MirBSD manpage: Switch(3p)

Switch(3p)      Perl Programmers Reference Guide       Switch(3p)


     Switch - A switch statement for Perl


     This document describes version 2.10 of Switch, released Dec
     29, 2003.


             use Switch;

             switch ($val) {

                     case 1          { print "number 1" }
                     case "a"        { print "string a" }
                     case [1..10,42] { print "number in list" }
                     case (@array)   { print "number in list" }
                     case /\w+/      { print "pattern" }
                     case qr/\w+/    { print "pattern" }
                     case (%hash)    { print "entry in hash" }
                     case (\%hash)   { print "entry in hash" }
                     case (\&sub)    { print "arg to subroutine" }
                     else            { print "previous case not true" }


     [Skip ahead to "DESCRIPTION" if you don't care about the
     whys and wherefores of this control structure]

     In seeking to devise a "Swiss Army" case mechanism suitable
     for Perl, it is useful to generalize this notion of distri-
     buted conditional testing as far as possible. Specifically,
     the concept of "matching" between the switch value and the
     various case values need not be restricted to numeric (or
     string or referential) equality, as it is in other
     languages. Indeed, as Table 1 illustrates, Perl offers at
     least eighteen different ways in which two values could gen-
     erate a match.

             Table 1: Matching a switch value ($s) with a case value ($c)

             Switch  Case    Type of Match Implied   Matching Code
             Value   Value
             ======  =====   =====================   =============

             number  same    numeric or referential  match if $s == $c;
             or ref          equality

             object  method  result of method call   match if $s->$c();
             ref     name                            match if defined $s->$c();
                     or ref

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             other   other   string equality         match if $s eq $c;
             non-ref non-ref
             scalar  scalar

             string  regexp  pattern match           match if $s =~ /$c/;

             array   scalar  array entry existence   match if 0<=$c && $c<@$s;
             ref             array entry definition  match if defined $s->[$c];
                             array entry truth       match if $s->[$c];

             array   array   array intersection      match if intersects(@$s, @$c);
             ref     ref     (apply this table to
                              all pairs of elements
                              $s->[$i] and

             array   regexp  array grep              match if grep /$c/, @$s;

             hash    scalar  hash entry existence    match if exists $s->{$c};
             ref             hash entry definition   match if defined $s->{$c};
                             hash entry truth        match if $s->{$c};

             hash    regexp  hash grep               match if grep /$c/, keys %$s;

             sub     scalar  return value defn       match if defined $s->($c);
             ref             return value truth      match if $s->($c);

             sub     array   return value defn       match if defined $s->(@$c);
             ref     ref     return value truth      match if $s->(@$c);

     In reality, Table 1 covers 31 alternatives, because only the
     equality and intersection tests are commutative; in all
     other cases, the roles of the $s and $c variables could be
     reversed to produce a different test. For example, instead
     of testing a single hash for the existence of a series of
     keys ("match if exists $s->{$c}"), one could test for the
     existence of a single key in a series of hashes ("match if
     exists $c->{$s}").

     As perltodo observes, a Perl case mechanism must support all
     these "ways to do it".


     The Switch.pm module implements a generalized case mechanism
     that covers the numerous possible combinations of switch and
     case values described above.

     The module augments the standard Perl syntax with two new
     control statements: "switch" and "case". The "switch" state-
     ment takes a single scalar argument of any type, specified

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     in parentheses. "switch" stores this value as the current
     switch value in a (localized) control variable. The value is
     followed by a block which may contain one or more Perl
     statements (including the "case" statement described below).
     The block is unconditionally executed once the switch value
     has been cached.

     A "case" statement takes a single scalar argument (in manda-
     tory parentheses if it's a variable; otherwise the parens
     are optional) and selects the appropriate type of matching
     between that argument and the current switch value. The type
     of matching used is determined by the respective types of
     the switch value and the "case" argument, as specified in
     Table 1. If the match is successful, the mandatory block
     associated with the "case" statement is executed.

     In most other respects, the "case" statement is semantically
     identical to an "if" statement. For example, it can be fol-
     lowed by an "else" clause, and can be used as a postfix
     statement qualifier.

