perlapp - Convert Perl program into a standalone application


perlapp - Convert Perl program into a standalone application


perlapp [options] perlscript

perlapp [options] project


perlapp --help

perlapp --version


The PerlApp utility converts a Perl program into a standalone application. This utility combines a Perl program, all of the required Perl modules and a modified Perl interpreter into one binary unit. When the resulting application is run, it searches for modules within itself before searching the filesystem.

Most commonly, PerlApp is invoked with the name of the Perl program that you want converted as an argument. This produces a working application. Some of the options described below make it possible to control which modules are included and how the generated application behaves.

If PerlApp is invoked without arguments, the graphical interface is displayed. If invoked with the --version or --help option, it will print the corresponding message and exit.


The following command-line options are supported. Options can be abbreviated for uniqueness (shortened only to the point that they are still distinct from other options).

If the command line contains arguments that start with @, then PerlApp replaces each one of these with the arguments parsed from the corresponding file.

--add modules
List additional modules to include in the application. PerlApp also attempts to include modules that the listed modules depend on. Multiple modules can be separated by whitespace or a semicolon. This option can be repeated. For example:
    perlapp --add IO::Socket --add XML::Parser::Expat

...would include IO::Socket and XML::Parser in your application.

PerlApp uses built-in heuristics to determine any additional modules that may be required at runtime. When building an executable, missing modules are displayed as errors. In a few cases, however, the heuristics are used to downgrade errors to warnings. PerlApp issues warnings for the following:

--bind file
List an additional file to include in the application. The application can access this file at runtime through the PerlApp::get_bound_file() and PerlApp::extract_bound_file() functions. Separate multiple filenames with semicolons. This option can be repeated.

Additional options can be specified after the filename, within brackets and separated by commas:


Valid options are:

Specifies the filesystem name of the file to be bound. Cannot be specified together with data. If neither file nor data is specified, then the bound name is used as the filesystem name as well.

File contents specified as literal text. Cannot be specified together with file.

The file will be read in text mode on Windows.

The bound file is extracted into the TEMP directory upon application start. It is deleted when the application terminates. The extraction directory is added to the PATH environment variable (as well as to the LD_LIBRARY_PATH variable on Unix). It is also added to the front of @INC.

mode=file permissions
Specifies the access mode for the file when extracted either by the extract option or the PerlApp::extract_bound_file() function. File permissions must be specified as an octal number (0555 by default); PerlApp implicitly calls chmod() after extracting the file to make sure it ends up with the right permission bits. The mode= prefix is optional.


    --bind PerlEz.dll[file=\perl\bin\PerlEz.dll,extract]
    --bind data.txt[text,0777]

Note: Files bound using the extract suboption of --bind or extracted via PerlApp::get_bound_file() are written to a a per-process temporary directory and are automatically deleted when the process ends. This occurs regardless of whether the --clean option is used.

--blib libpath
Similar to --lib, but it searches for a MakeMaker-like blib directory structure starting in libpath and working back up to five levels of '..'. If found, it adds both the lib and the arch part of the blib structure to the module search path.

Clean up object files that were extracted from the application at runtime. By default, these files are cached in the temporary directory to allow the next invocation of the application to start more quickly.

The --clean option is not yet supported under HP-UX.

--debug host:port
Create a debugging application. It connects to a remote debugger at startup. The default host is '' and the default port is ':2000'. Using a single dash '-' selects the standard Perl command-line debugger from the local Perl installation.

The special port name ':komodo' provides support for remote debugging with the ActiveState Komodo IDE (version 1.2 and later, Komodo uses a custom version of The path to this file must be made available to the application either via the PERL5LIB environment variable (for dependent applications) or via the --lib PerlApp command-line option (for freestanding applications). For example:

    perlapp --lib /path-to/komodo-1.2/perl/site/lib ...

Refer to the Komodo Remote Debugging documentation for additional information.

Build an application that loads modules installed with Perl on the target system. This option makes the application smaller, but it might not run correctly if Perl and/or the required modules are not installed on the target system.

