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

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

               # This file documents Tie::File version 0.97
               use Tie::File;

               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 $r2 = 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 immedi-

       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:

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

       This says that records are delimited by the string "es".
       If the file contained the following 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 nothing:

               chomp $array[17];

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

       Inserting records that contain the record separator string
       is not supported by this module.  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 several.

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


       the tied array will appear to contain "("Gold", "Frankin-
       cense", "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


       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 managing 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

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       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 visited records from
       the read cache.

       The default memory limit is 2Mib.  You can adjust the max-
       imum 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

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

       The cache itself consumes about 310 bytes per cached
       record, so if your file has many short records, you may
       want to decrease the cache memory limit, or else the cache
       overhead may exceed the size of the cached data.


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

       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.

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       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 con-
       stants are provided by the "use Fcntl ':flock'" declara-

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

       "Tie::File" maintains an internal table of the byte offset
       of each record it has seen in the file.

       When you use "flock" to lock the file, "Tie::File" assumes
       that the read cache is no longer trustworthy, because
       another process might have modified the file since the
       last time it was read.  Therefore, a successful call to
       "flock" discards the contents of the read cache and the
       internal record offset table.

       "Tie::File" promises that the following sequence of opera-
       tions 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.  (Exception: 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 probably unsafe to unlock the file
       without also untying it, because if you do, changes may

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       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 locking 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 guar-
       antees 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.


               $off = $o->offset($n);

       This method returns the byte offset of the start of the
       $nth record in the file.  If there is no such record, it
       returns an undefined value.

Tying to an already-opened filehandle
       If $fh is a filehandle, such as is returned by "IO::File"
       or one of the other "IO" modules, 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 supplied a non-seekable
       handle, the "tie" call will throw an exception.  (On Unix

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       systems, it can detect this.)

       Note that Tie::File will only close any filehandles that
       it opened internally.  If you passed it a filehandle as
       above, you "own" the filehandle, and are responsible for
       closing it after you have untied the @array.

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

       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; typi-
       cally, 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

       However, under some circumstances, this behavior may be
       excessively slow.  For example, suppose you have a mil-
       lion-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 files:

               (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

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

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       not to.  See "autodeferring", below.)

       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 spec-
       ified 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 writes.

       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
       performed immediately.  This may change in a future ver-

       If you resize the array with deferred writing enabled, the
       file will be resized immediately, 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 feature, use

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               (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 autode-
       fer setting.

       Caching and deferred writing are inappropriate if you want
       the same file to be accessed simultaneously from more than
       one process.  Other optimizations performed internally by
       this module are also incompatible with concurrent access.
       A future version of this module will support a "concurrent
       => 1" option that enables safe concurrent access.

       Previous versions of this documentation suggested using
       "memory => 0" for safe concurrent access.  This was mis-
       taken.  Tie::File will not support safe concurrent access
       before version 0.98.

       (That's Latin for 'warnings'.)

       o   Reasonable effort was made to make this module effi-
           cient.  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 example:

                   # 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 supposedly-"undef"'ed value will be defined.  Sim-
           ilarly, if you have "autochomp" disabled, then

                   # 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

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

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       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 main-
           tain 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 usually tried to take it.

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

       o   There is a large memory overhead for each record off-
           set and for each cache entry: about 310 bytes per
           cached data record, and about 21 bytes per offset
           table entry.

           The per-record overhead will limit the maximum number
           of records you can access per file. Note that access-
           ing the length of the array via "$x = scalar
           @tied_file" accesses all records and stores their off-
           sets.  The same for "foreach (@tied_file)", even if
           you exit the loop early.

       This version promises absolutely nothing about the inter-
       nals, which may change without notice.  A future version
       of the module will have a well-defined and stable sub-
       classing API.

       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:

       To receive an announcement whenever a new version of this
       module is released, send a blank email message to

       The most recent version of this module, including documen-
       tation and any news of importance, will be available at


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

       "Tie::File" version 0.97 is copyright (C) 2003 Mark Jason

       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 Artis-
       tic 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
       PURPOSE.  See the GNU General Public License for more

       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
       Foundation, 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 0.97 comes with ABSOLUTELY NO WAR-
       RANTY.  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.  (Usu-
       ally the rule is "choose any one.")  Also big thanks to
       Abhijit Menon-Sen for all of the same things.

       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).

       Special thanks to Tels for suggesting several speed and
       memory optimizations.

       Additional thanks to: Edward Avis / Mattia Barbon / Tom
       Christiansen / Gerrit Haase / Gurusamy Sarathy / Jarkko
       Hietaniemi (again) / Nikola Knezevic / John Kominetz /

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       Nick Ing-Simmons / Tassilo von Parseval / H. Dieter
       Pearcey / Slaven Rezic / Eric Roode / Peter Scott / Peter
       Somu / Autrijus Tang (again) / Tels (again) / Juerd Waal-

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

       Paragraph mode?

       Fixed-length mode.  Leave-blanks mode.

       Maybe an autolocking mode?

       For many common uses of the module, the read cache is a
       liability.  For example, a program that inserts a single
       record, or that scans the file once, will have a cache hit
       rate of zero.  This suggests a major optimization: The
       cache should be initially disabled.  Here's a hybrid
       approach: Initially, the cache is disabled, but the cache
       code maintains statistics about how high the hit rate
       would be *if* it were enabled.  When it sees the hit rate
       get high enough, it enables itself.  The STAT comments in
       this code are the beginning of an implementation of this.

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

       Keeping track of the highest cached record. This would
       allow reads-in-a-row to skip the cache lookup faster (if
       reading from 1..N with empty cache at start, the last
       cached value will be always N-1).

       More tests.

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