2014 twenty-four merry days of Perl Feed

Wrapping output

Capture::Tiny - 2014-12-19

Normally this is the time of year when people think about unwrapping things. Today, we're going to talk about wrapping output into some buffers.

Capturing output from other tools is something that Perl is pretty good at - and there are about eleventy billion modules on CPAN to help you do it. Which one should you pick? Which one will solve 95% of your problems and not tie you down with tons of external dependencies? Which ones work on all supported Perl platforms including Windows?

For this advent entry, we are going to take a look at Capture::Tiny, a module which offers two simple functions capture and tee and which delivers on the "Tiny" premise of not requiring any dependencies outside of core perl. Yes, it works on Windows, too. As far as compatibility across Perl releases, Capture::Tiny works as far back as Perl 5.6.1 but, seriously, try not to use such an ancient Perl if you can help it. (Especially not if you need Unicode support; Unicode before 5.8.1 is super dodgy.)

External commands

Most people think about capturing the output from external commands - and Capture::Tiny is great at that task. It's a simple as something like this:

use Capture::Tiny qw(capture);

my ($out, $err, $exit) = capture {
   system("/bin/ls", ("-l", "/tmp"));

It's important to note that none of the functions in Capture::Tiny are exported by default - you need to use :all or directly import the functions from the module.

Arbitrary code

The interesting thing is we don't need to use system above. We can put arbitrary Perl code in that code block and Capture::Tiny will just do the right thing. Check it out:

use Capture::Tiny qw(capture);

my ($out, $err, @results) = capture {
   say for 'a' .. 'z';

say $out;
# prints
# a
# b
# c
# d
# ...

Passing through

OK, there's a Unix command called tee that's been around for a long time. It saves standard out and standard error to a file, but also passes those sources through. In that spirit, Capture::Tiny has a function named tee which does the same thing. Functionally, it's almost the same as capture but instead of swallowing the output streams, it stuffs them into two scalars you specify.

use Capture::Tiny qw(tee);

my ($out, $err) = tee {
   say for 1 .. 10;

say length($out);
# prints
# 1
# 2
# ...
# 21 - 10 integers followed by \n

In summary

Capture::Tiny does everything you're likely to need in terms of grabbing standard output and/or standard error. It's easy to use, easy to install, has no non-core dependencies and works on every supported Perl platform. Instead of one of the many other CPAN modules, start using Capture::Tiny. It'll be a present to yourself you won't regret unwrapping.

See Also

Gravatar Image This article contributed by: Mark Allen <mrallen1@yahoo.com>