Perl Binding,

    October 25, 2005

Perl has “||” and “or”. While “or” can’t be used in bit operations, either one can be used in logical flow control – but there is an important difference between them.

For example, this code doesn’t work properly:

open FILE, "$file" || die "Can't open: $! \n";
print "$file open";

If “$file” doesn’t exist, you won’t get the “Can’t open” message. The problem is that the “||” binds tightly and confuses the “open” function. You need to either do:

open FILE, "$file" or die "Can't open: $! \n";

(because or binds less tightly than ||) or

open(FILE, "$file") || die "Can't open: $! \n";

(because the parens contain the open function)

Generally speaking it’s a very good idea for new Perl folk to use “or” rather than “||” in conditional flow tests, and to use parens for functions. So (following both rules), I’d recommend getting used to writing that like this:

open(FILE, "$file") or die "Can't open: $! \n";

at least until you are very clear on what each of these does.

*Originally published at

A.P. Lawrence provides SCO Unix and Linux consulting services