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wrapperl - wrapper for Perl customized invocation

Hurry Up!

# download in "visible" location
cd /usr/bin
# alias wget='curl -LO' # in case you need it
chmod +x wrapperl

# set wrapperl.env for your project. Suppose you have a 'lib' directory
# with your stuff inside, and a 'local/lib/perl5' directory with the
# local installation of support modules, all inside /path/to/project
cd /path/to/project
cat > wrapperl.env <<END
PERL5LIB(qw< lib local/lib/perl5 >);

# start using it, most straightforward way is from hash-bang
cat > <<END
#!/usr/bin/env wrapperl
print "using perl '$^X', \@INC contains:\n";
print "- '$_'\n" for @INC;
# ...

# you can access docs for locally installed modules
wrapperl -d Log::Log4perl::Tiny


... or an example is worth a whole manual sometimes.

First of all, download wrapperl from and put somewhere in the environments where you need it. It is not necessary to put it in a directory in the PATH, although it is suggested in order to access all functionalities and it will also be assumed in the following of this example.

Let's make a few assumptions:

  • you are in a sane environment where you managed to put wrapperl somewhere in your PATH and you have a working /usr/bin/env (this assumption is not so strong, as you can understand, but will help us set a consistent hash-bang)

  • you will write your program and we will call it prg. To get the gist of wrapperl you can start from this:

      #!/usr/bin/env wrapperl
      print "using perl '$^X', \@INC contains:\n";
      print "- '$_'\n" for @INC;

    If you didn't manage to put wrapperl in PATH, or you don't have /usr/bin/env, just put the path to wrapperl in the hash-bang, although you will then need to ensure that this choice will be true on all systems

  • you do your coding in a development environment where:

    • you develop prg inside directory /home/me/program
    • perl is located at /home/me/perl/bin/perl
    • the modules you develop in association with prg are located in sub-directory lib. In addition, you keep a local library of support modules in sub-directory local/lib/perl5 and you also want to include modules from non-standard absolute location /path/to/some/lib and relative location another/lib with respect to where you are calling the program for (you are generally advised against this, but the example shows that you can)
  • you deploy your program in a production environment with a different setup, namely:

    • your program is deployed in directory /app/program
    • perl is located at /approved/perl/bin/perl
    • you still keep the layout with the lib and local/lib/perl5 sub-directories, but all system-wide modules you need are stored in /approved/lib.

In both environments, you create a wrapperl.env file inside the root directory of your project, which will hold configurations that are specific for the specific environment it is located into. In this example we will put it in the same directory as prg.

This is what you end up with in the development environment:

me@devhost /home/me/program$ ls -l
-rwxr-xr-x 1 me me 74 Apr 23 22:28 prg
-rwxr-xr-x 1 me me 90 Apr 22 12:35 wrapperl.env

me@devhost /home/me/program$ cat wrapperl.env
   qw< lib local/lib/perl5 >, # located as siblings of wrapperl.env
   [ qw< /path/to/some/lib another/lib > ],    # non-siblings paths

This is what you have in the production environment:

me@production /app/program$ ls -l
-rwxr-xr-x 1 me me 74 Apr 25 20:51 prg
-rwxr-xr-x 1 me me 66 Apr 25 20:51 wrapperl.env

me@production /app/program$ cat wrapperl.env
   qw< lib local/lib/perl5 >, # located as siblings of wrapperl.env
   [ qw< /approved/lib > ],   # non-siblings paths

So yes, they two setups are mostly the same, except for the contents of the wrapperl.env files, each containing configurations that are environment-specific. You should be able to easily guess what the two functions PERL5LIB and PERL do.

Now, you just execute your program. In the development environment:

me@devhost /home/me/program$ ./prg
using perl '/home/me/perl/bin/perl', @INC contains:
- '/home/me/program/lib'
- '/home/me/program/local/lib/perl5/i686-linux'
- '/home/me/program/local/lib/perl5'
- '/path/to/some/lib/i686-linux'
- '/path/to/some/lib'
- '/home/me/program/another/lib/i686-linux'
- '/home/me/program/another/lib'
- '/home/me/perl/lib/site_perl/5.18.1/i686-linux'
- '/home/me/perl/lib/site_perl/5.18.1'
- '/home/me/perl/lib/5.18.1/i686-linux'
- '/home/me/perl/lib/5.18.1'
- '.'