     However, when a "case" block has been executed control is
     automatically transferred to the statement after the immedi-
     ately enclosing "switch" block, rather than to the next
     statement within the block. In other words, the success of
     any "case" statement prevents other cases in the same scope
     from executing. But see "Allowing fall-through" below.

     Together these two new statements provide a fully general-
     ized case mechanism:

             use Switch;

             # AND LATER...

             %special = ( woohoo => 1,  d'oh => 1 );

             while (<>) {
                 switch ($_) {

                     case (%special) { print "homer\n"; }      # if $special{$_}
                     case /a-z/i     { print "alpha\n"; }      # if $_ =~ /a-z/i
                     case [1..9]     { print "small num\n"; }  # if $_ in [1..9]

                     case { $_[0] >= 10 } {                    # if $_ >= 10
                         my $age = <>;
                         switch (sub{ $_[0] < $age } ) {

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                             case 20  { print "teens\n"; }     # if 20 < $age
                             case 30  { print "twenties\n"; }  # if 30 < $age
                             else     { print "history\n"; }

                     print "must be punctuation\n" case /\W/;  # if $_ ~= /\W/

     Note that "switch"es can be nested within "case" (or any
     other) blocks, and a series of "case" statements can try
     different types of matches -- hash membership, pattern
     match, array intersection, simple equality, etc. -- against
     the same switch value.

     The use of intersection tests against an array reference is
     particularly useful for aggregating integral cases:

             sub classify_digit
                     switch ($_[0]) { case 0            { return 'zero' }
                                      case [2,4,6,8]    { return 'even' }
                                      case [1,3,4,7,9]  { return 'odd' }
                                      case /[A-F]/i     { return 'hex' }

     Allowing fall-through

     Fall-though (trying another case after one has already suc-
     ceeded) is usually a Bad Idea in a switch statement. How-
     ever, this is Perl, not a police state, so there is a way to
     do it, if you must.

     If a "case" block executes an untargeted "next", control is
     immediately transferred to the statement after the "case"
     statement (i.e. usually another case), rather than out of
     the surrounding "switch" block.

     For example:

             switch ($val) {
                     case 1      { handle_num_1(); next }    # and try next case...
                     case "1"    { handle_str_1(); next }    # and try next case...
                     case [0..9] { handle_num_any(); }       # and we're done
                     case /\d/   { handle_dig_any(); next }  # and try next case...
                     case /.*/   { handle_str_any(); next }  # and try next case...

     If $val held the number 1, the above "switch" block would
     call the first three "handle_..." subroutines, jumping to
     the next case test each time it encountered a "next". After

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     the thrid "case" block was executed, control would jump to
     the end of the enclosing "switch" block.

     On the other hand, if $val held 10, then only the last two
     "handle_..." subroutines would be called.

     Note that this mechanism allows the notion of conditional
     fall-through. For example:

             switch ($val) {
                     case [0..9] { handle_num_any(); next if $val < 7; }
                     case /\d/   { handle_dig_any(); }

     If an untargeted "last" statement is executed in a case
     block, this immediately transfers control out of the enclos-
     ing "switch" block (in other words, there is an implicit
     "last" at the end of each normal "case" block). Thus the
     previous example could also have been written:

             switch ($val) {
                     case [0..9] { handle_num_any(); last if $val >= 7; next; }
                     case /\d/   { handle_dig_any(); }

     Automating fall-through

     In situations where case fall-through should be the norm,
     rather than an exception, an endless succession of terminal
     "next"s is tedious and ugly. Hence, it is possible to
     reverse the default behaviour by specifying the string
     "fallthrough" when importing the module. For example, the
     following code is equivalent to the first example in "Allow-
     ing fall-through":

             use Switch 'fallthrough';

             switch ($val) {
                     case 1      { handle_num_1(); }
                     case "1"    { handle_str_1(); }
                     case [0..9] { handle_num_any(); last }
                     case /\d/   { handle_dig_any(); }
                     case /.*/   { handle_str_any(); }

     Note the explicit use of a "last" to preserve the non-fall-
     through behaviour of the third case.