Modules loaded from the directories specified with a --lib or --blib option are still included. This allows you to selectively include only some non-standard modules in your PerlApp generated application.

Use the 'dynamic DLL loader'. By default, PerlApp writes bundled DLLs to disk in the tmp directory and then uses the operating system to load them into the process. The default setting is --nodyndll.

The dynamic DLL loader bypasses some operating system mechanisms and loads the libraries directly from memory without ever writing them to disk. However it may not be fully compatible with all types of DLLs. It is also not yet compatible with Windows 9x. Executables generated using the --dyndll option do not run on Windows 95/98/Me.

 This option is MS-Windows specific. On other systems
it's ignored.

--exe filename
This option allows you to specify the filename to which the generated application will be written. By default, a name derived from the script name will be chosen.

--explain modules
For each module, explain why the module will be included in the application and then exit. No executable will be produced.

Multiple modules can be separated by whitespace or semi-colons. The special value all will make PerlApp explain all files it includes.

Normally PerlApp asks for permission to overwrite an existing application. This option tells it to proceed without prompting for confirmation.

Build an executable that includes all modules required to run the program on the target system. This option is the default. Use the --dependent option to built a non-freestanding application.

Build an executable that does not have a console. This option is MS-Windows specific. On other systems it is ignored.

--help topic
Print this manpage and exit. If an optional topic is specified, only sections whose headings include the topic word are printed. Option names as topics must be specified without the leading dashes. Examples:
    perlapp --help FUNCTIONS
    perlapp --help bind

--icon filename
Associate icons with the application. The filename given must be an .ico, .dll or .exe filename. For .dll and .exe files, the name can be followed by a comma and the icon number. The first icon in the file is ,0, the second ,1, etc. If the icon number is not provided, then ,0 is assumed.

Separated multiple filenames with semicolons. This option can be repeated.

This option is MS-Windows specific. On other systems it is ignored.

--info name = val ; ...
The arguments to this option is a sequence of name/value pairs that is used to initialize the version information of the generated application. Name/value pairs are separated by an equals sign, with each pair separated by a semicolon. Valid names are as follows, and are case-insensitive:
Comments or other information to be displayed for diagnostic purposes.

The name of the company that produced the file.

The file description presented to users (e.g. in a list box) when the user is choosing files to install.

The version number of the file in the form 'W.X.Y.Z' where W, X, Y, and Z are numbers in the range 0-65535. X, Y, and Z are optional and default to 0.

The internal name of the file (e.g. a module name if the file is a dynamic-link library). If the file has no internal name, this string should be the same as the original filename, without an extension.

Copyright notices that apply to the file, including all notices, legal symbols, and copyright dates.

Trademarks and registered trademarks that apply to the file, including the full text of all notices, legal symbols, and trademark numbers.

The original name of the file, not including a path. An application uses this information to determine whether a file has been renamed by a user. The format of the name depends on the filesystem for which the file was created.

The name of the product.

The version of the product with which the file is distributed in the form 'W.X.Y.Z' where W, X, Y, and Z are numbers in the range 0-65535. X, Y, and Z are optional and default to 0. Typically, the first number represents the major version number, the second represents the minor version number, the third represents the build number, and the last represents the private part number.

All values are taken as strings except FileVersion and ProductVersion, which must be in the form 'W.X.Y.Z' (where W, X, Y, and Z are numbers in the range 0-65535. X, Y, and Z are optional and default to 0).

This option is MS-Windows specific. On other systems it is ignored.

--lib libpath
Add to the path where PerlApp looks for modules to include in the application. The libpath can contain multiple directories that are separated in the same way as the PATH environment variable. This option can be repeated.

PerlApp will automatically add architecture and version specific subdirectories the same way the Perl -I option and the Perl lib pragma do.

The content of the PERL5LIB environment variable is automatically added via an implicit --lib option.

Do not try to compress embedded modules and libraries. Compression produces a smaller application, but might slow down execution because the script and modules must be decompressed before they can be parsed.

Suppress display of version and license information. This option has no effect when used with an evalution license.

