How do I run a Perl script from within a Perl script?


I've got a Perl script that needs to execute another Perl script. This second script can be executed directly on the command line, but I need to execute it from within my first program. I'll need to pass it a few parameters that would normally be passed in when it's run standalone (the first script runs periodically, and executes the second script under a certain set of system conditions).

Preliminary Google searches suggest using backticks or a system() call. Are there any other ways to run it? (I'm guessing yes, since it's Perl we're talking about :P ) Which method is preferred if I need to capture output from the invoked program (and, if possible, pipe that output as it executes to stdout as though the second program were invoked directly)?

(Edit: oh, now SO suggests some related questions. This one is close, but not exactly the same as what I'm asking. The second program will likely take an hour or more to run (lots of I/O), so I'm not sure a one-off invocation is the right fit for this.)


Answers:


The location of your current perl interpreter can be found in the special variable $^X. This is important if perl is not in your path, or if you have multiple perl versions available but which to make sure you're using the same one across the board.

When executing external commands, including other Perl programs, determining if they actually ran can be quite difficult. Inspecting $? can leave lasting mental scars, so I prefer to use IPC::System::Simple (available from the CPAN):

use strict;
use warnings;
use IPC::System::Simple qw(system capture);

# Run a command, wait until it finishes, and make sure it works.
# Output from this program goes directly to STDOUT, and it can take input
# from your STDIN if required.
system($^X, "yourscript.pl", @ARGS);

# Run a command, wait until it finishes, and make sure it works.
# The output of this command is captured into $results.
my $results = capture($^X, "yourscript.pl", @ARGS);

In both of the above examples any arguments you wish to pass to your external program go into @ARGS. The shell is also avoided in both of the above examples, which gives you a small speed advantage, and avoids any unwanted interactions involving shell meta-characters. The above code also expects your second program to return a zero exit value to indicate success; if that's not the case, you can specify an additional first argument of allowable exit values:

 # Both of these commands allow an exit value of 0, 1 or 2 to be considered
 # a successful execution of the command.

 system( [0,1,2], $^X, "yourscript.pl", @ARGS );
 # OR
 capture( [0,1,2, $^X, "yourscript.pl", @ARGS );

If you have a long-running process and you want to process its data while it's being generated, then you're probably going to need a piped open, or one of the more heavyweight IPC modules from the CPAN.

Having said all that, any time you need to be calling another Perl program from Perl, you may wish to consider if using a module would be a better choice. Starting another program carries quite a few overheads, both in terms of start-up costs, and I/O costs for moving data between processes. It also significantly increases the difficulty of error handling. If you can turn your external program into a module, you may find it simplifies your overall design.

All the best,

Paul