Getting Started

Before you can use Parrot, you have to get it running on your machine.

Installing Parrot

The simplest way to install Parrot is to use a pre-compiled binary for your operating system or distribution. Packages are available for many packaging systems, including Debian, Ubuntu, Fedora, Mandriva, FreeBSD, Cygwin, and MacPorts. The Parrot website lists all known packages at A binary installer for Windows is also available at

If packages aren't available on your system, download the latest supported release from

You need a C compiler and a make utility to build Parrot from source code -- usually gcc and make, but Parrot can build with standard compiler toolchains on different operating systems. Perl 5.8 is also a prerequiste for configuring and building Parrot.

If you have these dependencies installed, build the core virtual machine and compiler toolkit and run the standard test suite with the commands:

  $ perl
  $ make
  $ make test

By default, Parrot installs to directories bin/, lib/, et cetera under the prefix /usr/local. If you have privileges to write to these directories, install Parrot with:

  $ make install

To install Parrot beneath a different prefix, use the --prefix option to

  $ perl --prefix=/home/me/parrot

If you intend to develop -- not just use -- a language on Parrot, install the Parrot developer tools as well:

  $ make install-dev

Running Parrot

Once you've installed Parrot, run it. Create a test file called news.pasm. .pasm files contain Parrot Assembly Language (PASM) instructions; this is a low-level language native to the Parrot virtual machine.

  say "Here is the news for Parrots."

Now run this file with:

  $ parrot news.pasm

which will print:

  Here is the news for Parrots.

Running a Language on Parrot

Next, try out one of Parrot's high-level languages. Create a test file called more_news.nqp:

  say( "No parrots were involved in an accident on the M1 today..." );

Then run it as:

  $ parrot-nqp more_news.nqp

which will print:

  No parrots were involved in an accident on the M1 today...

What Next?

This book describes Parrot in terms of tasks it supports. You may pick and choose chapters based on your area of interest:

Chapter 3, Parrot Intermediate Representation
Parrot Intermediate Representation (PIR) is a mid-level language native to the Parrot virtual machine s commonly used for writing extensions and tools for Parrot.
Chapter 4, Compiler Tools
The Parrot Compiler Toolkit (PCT) provides a common infrastructure and utilities for implementing languages on Parrot.
Chapter 5, Grammar Engine
The Parrot Grammar Engine (PGE) is a powerful regular expression engine and recursive descent parser. PGE is part of the compiler tools; understanding PGE is essential to implementing a language on Parrot.
Chapter 6, Grammar Actions
NQP (Not Quite Perl) is a lightweight language loosely inspired by Perl 6. NQP is part of the compiler tools used for transforming a Parrot-hosted language into instructions for Parrot to execute.
Chapter 7, Dynamic PMCs
This chapter suggests the need for a chapter on core PMCs. Alternately, this chapter could cover PMCs in general and dynpmcs as a special case of PMCs.Parrot allows language developers to extend Parrot's core data types to suit the needs of advanced languages.
Chapter 8, Dynamic Opcodes
The same point applies for ops and dynops.Parrot allows language developers to extend Parrot's core instruction set -- again to suit the needs of advanced languages.
Chapter 10, Instruction Reference
Parrot's standard instruction set provides powerful behavior for primitive operations, control flow, object orientation, exception handling, and more.
Chapter 11, Directive Reference
Parrot supports directives used within PIR and PASM code to change the behavior of code and to control what happens in bytecode.
Chapter 13, Operator Reference
PIR provides several higher-level operators as a convenience to programmers and code generators.
Appendix A, Glossary
Parrot and its environment have common jargon.
Appendix B, Command-Line Options
Parrot supports several flags to control execution modes, debugging, library loading, and more.
Appendix C, Build Options
Parrot's configuration process gives administrators and developers tremendous control over the build system.
Appendix D, Source Code
Parrot's source code is organized along logical lines -- logical, once you know the layout.
Appendix E, Patch Submission
Parrot depends on the combined efforts of numerous volunteers. Your contributions are very welcome.