In the production environment:

me@production /app/program$ ./prg
using perl '/approved/perl/bin/perl', @INC contains:
- '/app/program/lib'
- '/app/program/local/lib/perl5/i686-linux'
- '/app/program/local/lib/perl5'
- '/approved/lib/i686-linux'
- '/approved/lib'
- '/approved/perl/lib/site_perl/5.18.1/i686-linux'
- '/approved/perl/lib/site_perl/5.18.1'
- '/approved/perl/lib/5.18.1/i686-linux'
- '/approved/perl/lib/5.18.1'
- '.'

One last hint! If you cannot manage to install wrapperl somewhere in the PATH in all the environments, you can either do some shell wrapping (but this would somehow make wrapperl slightly overkill probably) or use an approach based on symbolic links. If this is the case:

  • rename your program prg as, i.e. ending in suffix .pl
  • in the same directory, create a symbolic link named prg and pointing to the location of wrapperl (which could be in the very same directory if you plan to ship wrapperl as well)

With this setup, when you run the symbolic link, it will just run the associated .pl file with the settings in the wrapperl.env file.

That's all folks!


# Minimal setup: create a "wrapperl.env" file.
# It is a Perl program to set up the right environment.
# Two handy functions PERL5LIB() and PERL() are all you need usually
shell$ cat wrapperl.env
PERL5LIB(qw< lib llib > [qw< /path/to/lib /path/to/other/lib >]);

# You can have a different "wrapperl.env" on each directory.
# What is the one that we would see from here? "wrapperl" can
# tell you this with -e | --env
shell$ wrapperl -e

# If you also provide a parameter to -e | --env, it will tell
# you which environment file will be seen by the provided
# parameter (that is of course expected to be a path)
shell$ wrapperl -e /path/to/a/wrapperl/symlink

# Time to make it work! Option -x | --exec means calling it
# as if it were the chosen perl with the configurations in
# "wrapperl.env"
shell$ wrapperl -x -le 'print $^X'

# Option -s | --sibling allows to call programs that are
# usually shipped with perl, e.g. perlthanks, podchecker, etc.
shell$ wrapperl -s podchecker

# Another useful option is -d | --doc to call perldoc quickly,
# so the following ones are equivalent but the latter is less typing
shell$ wrapperl -s perldoc Module::Name
shell$ wrapperl -d Module::Name

# If the first parameter is not supported by "wrapperl" directly,
# it will be considered a perl program to be executed along with
# its own parameters. This makes it handy to use wrapperl in
# hash-bang setups. The program's *realpath* is also used as the
# starting point for searching wrapperl.env, so that symbolic
# links to your program should work as expected
shell$ wrapperl --foo bar

# You can symlink pointing to wrapperl and it will do some magic.
# Call the real program a name ending with ".pl" (e.g. "")
# and symlink wrapperl with the same name withouth the extension
# (e.g. "prg"). This is what will happen:
shell$ ls -l
-rw-r--r-- 1 me me 74 Apr 23 22:20 wrapperl.env
lrwxrwxrwx 1 me me  8 Apr 23 22:51 prg -> /path/to/wrapperl
-rwxr-xr-x 1 me me 74 Apr 23 22:28

shell$ cat
#!/usr/bin/env perl
print "using perl '$^X', \@INC contains:\n";
print "- '$_'\n" for @INC;

shell$ cat wrapperl.env
$ENV{PERL5LIB} = '/path/to/some/lib:/path/to/another/lib';
$PERL = '/path/to/bin/perl';

shell$ which perl

# If you call the program directly, wrapperl is not used of course
shell$ ./
using perl '/usr/bin/perl', @INC contains:
- '/etc/perl'
- '/usr/local/lib/perl/5.14.2'
- '/usr/local/share/perl/5.14.2'
- '/usr/lib/perl5'
- '/usr/share/perl5'
- '/usr/lib/perl/5.14'
- '/usr/share/perl/5.14'
- '/usr/local/lib/site_perl'
- '.'

