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Best Practices for Perl5 CPAN Modules Metadata
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README.md

README.md

Perl5 Module Meta - Best Practices

This is a collection of things that help making your CPAN module "portable" with regard to metadata.

CPAN/PAUSE itself is not very strict about these things. But turning a module into an RPM or Debian package for example can be hard if it is missing meta data.

People maintaining rpm or deb repositories for perl often have to do a lot of manual work, although theoretically most of it can be automated.

Table of Contents

Versions

Use a consistent versioning scheme

The short story: Always use the same amount of digits after the major version.

The long story:

Perl versions are different from common versioning schemes.

In Perl, the version 1.1901 is semantically equal to v1.190.100, and 1.20 to v1.200.

So it can happen that a CPAN module was released with version 1.1901, and a year later a new version 1.20 is released. For perl, the new version is bigger.

If vendors want to turn the module into an rpm or deb, they would have to turn the version into 1.190.100/1.200 to be correct. The only disadvantage is that the version may not look the same as the original CPAN version anymore.

But if they take the version as it is, then 1.190 is bigger than the following 1.20.

Make it easier for vendors and always use the same amounts of digits. If you want to change to a different versioning scheme, then at least change the major version before.

Use the same distribution version everywhere (META.* files, Makefile.PL, archive name, Changelog).

Do not reuse versions

Always increase the version for a new upload and do not reuse the same version.

Also have a look at Grinnz' Guide to Versions in Perl.

Description

Every module should have a DESCRIPTION section in the pod documentation.

=head1 NAME

Module::Name - Abstract

=head1 SYNOPSIS

    use Module::Name;
    # example code

=head1 DESCRIPTION

A few paragraphs with a description of your module.

This description is usually what ends up in the vendor package description. Don't make it too long and create extra headers for more specific parts.

Also check for spelling mistakes. See Author Tests.

Archive filename

The filename you upload should match the distribution name and version, e.g.

Your-Module-1.23.tar.gz
Your-Module-1.23.zip
Your-Module-v1.23.tar.gz
Your-Module-v1.23.zip

tgz and tar.bz2 might also work.

The archive should unpack to Your-Module-version. Do not omit the version. If people unpack different versions of your module, they should not end up in the same directory.

The contents of the module should be in the top folder of the archive, e.g.

Your-Module-1.23/
    lib/Your/Module.pm
    t/...
    LICENSE
    Makefile.PL

@INC

In perl 5.26, the current directory . was removed from @INC. Make sure you don't rely on ., for example when using Module::Install, or when using modules in your test directory.

Don't use

use t::lib::Some::Module;

Instead do:

use lib 't/lib';
use Some::Module;

Or:

use FindBin '$Bin';
use lib "$Bin/lib";
use Some::Module;

Changelog

Use a common format and filename for your changelog file. The most common filename is Changes.

For vendors to be able to parse the file, use a format like this:

1.23 2019-11-02 12:34:56+02:00

    - Bug fix: ...
    - New Feature: ...

The version should exactly match the version of the distribution.

Newer versions should be above older versions.

If you fixed a bug that was reported in an issue, mention the issue. Vendors often create local patches for modules and, if they have time, create an issue. If you fixed the issue and mention it in the changelog, vendors can more easily remove outdated patches.

License

The license should appear ideally in four places:

  • META.json
  • META.yml
  • LICENSE file
  • The pod documentation of your main module

Dependencies

List all dependencies. The list of modules contained in core may change over time. It's best to include all dependencies including the ones that are currently in core.

If possible, add the minimum required version of the dependency. For example, when using Test::More::done_testing(), require Test::More version 0.88, as it was added in this version.

Also don't forget to specify the minimum perl version.

Also have a look at Neil's Specifying dependencies for your CPAN distribution.

Non-perl dependencies

If your module needs an external library, there is currently no way to specify this in META.json/META.yml. But you can help vendors by documenting the external libaries your module needs in pod.

Shebang

The first line of any perl scripts included in your distribution, especially the ones that will be installed, should look like that:

#!/usr/bin/perl

When the module is installed, this line will be automatically replaced with the path to perl that was used for building.

Alternatively #!perl should also work.

Note that if you use

#!/usr/bin/env perl

the line is currently not rewritten. See Perl-Toolchain-Gang/ExtUtils-MakeMaker#58 for a discussion on this. If the line is not rewritten and your installed script is executed with a different perl, this can lead to problems, for example dependencies will not be found.

MANIFEST

Make sure to not include files in your archive that don't belong there, like editor backup files (.swp), the .git folder, forgotten tarballs.

Usually build tools will skip files listed in MANIFEST.SKIP.

Bugtracker

If your repository is hosted at a site like GitHub or BitBucket, and you are using the bugtracker it provides, add the URL to the bugtracker in the META.json/META.yml. That makes it easier for people to find existing and file new bugs.

Tests

Regularly look at the CPAN Testers site (linked from your module page on MetaCPAN) to see if there are any test failures.

If possible, don't rely on a working network and mock network operations.

Don't rely on a fixed order of hash keys.

Tests should not create or alter files in the distribution. If you have to create files for tests, delete them at the end.

This can be done in an END block, so the files will be deleted also when a test fails and exits unexpectedly.

use File::Path 'rmtree';
...
END {
    rmtree "/path/to/temporary/testfiles";
}

Installer

Don't prompt for input in the install process, for example in Makefile.PL or Build.PL. This will break automatic installations. If you need a prompt, use ExtUtils::MakeMaker::prompt(), as it will detect if it's running interactively or not and use a default.

Author Tests

There are a number of Test modules that help you avoiding some of the mentioned issues.

Place them in the xt/ directory so they are not run by default. They should be run by the author before releasing.

Other resources

openSUSE

You can find a lot of CPAN modules in the devel:languages:perl repository of openSUSE Build Service (OBS).

Look if you can find your module there. Maybe you'll find out that it contains local patches.

The most used tool to create .spec files for CPAN modules is cpanspec. It can use a cpanspec.yml file for any changes necessary to make the module build successfully.

You will also see a lot of modules not using cpanspec.yml yet. The spec was probably created manually.

The cpanspec.yml can be used for adding forgotten dependencies, but also for non-perl dependencies, like you can see in the Gtk3 distribution.

cpanspec is not perfect, and OBS maintainers will be glad for help in making it handle more distributions correctly.

Debian

See the Debian Perl Group

The tool to create debian packages from Perl modules is dh-make-perl.

Fedora

List of perl packages

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