📘 String length in Perl 6

📘 String length in Raku

N. B. Perl 6 has been renamed to Raku. Click to read more.

Print the length of a string.

Perl 6 handles all strings as UTF-8 by default. This is why there is more than one parameter describing the length of the string. In fact, the lengthroutine does not exist, and an attempt to use it issues an error message with some hints to which other methods you can use.

To get the length of the string in the sense of number of characters, use the charsmethod:

say 'hello'.chars;  # 5
say 'café'.chars;   # 4
say 'привет'.chars; # 6

The results reflect the intuitive expectation and do not depend on actual representation of the characters. The first string fits in the ASCII table, the second may still be encoded in an 8-bit encoding Latin-1, and the third needs two bytes per character in the UTF-8 encoding. 

Another method, codes, returns the number of codepoints in the Unicode space. For the above examples, both charsand codesreturn the same numbers, as all the characters can be represented by a single codepoint.

say 'hello'.codes;  # 5
say 'café'.codes;   # 4
say 'привет'.codes; # 6

Although, when using combining characters, you may create a character that does not exist as a separate character in the Unicode table. In this case, the results of charsand codesmay differ.

Consider an example with a character built out of two elements: Latin letter xand a combining character COMBINING OGONEK. Together, they form a non-existing letter, which is one character, but two codepoints:

say 'x'­­.chars; # 1
say 'x'.codes; # 2

Let us dig a bit into how the above character is represented in the UTF-8 encoding. It consists of two parts: LATIN SMALL LETTER X and the combining character COMBINING OGONEK. The letter itself is a one-byte code 0x78, and the combining character has the Unicode entry point 0x328 and needs two bytes in UTF-8: 0xCC 0xA8.

Let us rewrite the example by explicitly specifying the codepoint of the combining character:

say "x\x[0328]".chars; # 1
say "x\x[0328]".codes; # 2

The above example was about the character that does not exist in Unicode as a single codepoint. Now, let us use another letter, saye, which forms an existing character with the same combining character: ę.

say 'ę'.chars; # 1
say 'ę'.codes; # 1

In this case, both charsand codesmethods return 1. Even if the string is built using an explicit combining character, the codesmethod coerces it back to the proper codepoint and does not count it as a separate code:

say "e\x[0328]".chars; # 1
say "e\x[0328]".codes; # 1

Thus, in many cases, to get the length of a string, it is enough to use the charsmethod called on that string.

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