Considerations for Using a2p - Perl

by Geethalakshmi 2010-09-17 12:58:21

Considerations for Using a2p - Perl

A2p cannot do as good a job translating as a human would, but it usually does pretty well. There are some areas where you may want to examine the perl script produced and tweak it some. Here are some of them, in no particular order.

There is an awk idiom of putting int() around a string expression to force numeric interpretation, even though the argument is always integer anyway. This is generally unneeded in perl, but a2p can't tell if the argument is always going to be integer, so it leaves it in. You may wish to remove it.

Perl differentiates numeric comparison from string comparison. Awk has one operator for both that decides at run time which comparison to do. A2p does not try to do a complete job of awk emulation at this point. Instead it guesses which one you want. It's almost always right, but it can be spoofed. All such guesses are marked with the comment `#???'. You should go through and check them. You might want to run at least once with the `-w' switch to perl, which will warn you if you use `==' where you should have used eq.

Perl does not attempt to emulate the behavior of awk in which nonexistent array elements spring into existence simply by being referenced. If somehow you are relying on this mechanism to create null entries for a subsequent, they won't be there in perl.

If a2p makes a split line that assigns to a list of variables that looks like `(Fld1, Fld2, Fld3...)' you may want to rerun a2p using the `-n' option mentioned above. This will let you name the fields throughout the script. If it splits to an array instead, the script is probably referring to the number of fields somewhere.

The exit statement in awk doesn't necessarily exit; it goes to the END block if there is one. Awk scripts that do contortions within the END block to bypass the block under such circumstances can be simplified by removing the conditional in the END block and just exiting directly from the perl script.

Perl has two kinds of arrays, numerically-indexed and associative. Awk arrays are usually translated to associative arrays, but if you happen to know that the index is always going to be numeric you could change the `{...}' to `[...]'. Iteration over an associative array is done using the keys() function, but iteration over a numeric array is NOT. You might need to modify any loop that is iterating over the array in question.

Awk starts by assuming OFMT has the value `%.6g'. Perl starts by assuming its equivalent, `$#', to have the value `%.20g'. You'll want to set `$#' explicitly if you use the default value of OFMT.

Near the top of the line loop will be the split operation that is implicit in the awk script. There are times when you can move this down past some conditionals that test the entire record so that the split is not done as often.

For aesthetic reasons you may wish to change the array base `$[' from 1 back to perl's default of 0, but remember to change all array subscripts AND all substr() and index() operations to match.

Cute comments that say "# Here is a workaround because awk is dumb" are passed through unmodified.

Awk scripts are often embedded in a shell script that pipes stuff into and out of awk. Often the shell script wrapper can be incorporated into the perl script, since perl can start up pipes into and out of itself, and can do other things that awk can't do by itself.

Scripts that refer to the special variables RSTART and RLENGTH can often be simplified by referring to the variables `$`', `$&' and `$'', as long as they are within the scope of the pattern match that sets them.

The produced perl script may have subroutines defined to deal with awk's semantics regarding getline and print. Since a2p usually picks correctness over efficiency. it is almost always possible to rewrite such code to be more efficient by discarding the semantic sugar.

For efficiency, you may wish to remove the keyword from any return statement that is the last statement executed in a subroutine. A2p catches the most common case, but doesn't analyze embedded blocks for subtler cases.

`ARGV[0]' translates to `$ARGV0', but `ARGV[n]' translates to `$ARGV[$n]'. A loop that tries to iterate over `ARGV[0]' won't find it.

A2p uses no environment variables.

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