     Alternative syntax

     Perl 6 will provide a built-in switch statement with essen-
     tially the same semantics as those offered by Switch.pm, but

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     with a different pair of keywords. In Perl 6 "switch" will
     be spelled "given", and "case" will be pronounced "when". In
     addition, the "when" statement will not require switch or
     case values to be parenthesized.

     This future syntax is also (largely) available via the
     Switch.pm module, by importing it with the argument "Perl6".
     For example:

             use Switch 'Perl6';

             given ($val) {
                     when 1       { handle_num_1(); }
                     when ($str1) { handle_str_1(); }
                     when [0..9]  { handle_num_any(); last }
                     when /\d/    { handle_dig_any(); }
                     when /.*/    { handle_str_any(); }
                     default      { handle anything else; }

     Note that scalars still need to be parenthesized, since they
     would be ambiguous in Perl 5.

     Note too that you can mix and match both syntaxes by import-
     ing the module with:

             use Switch 'Perl5', 'Perl6';

     Higher-order Operations

     One situation in which "switch" and "case" do not provide a
     good substitute for a cascaded "if", is where a switch value
     needs to be tested against a series of conditions. For exam-

             sub beverage {
                 switch (shift) {

                     case sub { $_[0] < 10 }  { return 'milk' }
                     case sub { $_[0] < 20 }  { return 'coke' }
                     case sub { $_[0] < 30 }  { return 'beer' }
                     case sub { $_[0] < 40 }  { return 'wine' }
                     case sub { $_[0] < 50 }  { return 'malt' }
                     case sub { $_[0] < 60 }  { return 'Moet' }
                     else                     { return 'milk' }

     The need to specify each condition as a subroutine block is
     tiresome. To overcome this, when importing Switch.pm, a spe-
     cial "placeholder" subroutine named "__" [sic] may also be
     imported. This subroutine converts (almost) any expression

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     in which it appears to a reference to a higher-order func-
     tion. That is, the expression:

             use Switch '__';

             __ < 2 + __

     is equivalent to:

             sub { $_[0] < 2 + $_[1] }

     With "__", the previous ugly case statements can be rewrit-

             case  __ < 10  { return 'milk' }
             case  __ < 20  { return 'coke' }
             case  __ < 30  { return 'beer' }
             case  __ < 40  { return 'wine' }
             case  __ < 50  { return 'malt' }
             case  __ < 60  { return 'Moet' }
             else           { return 'milk' }

     The "__" subroutine makes extensive use of operator over-
     loading to perform its magic. All operations involving __
     are overloaded to produce an anonymous subroutine that
     implements a lazy version of the original operation.

     The only problem is that operator overloading does not allow
     the boolean operators "&&" and "||" to be overloaded. So a
     case statement like this:

             case  0 <= __ && __ < 10  { return 'digit' }

     doesn't act as expected, because when it is executed, it
     constructs two higher order subroutines and then treats the
     two resulting references as arguments to "&&":

             sub { 0 <= $_[0] } && sub { $_[0] < 10 }

     This boolean expression is inevitably true, since both
     references are non-false. Fortunately, the overloaded 'bool'
     operator catches this situation and flags it as a error.


     The module is implemented using Filter::Util::Call and
     Text::Balanced and requires both these modules to be


     Damian Conway (damian@conway.org). The maintainer of this
     module is now Rafael Garcia-Suarez (rgarciasuarez@free.fr).

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     There are undoubtedly serious bugs lurking somewhere in code
     this funky :-) Bug reports and other feedback are most wel-


     Due to the heuristic nature of Switch.pm's source parsing,
     the presence of regexes specified with raw "?...?" delim-
     iters may cause mysterious errors. The workaround is to use
     "m?...?" instead.

     Due to the way source filters work in Perl, you can't use
     Switch inside an string "eval".

     If your source file is longer then 1 million characters and
     you have a switch statement that crosses the 1 million (or 2
     million, etc.) character boundary you will get mysterious
     errors. The workaround is to use smaller source files.


         Copyright (c) 1997-2003, Damian Conway. All Rights Reserved.
         This module is free software. It may be used, redistributed
             and/or modified under the same terms as Perl itself.

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