perl is a user friendly, interpreted programming language which is designed to be useful in performing many computer-related tasks such as writing cgi scripts which extract information from html forms or churning through sets of files, running commands on each of them and then preparing summary statistics and reports. A certain impish and appealing quality somehow leaks through perl code and breathes life into such dry bones tasks. Perl doesn't just open a file. It does so with an attitude: "Open $filename or die;" To begin using perl takes only a few minutes. This tutorial from NCSA, the National Center for Supercomputing Applications, is a good place to start. Once you're ready for more, O'Reilly's perl site will take you right into the thick of the action.