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perl wrapper for the bash shell
Perl Shell
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Shell::Run - Execute shell commands using specific shell


    use Shell::Run;
    my $bash = Shell::Run->new(name => 'bash');

    my ($input, $output);

    # input and output, status check
    $input = 'fed to cmd';
    $bash->run('cat', $output, $input) or warn('bash failed');
    print "output is '$output'\n";
    # no input
    $bash->run('echo hello', $output);
    print "output is '$output'\n";
    # use shell variable
    $bash->run('echo $foo', $output, undef, foo => 'var from env');
    print "output is '$output'\n";

    # use bash feature
    $bash->run('cat <(echo $foo)', $output, undef, foo => 'var from file');
    print "output is '$output'\n";


The Shell::Run class provides an alternative interface for executing shell commands in addition to

  • qx{cmd}
  • system('cmd')
  • open CMD, '|-', 'cmd'
  • open CMD, '-|', 'cmd'
  • IPC::Run

While these are convenient for simple commands, at the same time they lack support for some advanced shell features.

Here is an example for something rather simple within bash that cannot be done straightforward with perl:

    export passwd=secret
    key="$(openssl pkcs12 -nocerts -nodes -in somecert.pfx \
            -passin env:passwd)"
    signdata='some data to be signed'
    signature="$(echo -n "$signdata" | \
            openssl dgst -sha256 -sign <(echo "$key") -hex"
    echo "$signature"

As there are much more openssl commands available on shell level than via perl modules, this is not so simple to adopt. One had to write the private key into a temporary file and feed this to openssl within perl. Same with input and output from/to the script: one has to be on file while the other may be written/read to/from a pipe.

Other things to consider:

  • There is no way to specify by which interpreter qx{cmd} is executed.
  • The default shell might not understand constructs like <(cmd).
  • perl variables are not accessible from the shell.

Another challenge consists in feeding the called command with input from the perl script and capturing the output at the same time. While this last item is perfectly solved by IPC::Run, the latter is rather complex and even requires some special setup to execute code by a specific shell.

The class Shell::Run tries to merge the possibilities of the above named alternatives into one. I.e.:

  • use a specific command interpreter e.g. bash (or sh as default which does not make too much sense).
  • provide the command to execute as a single string, like in system()
  • give access to the full syntax of the command interpreter
  • enable feeding of standard input and capturing standard output of the called command
  • enable access to perl variables within the called command

Using the Shell::Run class, the above given shell script example might be implemented this way in perl:

    my $bash = Shell::Run->new(name => 'bash);

    my $passwd = 'secret'
    my $key;
    $bash->run('openssl pkcs12 -nocerts -nodes -in demo.pfx \
            -passin env:passwd', $key, undef, passwd => $passwd);
    my $signdata = 'some data to be signed';
    my $signature;
    $bash->run('openssl dgst -sha256 -sign <(echo "$key") -hex',
             $signature, $signdata, key => $key);
    print $signature;

Quite similar, isn't it?

Actually, the a call to openssl dgst as above was the very reason to create this class.

Commands run by $sh->run are by default executed via the -c option of the specified shell. This behaviour can be modified by providing other arguments in the constructor Shell::Run->new.

Debugging output can be enabled in a similar way.



Shell::Run->new([name => shell] [, exe => path] [, args => arguments] [, debug => debug])

  • shell

    The name of the shell interpreter to be used by the created instance. The executable is searched for in the PATH variable.

    This value is ignored if path is given and defaults to sh.

  • path

    The fully specified path to an executable to be used by the created instance.

  • arguments

    If arguments is provided, it shall be a reference to an array specifying arguments that are passed to the specified shell.

    The default is -c. Use a reference to an empty array to avoid this.

  • debug

    When debug is set to true, calls to the run method will print debugging output to STDERR.


$sh->run(cmd, output [, input [, key => value, ...]])

  • cmd

    The code that is to be executed by this shell.

  • output

    A scalar that will receive STDOUT from cmd. The content of this variable will be overwritten by $sh->run calls.

  • input

    An optional scalar holding data that is fed to STDIN of cmd

  • key => value, ...

    A list of key-value pairs that are set in the environment of the called shell.


There seems to be some race condition when the called script closes its input file prior to passing all provided input data to it. Sometimes a SIGPIPE is caught and sometimes syswrite returns an error. It is not clear if all situations are handled correctly.

Best efford has been made to avoid blocking situations where neither reading output from the script nor writing input to it is possible. However, under some circumstance such blocking might occur.


For more advanced interaction with background processes see IPC::Run.


Jörg Sommrey


Copyright (c) 2019, Jörg Sommrey. All rights reserved.

This program is free software; you can redistribute it and/or modify it under the terms of either: the GNU General Public License as published by the Free Software Foundation; or the Artistic License.

See for more information.

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