Specifies that the generated application does not use a runtime library directory. This is different from not specifying the --runlib option because the default runlib location is the directory where the application is stored.

--perl perlpath
Use the given Perl executable with PerlApp. The perlpath should be the path to the perl program.

--runlib dirname
Specifies the location of the runtime library directory. This directory is added to @INC and the PATH environment variable at runtime. The runlib directory should normally be a relative path. It is resolved at runtime relative to the location of the executable and not relative to the current working directory. The default value for this option is ".".

The --norunlib option can be used to specify that no runlib directory should be used.

The runlib directory is also used to locate shared library files specified using the --use option.

The fully qualified path to the runlib directory is stored in the $PerlApp::RUNLIB variable.

--scan scriptname
Tells PerlApp to scan scriptname for additional module dependencies. scriptname itself is not included in the generated executable. Separate multiple scriptnames with a semicolon. The option can be repeated.

This option is being used to create a shared library that can be referenced by other applications with the --use option.

The --shared option must be used to grant other programs access to modules bundled in the current executable.

--script scriptname
Name of the Perl script to be converted into an executable.

If no --script option is specified, the argument to PerlApp is assumed to be the input script filename. Thus

    perlapp equivalent to:

    perlapp --script

--shared mode
Specifies the sharing mode for the generated executable. Valid values for mode are "none", "private" or "public". The default, "none", prevents other applications from accessing modules bundled in this executable.

The "private" mode allows applications built with the same PDK license to access any bundled modules. This means that part of the license serial number is encoded in the generated executable. The accessing application must then also be built using the "private" sharing mode to enable serial number matching.

Shared libraries built with the "public" sharing mode can be accessed by all executables built by the PDK without restriction.

--tmpdir path
Specify an alternate location for the /tmp directory. This can be used in scenarios where /tmp is not writeable (e.g. for some virtual web servers hosted by ISPs). This option should only be used with an absolute pathname.

Note: PerlApp does not automatically create this directory; it must exist before the application is run.

--trim modules
Prevents modules from being included in the executable. Prerequisites for these modules are excluded unless they are also referenced in other parts of the application.

Multiple modules can be separated by whitespace or a semicolon. This option can be repeated.

If a command explicitly adds and removes modules at the same time, modules added with --add will not be removed by --trim.

The --trim option supports the following wildcard notations: --trim Module::* excludes Module::Foo, but neither Module itself nor Module::Foo::Bar. --trim Module::** excludes Module::Foo and Module::Foo::Bar, but not Module. --trim Module:: works the same as --trim Module;Module::**, excluding all of Module, Module::Foo and Module::Foo::Bar. Note that you may have to quote the * character to prevent wildcard expansion by your command shell.

This prevents including core modules that are loaded implicitly by Perl on certain syntactic constructs. The following modules belong to this category and are always included unless this option is used:

You can also use the --trim option to exclude these modules on a one-by-one basis.

--use libname
Specifies shared library file containing additional modules. Modules found in a shared library will are not included in the generated executable, reducing its size.

The libname argument can be specified using a full path name. At runtime, the library is located in the runtime library directory specified by the --runlib option. If the library cannot be found, the executable will not run.

If the shared library has been built as a "private" shared library, the application that is using it must be built with the "private" --shared option too.

Separte multiple libnames with semicolons. The option can be repeated.

This option causes PerlApp to produce more diagnostic ouput when it runs. It reports which modules were included in the application and where the application was written.

Output lines prefixed with +++ are modules that were included. Lines prefixed with --- are dependent modules that were not included.

Print the PerlApp version number and exit. Information about the current license is also printed.

Don't include perl56.dll or perl58.dll in the generated application. This option makes the application smaller, but it will not run correctly unless the perl5?.dll corresponding to your ActivePerl version is present on the target system. The PDK license allows you to redistribute the perl5?.dll together with your application. It should be installed on the target system in the same directory as your application and not be put into a system directory on the PATH.

This option is MS-Windows specific. On other systems it is ignored.


The following functions are made available to the application created by PerlApp.

