11.1 UNIVERSAL Methods

As you define classes, you create inheritance hierarchies through the global @ISA variables in each package. To search for a method, Perl wanders through the @ISA tree until it finds a match or fails.

After the search fails however, Perl always looks in one special class called UNIVERSAL and invokes a method from there, if found, just as if it had been located in any other class or superclass.

One way to look at this is that UNIVERSAL is the base class from which all objects are derived. Any method you place here, such as:

sub UNIVERSAL::fandango {
  warn "object ", shift, " can do the fandango!\n";

enables all objects of your program to be called as $some_object->fandango.

Generally, you should provide a fandango method for specific classes of interest, and then provide a definition in UNIVERSAL::fandango as a backstop, in case a more specific method can't be found. A practical example might be a data-dumping routine for debugging or maybe a marshalling strategy to dump all application objects to a file. Simply provide the general method in UNIVERSAL and override it in the specific classes for unusual objects.

Obviously, UNIVERSAL should be used sparingly because there's only one universe of objects, and your fandango might collide with some other included module's fandango. For this reason, UNIVERSAL is hardly used for anything except methods which must be completely, well, universal. Like during debugging.