Exuberant ctags, the standard tags utility on most systems today, has released version 5.7 for download with the following improvements to its Perl support (among many other improvements):

  • Added support for ‘package’ keyword
  • Added support for multi-line subroutine, package, and constant definitions
  • Added support for optional subroutine declarations
  • Added support for formats
  • Ignore comments mixed into definitions and declarations
  • Fixed detecting labels with whitespace after label name
  • Fixed misidentification of fully qualified function calls as labels

If you’ve never used tags or ctags, start today. Your life will never be the same after.

For example, if you run ctags on a tree of source code, and then run vim -t some_function from the shell, vim will open the file where some_function lives and leave your cursor there. Alternatively, if you’re editing a file with vim and you position your cursor over the word some_function and press Ctrl-], vim will jump to the function. Other editors have similar bindings.

Your editor doesn’t know Perl, but it relies on ctags generating a tags file, which is in a standard file. Of course, ctags isn’t perl itself, so isn’t as exact. These improvements in v5.7 will make your tag files more accurate.

If you’ve got a Perl module, it’s easy to add a makefile target for tags. See any of my major modules (WWW::Mechanize, ack, etc) and steal from the Makefile.PL, or just add the following to your Makefile.PL:

sub MY::postamble {
my $postamble = <<'MAKE_FRAG';
.PHONY: tags
ctags -f tags --recurse --totals 
--languages=Perl --langmap=Perl:+.t 

(With ctags 5.7 it turns out, that --exclude=.svn is no longer necessary, as ctags automatically knows to ignore it now.)