# On the other hand, if you call the "prg" symlink to wrapperl,
# the same program above will be called, but with the perl and
# options set in "wrapperl.env"
shell$ ./prg
using perl '/path/to/bin/perl', @INC contains:
- '/path/to/another/lib/i686-linux'
- '/path/to/another/lib'
- '/path/to/some/lib/i686-linux'
- '/path/to/some/lib'
- '/path/to/lib/site_perl/5.18.1/i686-linux'
- '/path/to/lib/site_perl/5.18.1'
- '/path/to/lib/5.18.1/i686-linux'
- '/path/to/lib/5.18.1'
- '.'

# There are two symlinks/names that trigger a special behaviour,
# namely "perl" and "perldoc" that do what you think
shell$ ls -l
lrwxrwxrwx 1 me me  8 Apr 23 21:51 perl -> /path/to/wrapperl
lrwxrwxrwx 1 me me  8 Apr 23 22:46 perldoc -> /path/to/wrapperl

# The following two are therefore equivalent (and no, the
# double "-x" is not an error, because the first is consumed by
# "wrapperl" and the second one is for the invoked perl)
shell$ ./perl -x /path/to/my/
shell$ wrapperl -x -x /path/to/my/

# These three are equivalent too
shell$ ./perldoc My::Module
shell$ wrapperl -d My::Module
shell$ wrapperl -s perldoc My::Module

# Last, if you manage to install wrapperl somewhere in the PATH
# you can spare the symbolic link and use the hash bang directly!
shell$ cat hashbanged-program
#!/usr/bin/env wrapperl
print "using perl $^X\n";
print "$_\n" for @INC;

shell$ ./hashbanged-program
using perl '/path/to/bin/perl', @INC contains:
- '/path/to/another/lib/i686-linux'
- '/path/to/another/lib'
- '/path/to/some/lib/i686-linux'
- '/path/to/some/lib'
- '/path/to/lib/site_perl/5.18.1/i686-linux'
- '/path/to/lib/site_perl/5.18.1'
- '/path/to/lib/5.18.1/i686-linux'
- '/path/to/lib/5.18.1'
- '.'


This program lets you wrap a perl program with some local-specific configurations.

Why would you do this, e.g. as opposed to modifying the hash-bang line or setting PERL5LIB, or calling the perl executable directly? Well, lazyness of course, but also the fact that in different environments the same program might need different configurations, and changing those configurations possibly in many little Perl programs quickly becomes an error-prone hassle.

wrapperl provides you with a consistent, minimal and easy to setup way to concentrate local-specific configurations in the "The wrapperl.env File", and be sure that you will call your Perl program(s) with the right setup every time.

wrapperl's behaviour strongly depends on its name. That is, if you leave it as wrapperl it behaves in a specific way, while if you name it differently then it does something else.

You have several options to do call wrapperl with a different name:

  • you just copy it with a different name. It works but it's also ugly and it will be a hassle every time you want to upgrade (but chances are you will not need. so don't worry too much)
  • you create a symbolic link. Works if your filesystem supports them, is robust and allows you to avoid touching the main program
  • if you can put wrapperl somewhere in the path in all your environments, and your system supports the hash-bang system (i.e. you're in some Unix-ish system), you can just set it inside the main program and avoid having anything more. Very clean and suggested if possible!

The following sections start by describing the wrapperl.env file you should set up, then describe the behaviour in the different conditions; among them, most probably you will be interested into "Named Something Else".

The wrapperl.env File

The wrapperl.env file is at the heart of the localization of your configurations.


The file is a standard Perl program. It will be called using whatever default perl is found, that is not what you are looking for most probably (otherwise you would probably not be using wrapperl at all). You can do whatever setting inside it, while most probably you will be interested in setting the environment variable PERL5LIB to point towards the library directories you want to include in @INC, and also set the right Perl executable to use.

You can affect how wrapperl works by calling the following functions from within a wrapperl.env file (you should normally only need the first two anyway):

  • PERL($path)

    the path to the perl to use for invoking the other programs.

    By default it is set to the same perl that is executing wrapperl, namely $^X, just in case you need to setup PERL5LIB only.