Returns the full path (including filename) to the running application.

Writes the content of a bound file to the filesystem. The file is created in a temporary directory and is automatically deleted when the application terminates. The function returns the full filename of the temporary file created:
    my $datafile = "data.txt";
    my $filename = PerlApp::extract_bound_file($datafile);
    die "$datafile not bound to application\n" unless defined $filename;
    open(my $fh, $filename) or die "Can't open $datafile($filename)\n";

If the file is not bound, no file is created and extract_bound_file() returns undef.

extract_bound_file() always writes files in binmode. Therefore files bound with the [text] option on Windows are extracted with \n and not \r\n line endings.

Returns the content of files included in the executable with the --bind command-line option. Returns the whole file as a single string in scalar context or separate lines in list context, in which case lines are always split on newline (i.e. $/ is not considered).
    foreach my $line (PerlApp::get_bound_file("data.txt")) {
        # ... process $line ...

If the file is not bound, get_bound_file() returns undef in scalar context or the empty list in list context.


The following predefined variables are available to the application created by PerlApp.

The $PerlApp::BUILD variable contains the PerlApp build number.

The $PerlApp::PERL5LIB variable contains the value of the PERL5LIB environment variable. If that does not exist, it contains the value of the PERLLIB environment variable. If that one does not exists either, $PerlApp::PERL5LIB is undef.

The $PerlApp::RUNLIB variable contains the fully qualified path name to the runtime library directory specified by the --runlib option. If the --norunlib option is used, this variable is undef.

The $PerlApp::TOOL variable contains the string: "PerlApp", indicating that the currently running executable has been produced by the PerlApp tool.

The $PerlApp::VERSION variable contains the PerlApp version number: "major.minor.release", but not including the build number.


When the application built with PerlApp runs, it extracts its dynamic object files in the pdk-username subdirectory of the temporary directory. The temporary directory is located using the TEMP environment variable. It is also possible to hardcode the location with the --tmpdir command-line option.

On Unix, dynamic object files are extracted in the /tmp/pdk-username directory. The temporary directory location can be overridden with the TMPDIR environment variable.

If the application was built using the --clean option, PerlApp also appends the process id to the username when creating the temporary directory (e.g., pdk-username-1234). This avoids race conditions during cleanup. Unless the --clean option is used, extracted files are left behind when the application terminates. They are reused by later incarnations of the same application (or by other PDK-created executables).


Build Time

PerlApp uses the PERLAPP_OPT environment variable to set default command-line options. PerlApp treats these options as if they were specified at the beginning of every PerlApp command line. Note: Perl must be in your PATH if you want to use PERLAPP_OPT.

All directories specified in the PERL5LIB environment variable are treated as if they had been specified with the --lib command-line option. Therefore modules located in PERL5LIB directories will be included even in dependent applications. If PERL5LIB is not set, PerlApp will use the value of PERLLIB instead (just like regular Perl).

PerlApp will pipe the output of perlapp --help through the program specified in the PAGER environment variable if STDOUT is a terminal.

Run time

The following environment variables are not visible to the application built with PerlApp: PERL5LIB, PERLLIB, PERL5OPT, PERL5DB and PERL5SHELL.

The temporary extraction directory is automatically added to the PATH environment variable (as well as to the LD_LIBRARY_PATH variable on Unix) when a file is bound using the [extract] option.


Error: Can't locate

When PerlApp can't locate a module that seems to be used or required by the application, it produces an error message:

        warn: Can't locate VMS\
        refby: C:\perl\lib\File\

In general, PerlApp cannot determine whether a module is absolutely needed at runtime. For the error message above, looking at the source code of the File::Temp module reveals that the VMS::Stdio module is only used on the VMS platform:

    require VMS::Stdio if $^O eq 'VMS';

It is therefore safe to ignore the error. PerlApp includes a number of platform-specific rules telling it that certain dependencies are likely not required. In those cases, the error messages are downgraded to a warning. In all other cases it is the responsibility of the user to verify if the module is needed or not. PerlApp still generates a valid executable, even while this error message is displayed.

