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Learning Perl on Win32 Systems

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File and Directory Manipulation
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13.4 Modifying Permissions

The permissions on a file or directory define who (in broad categories) can do what (more or less) to that file or directory. Under UNIX, the typical way to change permissions on a file is with the chmod command. As a Windows user, you may be more used to the attrib command. Perl changes permissions with the chmod function. This operator takes an octal numeric mode and a list of filenames, and attempts to alter the permissions of all the filenames to the indicated mode. To make the files fred and barney with both read/write attributes, for example, do something like this:


In short, the UNIX (and Perl) concept of file permissions consists of a bit for read, write, and execute rights for the user, the user's group, and everyone else. These bits are combined to create the mode. Because Win32 systems have a significantly different concept of permissions, you don't need to worry about all of the different possible values for the mode. Table 13.1 presents a couple of key values.

Table 13.1: Key Values for File Permissions






Read only

Win32 systems determine whether or not a file is executable based on the file extension, so we're not going to worry about the execute bits. Furthermore, even though some Windows NT filesystems support advanced user/group rights, the current Perl implementation doesn't support access to these rights via chmod.

The return value of chmod is the number of files successfully adjusted (even if the adjustment does nothing); so chmod works like unlink, and you should treat it as such with regard to error checking. Here's how to change the permissions of fred and barney while checking the errors for each:

foreach $file ("fred","barney") {
        unless chmod (0666,$file) {
            warn "hmm... couldn't chmod $file.$!";

The Win32::File[2] extension module provides a way to access and set traditional DOS file attributes like the archive, system, and hidden attributes. This package consists of just two methods: GetAttributes and SetAttributes. Table 13.2 lists the attributes and their significations.

[2] See Appendix B, Libraries and Modules, for an explanation of the Win32 extensions.

Table 13.2: DOS File Attributes and Their Significations




The file has been modified since it was last archived.


The file is a directory.


The file is hidden (that is, it won't normally appear in directory listings).


The file is a normal (read/write) file.


The file is read-only.


The file is a system file (among other things, it can't be deleted without first changing the attributes).

To combine attributes, use the bitwise or operator |. Here's an example of how to make a file read-only, without changing its other attributes:

use Win32::File;
Win32::File::GetAttributes("foo.txt", $attrib) || die $!;
Win32::File::SetAttributes("foo.txt", $attrib | READONLY) ||
        die $!;

Although we won't get to references until Chapter 18, CGI Programming, the $attrib is just that. For now, just know that upon returning from GetAttributes, $attrib will contain an attribute mask consisting of some combination of the values outlined above.

To set user permissions on NTFS filesystems, use either the Win32::FileSecurity extension module, or the Windows NT cacls.exe program, which provides a command-line interface to file permissions.

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