  • PERL5LIB(@items)

    set the environment variable PERL5LIB according to your needs. You can pass a list of items, each of which can be:

    • a string, that is interpreted as a relative path starting from the same directory as where wrapperl.env is put. This allows e.g. to make sure you can point towards sub-directories lib and local/lib/perl5 inside your project's root directory, provided you also put wrapperl.env in the same directory
    • a reference to an array of strings. These strings are passed unchanged in the environment variable, so that you can set either absolute paths or paths relative to the current directory.

    You should normally need to set paths relative to the root directory of your project, this is why it's slightly easier to set them instead of absolute paths or paths relative to the current directory.

    Any previous value of the environment variable PERL5LIB is wiped out, and this is considered a feature. If you really want to preserve it somewhere, just pass its value inside a reference to an array like this:

      PERL5LIB(..., [$ENV{PERL5LIB}], ...);
  • ME($path)

    the location of the original program invoked. When calling wrapperl with a different name (see "Named Something Else"), it is used together with $SUFFIX described below to form the name of the program $ME$SUFFIX that will be called with the new $PERL. In general you should not need to fiddle with this.

  • PERLDOC($name)

    The name of the perldoc utility installed along with $PERL.

    By default it is set to perldoc, and you probably do not need to change it.

  • SUFFIX($string)

    a suffix that is appended to the name of the invoked program when calling wrapperl with a different name (see "Named Something Else"). Makes sense only if you are using the symbolic linking method and not the hash-bang approach.

    Assuming that $ME holds the value set by ME() and $SUFFIX the value set by SUFFIX, the called program will be $ME$SUFFIX, so if $SUFFIX is .pl, you are expected to call your real program the same as your symbolic link (or renamed wrapperl program) but with .pl appended. Example:

      shell$ ls -l
      lrwxrwxrwx 1 me me  8 Apr 23 22:51 prg -> /path/to/wrapperl
      -rwxr-xr-x 1 me me 74 Apr 23 22:28

    If your system is picky about how files should be named (e.g. Windows might put some restrictions to what it considers as executables), then you can do your transformations directly using ME() and set SUFFIX('') to the empty string in order to select the real program to call.

    By default, it is set to .pl and you should not need to change it.


The wrapperl.env file is loaded via a do, so you are warned about any possible security issue.

The invocation is supposed to return a true value (in Perl terms), otherwise the execution will be stopped.


Depending on how wrapperl is called, the wrapperl.env file is searched in different locations.

One or more starting positions will be considered, and used to perform a search from that position upwards in the filesystem. For example, if the starting point is /path/to/some/internal/sub, then the following paths will be searched for wrapperl.env:


An exception is thrown if no wrapperl.env file is found during the search in all the starting points.

The standard resolution of the wrapperl.env file is performed starting from the current working directory, then from the user's home directory as read from the HOME environment variable.

In some cases, the starting position will be some other specific location. For example, when wrapperl is "Named Something Else", the only starting location will be the path to the link to wrapperl, (i.e. what is used to initialize $ME).

Direct Invocation

Direct invocation of wrapperl (i.e. without changing the name when calling it) is subject to the processing of some options (see "OPTIONS").

Unless otherwise noted, the resolution of the wrapperl.env file is the standard one as described in section "Position".

If none of the options in "OPTIONS" is recognized, the selected perl via PERL() is invoked with whatever argument list is provided. This is equivalent to using the -x|--exec option, except that the first option is not stripped away in this case and also that the first item in the command line list is assumed to be the path to a program and its path will be used as the starting position for wrapperl.env location resolution.

Option -d|--doc helps you call perldoc, or whatever is set in $PERLDOC. This will be useful in order to use the perldoc that is shipped with the selected $PERL, and more importantly with the same options (e.g. PERL5LIB) set in wrapperl.env, so that you will be able to find whatever module is installed in your personalized paths.

Option -e|--env helps you find out what will be the wrapperl.env used, so that you can double check that it is the one you are expecting and its contents. If you also pass a path in the command line, it will be used as the starting point for searching wrapperl.env, otherwise the standard resolution process is used.

Option -s|--sibling allows you to call one of the Perl programs that are present in the same directory as $PERL, much in the same way as described for perldoc above. For example, if you want to check the POD documentation in using the podchecker that is shipped with the perl you indicated in wrapperl.env:

shell$ wrapperl -s podchecker

Last, option -x|--exec allows you to call $PERL with the options set in wrapperl.env (where the resolution process starts from the current directory or from the HOME directory).

