SDBM_File(3) Tied access to sdbm files


use Fcntl; # For O_RDWR, O_CREAT, etc.
use SDBM_File;
tie(%h, 'SDBM_File', 'filename', O_RDWR|O_CREAT, 0666)
or die "Couldn't tie SDBM file 'filename': $!; aborting";
# Now read and change the hash
$h{newkey} = newvalue;
print $h{oldkey};
untie %h;


"SDBM_File" establishes a connection between a Perl hash variable and a file in SDBM_File format. You can manipulate the data in the file just as if it were in a Perl hash, but when your program exits, the data will remain in the file, to be used the next time your program runs.


Use "SDBM_File" with the Perl built-in "tie" function to establish the connection between the variable and the file.

    tie %hash, 'SDBM_File', $basename, $modeflags, $perms;
    tie %hash, 'SDBM_File', $dirfile,  $modeflags, $perms, $pagfilename;

$basename is the base filename for the database. The database is two files with ``.dir'' and ``.pag'' extensions appended to $basename,

    $basename.dir     (or .sdbm_dir on VMS, per DIRFEXT constant)

The two filenames can also be given separately in full as $dirfile and $pagfilename. This suits for two files without ``.dir'' and ``.pag'' extensions, perhaps for example two files from File::Temp.

$modeflags can be the following constants from the "Fcntl" module (in the style of the open(2) system call),

    O_RDONLY          read-only access
    O_WRONLY          write-only access
    O_RDWR            read and write access

If you want to create the file if it does not already exist then bitwise-OR ("|") "O_CREAT" too. If you omit "O_CREAT" and the database does not already exist then the "tie" call will fail.

    O_CREAT           create database if doesn't already exist

$perms is the file permissions bits to use if new database files are created. This parameter is mandatory even when not creating a new database. The permissions will be reduced by the user's umask so the usual value here would be 0666, or if some very private data then 0600. (See ``umask'' in perlfunc.)


SDBM_File optionally exports the following constants:
  • "PAGFEXT" - the extension used for the page file, usually ".pag".
  • "DIRFEXT" - the extension used for the directory file, ".dir" everywhere but VMS, where it is ".sdbm_dir".
  • "PAIRMAX" - the maximum size of a stored hash entry, including the length of both the key and value.

These constants can also be used with fully qualified names, eg. "SDBM_File::PAGFEXT".


On failure, the "tie" call returns an undefined value and probably sets $! to contain the reason the file could not be tied.

sdbm store returned -1, errno 22, key ... at ...

This warning is emitted when you try to store a key or a value that is too long. It means that the change was not recorded in the database. See BUGS AND WARNINGS below.


There are a number of limits on the size of the data that you can store in the SDBM file. The most important is that the length of a key, plus the length of its associated value, may not exceed 1008 bytes.

See ``tie'' in perlfunc, perldbmfilter, Fcntl