warnings'.)

       o   This is BETA RELEASE SOFTWARE.  It may have bugs.  See the discussion below about the
	   (lack of any) warranty.

	   In particular, this means that the interface may change in incompatible ways from one
	   version to the next, without warning.  That has happened at least once already.  The
	   interface will freeze before Perl 5.8 is released, probably sometime in April 2002.

       o   Reasonable effort was made to make this module efficient.  Nevertheless, changing the
	   size of a record in the middle of a large file will always be fairly slow, because
	   everything after the new record must be moved.

       o   The behavior of tied arrays is not precisely the same as for regular arrays.  For

		   # This DOES print "How unusual!"
		   undef $a[10];  print "How unusual!\n" if defined $a[10];

	   "undef"-ing a "Tie::File" array element just blanks out the corresponding record in
	   the file.  When you read it back again, you'll get the empty string, so the suppos-
	   edly-"undef"'ed value will be defined.  Similarly, if you have "autochomp" disabled,

		   # This DOES print "How unusual!" if 'autochomp' is disabled
		   undef $a[10];
		   print "How unusual!\n" if $a[10];

	   Because when "autochomp" is disabled, $a[10] will read back as "\n" (or whatever the
	   record separator string is.)

	   There are other minor differences, particularly regarding "exists" and "delete", but
	   in general, the correspondence is extremely close.

       o   Not quite every effort was made to make this module as efficient as possible.  "FETCH-
	   SIZE" should use binary search instead of linear search.

	   The performance of the "flush" method could be improved.  At present, it still
	   rewrites the tail of the file once for each block of contiguous lines to be changed.
	   In the typical case, this will result in only one rewrite, but in peculiar cases it
	   might be bad.  It should be possible to perform all deferred writing with a single re-

	   Profiling suggests that these defects are probably minor; in any event, they will be
	   fixed in a future version of the module.

       o   I have supposed that since this module is concerned with file I/O, almost all normal
	   use of it will be heavily I/O bound.  This means that the time to maintain complicated
	   data structures inside the module will be dominated by the time to actually perform
	   the I/O.  When there was an opportunity to spend CPU time to avoid doing I/O, I tried
	   to take it.

       o   You might be tempted to think that deferred writing is like transactions, with "flush"
	   as "commit" and "discard" as "rollback", but it isn't, so don't.

       This version promises absolutely nothing about the internals, which may change without
       notice.	A future version of the module will have a well-defined and stable subclassing

       People sometimes point out that DB_File will do something similar, and ask why "Tie::File"
       module is necessary.

       There are a number of reasons that you might prefer "Tie::File".  A list is available at

       Mark Jason Dominus

       To contact the author, send email to: "mjd-perl-tiefile+@plover.com"

       To receive an announcement whenever a new version of this module is released, send a blank
       email message to "mjd-perl-tiefile-subscribe@plover.com".

       The most recent version of this module, including documentation and any news of impor-
       tance, will be available at


       "Tie::File" version 0.93 is copyright (C) 2002 Mark Jason Dominus.

       This library is free software; you may redistribute it and/or modify it under the same
       terms as Perl itself.

       These terms are your choice of any of(1) the Perl Artistic Licence, or(2) version 2 of
       the GNU General Public License as published by the Free Software Foundation, or(3) any
       later version of the GNU General Public License.

       This library is distributed in the hope that it will be useful, but WITHOUT ANY WARRANTY;
       without even the implied warranty of MERCHANTABILITY or FITNESS FOR A PARTICULAR PURPOSE.
       See the GNU General Public License for more details.

       You should have received a copy of the GNU General Public License along with this library
       program; it should be in the file "COPYING".  If not, write to the Free Software Founda-
       tion, Inc., 59 Temple Place, Suite 330, Boston, MA 02111 USA

       For licensing inquiries, contact the author at:

	       Mark Jason Dominus
	       255 S. Warnock St.
	       Philadelphia, PA 19107

       "Tie::File" version 0.93 comes with ABSOLUTELY NO WARRANTY.  For details, see the license.

       Gigantic thanks to Jarkko Hietaniemi, for agreeing to put this in the core when I hadn't
       written it yet, and for generally being helpful, supportive, and competent.  (Usually the
       rule is "choose any one.")  Also big thanks to Abhijit Menon-Sen for all of the same

       Special thanks to Craig Berry and Peter Prymmer (for VMS portability help), Randy Kobes
       (for Win32 portability help), Clinton Pierce and Autrijus Tang (for heroic eleventh-hour
       Win32 testing above and beyond the call of duty), Michael G Schwern (for testing advice),
       and the rest of the CPAN testers (for testing generally).

       Additional thanks to: Edward Avis / Gerrit Haase / Nikola Knezevic / Nick Ing-Simmons /
       Tassilo von Parseval / H. Dieter Pearcey / Slaven Rezic / Peter Scott / Peter Somu /
       Autrijus Tang (again) / Tels / Juerd Wallboer

       More tests.  (The cache and heap modules need more unit tests.)

       Improve SPLICE algorithm to use deferred writing machinery.

       Cleverer strategy for flushing deferred writes.

       More tests.  (Stuff I didn't think of yet.)

       Paragraph mode?

       Fixed-length mode.  Leave-blanks mode.

       Maybe an autolocking mode?

       Record locking with fcntl()?  Then the module might support an undo log and get real
       transactions.  What a tour de force that would be.

       More tests.

perl v5.8.0				    2002-06-01				   Tie::File(3pm)
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