Named perl

This name makes wrapperl transform into a call to what set as PERL(), including any command line option provided.

The resolution of the wrapperl.env file is performed according to the standard resolution process explained in section "Position", starting from the location of the symbolic link.


This name calls the perldoc set via PERLDOC() and located in the same directory as what set via PERL(), including any command line option provided. The behaviour is the same as calling wrapperl with option -d|--doc, with the exception of the resolution process.

The resolution of the wrapperl.env file is performed according to the standard resolution process explained in section "Position", starting from the location of the symbolic link.

Named Something Else

If your system(s) have /usr/bin/env and you can put wrapperl somewhere in the PATH, just set the hash-bang to:

#!/usr/bin/env wrapperl

and you're done. If not, read on.

Assuming that you have set up your wrapperl.env file (see "The wrapperl.env File"), you are only two steps away from using wrapperl to automate calling your program with the right setup:

  • you can write your program without worrying about which perl will be used to call it or where the libraries are installed. Your only constraint is to name it ending with what is set for SUFFIX() or do some magic using ME() in wrapperl.env.

    By default, it suffices that you name your program ending with .pl. For example, we will assume that your program is called

  • You set up a copy to wrapperl to be called the same as your program, but without the SUFFIX. In the example, your copy would be called prg.

    To make the copy you don't really have to make a copy! A symbolic link is sufficient, if your filesystem supports them.

This is really it! Now, every time you need to run your program... don't do it, execute the wrapperl copy instead! That is, in the example you would call prg, and it would in turn call your but after reading all the configurations in wrapperl.env.

See "TL;DR" for a complete and commented example.


When invoked with name wrapperl, this program supports the following options. Note that you can provide one of them as the first option, and anyone not appearing here will actually be used for invoking the perl indicated in the wrapperl.env file.

In all the options below, unless otherwise noted, the standard resolution process for searching wrapperl.env is used (see "Position").

  • -d | --doc [arg1 arg2 ...]

    invoke whatever program is set in the $PERLDOC variable in package main (perldoc by default), using $PERL and the settings inside wrapperl.env.

    The $PERLDOC program is expected to be placed in the same directory as the selected $PERL.

  • -e | --env [path]

    print the path to the wrapperl.env file.

    If a path is provided after this option, it is used as a starting location for searching wrapperl.env, otherwise the standard resolution process is used. See "Position" for additional details.

  • -s | --sibling name [arg1 arg2 ...]

    invoke a sibling program, i.e. a program that is shipped along with $PERL and is located in the same directory.

    The program is run with $PERL and the configurations set inside wrapperl.env. Any argument is provided on the command line is passed along to the sibling program. This will thus work fine when the sibling is a Perl program, but not for binary executables.

  • -x | --exec program [arg1 arg2 ...]

    invoke $PERL with the provided program and arguments, after loading the options in wrapper.env. The wrapperl.env resolution is performed starting from the realpath of program (see "Cwd").


  • could not find wrapperl.env

    wrapperl tried to find wrapperl.env in the same directory as the symbolic link to it, or in any ancestor directory, but failed to find one.

  • errors loading '%s'

    loading the wrapperl.env was not successful, i.e. the invocation via do did not produce a true value. The placeholder provides the location of the offending file.

  • failed execution of %s

    wrapperl tried to execute the command (reported in the error message) but failed. The placeholder provides the offending command.

  • something went really wrong

    you shouldn't ever see this message, if you do it's a bug!


wrapperl does not have a configuration per-se, but is of course relying on the presence of a wrapperl.env file for proper functioning - see "DESCRIPTION".


wrapperl relies on modules that are part of any standard Perl distribution as of release 5.6.0.


Please report bugs and hopefully solutions through the GitHub repository at


Flavio Poletti


Copyright (c) 2015, Flavio Poletti

This module is free software. You can redistribute it and/or modify it under the terms of the Artistic License 2.0. Please read the full license in the LICENSE file inside the distribution, as you can find at

This program is distributed in the hope that it will be useful, but without any warranty; without even the implied warranty of merchantability or fitness for a particular purpose.

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