Recipe 8.11 Processing Binary Files

8.11.1 Problem

You want to read 8-bit binary data as 8-bit binary data, i.e., neither as characters in a particular encoding nor as a text file with any newline or end-of-file conversions that your I/O library might want to do.

8.11.2 Solution

Use the binmode function on the filehandle:


8.11.3 Discussion

The binmode function lets you specify new I/O layers for a filehandle. The default layer to specify is :raw, which removes any layers that would interfere with binary data. The Solution is thus equivalent to:

binmode(HANDLE, ":raw");

except that explicitly specifying :raw only works on Perl 5.8 and later. The one-argument form of binmode works on all versions of Perl.

Because Perl makes :crlf the default if you are on an operating system that needs it, you should rarely (if ever) need to specify :crlf in your program. Furthermore, it's generally not wise to add or remove the :crlf layer once you've begun reading from the file, as there may be data already read into buffers that you can't unread. You can, however, safely change the :encoding(...) layer midstream (when parsing XML, for example).

You should get into the habit of calling binmode when you open a binary file. This will make your program portable to systems that might (un)helpfully translate bytes in your binary file into something unusable.

You may specify the I/O layers when you open a filehandle, rather than using binmode after the fact:

open(FH, "< :raw", $filename);       # binary mode

Specify the default set of layers for all subsequently opened input and output filehandles with the open pragma:

use open IN => ":raw";      # binary files

8.11.4 See Also

The PerlIO(3) manpage; the open and binmode functions in perlfunc(1) and in Chapter 29 of Programming Perl; your system's open(2) and fopen(3) manpages