It is possible to suppress the error/warning message by explicitly excluding the missing module with the --trim option:

    --trim VMS::Stdio

Error: Case mismatch between module and file name

Windows uses case-insensitive filesystems. It is often possible to misspell a module name and still have Perl load the correct file. For example:

    use Win32::Eventlog;

...loads the Win32::EventLog module, but it does not import any symbols from it: Perl tries to call the Win32::Eventlog->import() method, which doesn't exist, and gives up. PerlApp on Windows generates an error when the file name and the module name cases don't match:

        error: Case mismatch between module and file name
        file: C:\perl\site\lib\Win32\
        error: Case mismatch between module and file name
        file: C:\perl\site\lib\auto\Win32\EventLog\EventLog.dll

It is important to either correct the wrong spelling in the program or rename the file on disk to the correct name as PerlApp internally uses a case-sensitive file name lookup and otherwise does not load the file at runtime.

Error: Skipping duplicate file file name

PerlApp sometimes needs to include additional module-specific data files. When the module is installed both into the standard Perl library tree and into an additional location added either via the --lib option or PERL5LIB environment variable, the data file will be found twice (but only included once). The same problem can happen when the standard Perl library directories are specified again using --lib or PERL5LIB. The error message should display both the original and the duplicate filenames:

        error: Skipping duplicate file D:\perl\site\lib\Tk\srcfile.xpm
        file: C:\perl\site\lib\Tk\srcfile.xpm

Please make sure that you don't include modules from a library created for a different version of Perl unless you are sure that it is binary compatible.


This section answers some frequently asked questions about PerlApp.

How does PerlApp work?

The first thing PerlApp needs to do is to determine which modules and external files the converted script depends upon. The PerlApp program starts out by scanning the source code of the script. When it finds occurrences of use, do or require, it tries to locate the corresponding module and then parse the source of that module. This continues as long as PerlApp finds new modules to examine.

PerlApp does not try to run the script. It will not automatically determine which modules might be loaded by a statement such as:

  require $module;

In cases like this, try listing additional modules to traverse with the --add option.

The PerlApp program has some built-in heuristics for major Perl modules that determine additional modules at runtime, like DBI, LWP, Tk. PerlApp anticipates which additional modules are required so that they are available in freestanding executables.

PerlApp then decides which modules to include in the generated application. Normally, all located modules are included. This also includes the dynamic object files (.so/.dll) and AutoLoader files (.al) that go with the located modules. If the --dependent option is used, only modules located under the directories given by the --lib option are included.

Finally, the application is built with all the modules compressed (unless the --nocompress option is used) and included. When the application runs arranges for any use, do and require statements to look for and extract the corresponding modules in itself.

Why are dependent executables so big on Unix?

Because building shared versions of libperl is not currently standard practice on Unix, PerlApp must include a complete perl interpreter in the executable. Future versions of ActivePerl will include a shared version of libperl so that dependent executables can be smaller.

How can a script determine if it runs under PerlApp?

It can check for the $PerlApp::VERSION variable. It will be set to the version number of PerlApp that was used to build the executable.

What is $^X when running under PerlApp?

It will always have the value: perl. The $^X is a special variable that normally contains the filename of the Perl interpreter that is executing the script. It is sometimes used in calls to system or exec to invoke perl from within the script.

Will cross-platform builds be supported?

Cross-platform builds allow you to target executables for platforms different from the one PerlApp is running on. This is currently not supported.

Will PerlApp work with Perl builds other than ActivePerl?

Yes. However, the version number and build options must be compatible.

Where can I obtain license for PerlApp?

Visit to obtain a license for PDK 6.0.

Does the evaluation license give me fully working applications?

The application built with PerlApp running with an evaluation license expires when the evaluation license times out. Use the --version option to view the time limit of your current license.



PerlApp is part of the Perl Dev Kit. More information available at


This manpage documents PerlApp version 6.0.0 (build 124125)


Copyright (C) 1998-2004 ActiveState Corp. All rights reserved. ActiveState is a division of Sophos Plc.