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Perl 5 is a programming language originally designed for text/report processing but now widely used by the bioinformatics community due to its ability to identify and process patterns in sequences of data. Perl 5 is also used by Linux/UNIX systems administrators as it has borrowed much from shell scripting languages and contains functionality for manipulating files and directory trees.


The default version of Perl on the system is 5.10.1; no module command is required to use it

$ perl --version

This is perl, v5.10.1 (*) built for x86_64-linux-thread-multi

However you may see warnings when trying to install Perl software that this version (or the cran package manage tool that comes with it) is too old; in this case you can activate a more recent version using

module load apps/gcc/4.4.7/perl/5.24.0

Several Perl modules have been upgraded/installed for this instance of Perl:

  • CPAN, the original Perl package management tool, was upgraded to 2.14
  • BioPerl 1.007000 (aka v1.7.0) was installed. BioPerl is a collection of Perl modules that facilitate the development of Perl scripts for bioinformatics applications. It has played an integral role in the Human Genome Project. BioPerl has pre-requisites of inc::latest (0.500) and Module::Build (0.4220).
  • Term::ReadKey (2.37) and Term::Readline::Gnu (1.34) were installed; these make interactive use of CPAN more pleasant.
  • local::lib was installed, which allows users to install additional Perl modules in their home directories. MORE INFO NEEDED (see Installing Perl modules).
  • App::cpanminus (1.7042) was installed, which provides the cpanm program. This is considered by some to be a superior package management tool over cpan.

You can confirm that you are using this newer version of Perl (and have access to BioPerl) using

$ perl --version

Summary of my perl5 (revision 5 version 24 subversion 0) configuration:

$ perl -MBio::Root::Version -le 'print $Bio::Root::Version::VERSION'


Performance: 5.24.0 can be significantly faster than earlier versions of Perl 5 for arithemetic operations.

Installing Perl modules

If using a version of Perl activated using module load then you can subsequently easily install Perl modules in your home directory (within what’s called a Perl local::lib). Run the following

eval $(perlvers="$(perl -e 'print $^V')"; perl -I$HOME/.perl$perlvers/lib/perl5 -Mlocal::lib=$HOME/.perl$perlvers)

The next time you try to use cpanm to install a package it should install it into the (hidden) directory .perl5.x.y within your home directory. For example, the following installs the Bio::Tradis Perl module into ~/.perl5.24.0/

module load apps/gcc/4.4.7/perl/5.24.0
eval $(perlvers="$(perl -e 'print $^V')"; perl -I$HOME/.perl$perlvers/lib/perl5 -Mlocal::lib=$HOME/.perl$perlvers)
cpanm Bio::Tradis

If you always want to have your Perl local::lib available then you may want to add the eval ... line above to your ~/.bashrc file.

Installation instructions

Version 5.24.0

  1. Run this script to download, unpack, build (using the system GCC (4.4.7)), test then install Perl (in /usr/local/packages6/apps/gcc/4.4.7/perl/5.24.0/)
  2. Install download:this modulefile </iceberg/software/modulefiles/apps/gcc/4.4.7/perl/5.24.0> as /usr/local/modulefiles/apps/gcc/4.4.7/perl/5.24.0/.

PerlBrew could have been used to install and manage multiple versions of Perl but it offers relatively few advantages over Environment Modules and the latter are already used system-wide for package management.