It isn't quite Perl version 6 but it's well on its way. Between now and Monday, ActiveState will release version 5.12 of its cross platform, easily installed ActivePerl. Version 5.12 offers more than simple bug fixes; it's a major release that some developers look toward with great anticipation.

The major improvements included in this release are:

• Perl’s time functions work beyond the year 2038: With previous versions of Perl for 32-bit Unix systems, it could only represent dates up to the year 2038, after which it wraps around back to 1970.
It is especially important for financial services organizations that
use Perl for applications such as mortgage and insurance contracts
that run for 30 years or longer. This has been updated within the
internal functions of 32-bit Perl 5.12

• Improved Unicode support: Perl now supports all Unicode properties for developers doing globalization work in multiple languages. It includes all the synonyms, loose spelling rules for property names and values, and other areas that have been brought in sync with the corresponding Unicode specification.

• Support for pluggable keywords: Extension modules can now cleanly hook into the Perl parser to define new kinds of keyword-headed expressions and compound statements. The syntax following the keyword is defined entirely by the extension. This feature facilitates the development of domain specific languages (DSLs) within Perl by allowing a completely non-Perl sub-language to be parsed inline, with the correct ops cleanly generated. This feature is experimental and may be removed.

ActiveState offers three ActivePerl Editions: Community, Business and Enterprise. ActiveState is releasing ActivePerl 5.12 for both its Community and Business editions. The ActivePerl Enterprise Edition will be available within the next six months. Their Perl distribution is available for Windows, Linux, Mac OS X, Solaris, AIX and HP-UX.

The Community Edition is available free for any platform. If you don't like the current edition (5.10) or can't wait for 5.12, older versions are also available (5.8 and older).

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