How do I make my Perl scripts act like normal programs on Windows?

I want my Perl scripts to behave just like any other executable (*.exe file).

  • When I double-click on I want it to execute instead of opening in a text editor.
  • I want to run instead of perl
  • I really want to run myscript instead of
  • I want to run program | myscript instead of program | perl
  • I want to be able to run my script via drag & drop.

There are a number of changes you have to make on Windows to make all of these things work. Users typically stumble upon things that don’t work one at a time; leaving them confused whether they’ve made an error, there’s a bug in Perl, there’s a bug in Windows, or the behavior they want just isn’t possible. This question is intended to provide a single point of reference for making everything work up front; ideally before these problems even occur.

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Note: The actions below require administrative privileges. For steps utilizing the command prompt it must be launched via “Run as administrator” on Windows Vista / Windows 7.

Associate *.pl files with perl

Run the following commands at a shell prompt:

assoc .pl=PerlScript
ftype PerlScript=C:/bin/perl.exe "%1" %*

Replace C:/Perl/bin/perl.exe with the path to your Perl installation. This enables you to run instead of perl

Default install locations are:

  • ActivePerl: C:/Perl
  • Strawberry Perl: C:/Strawberry

Add .PL to your PATHEXT environment variable.

This makes Windows consider *.pl files to be executable when searching your PATH. It enables you to run myscript instead of

You can set it for the current cmd session


To set it permanently (under Windows Vista or Windows 7)


Under Windows XP you have to use the GUI:

  1. Right-click My Computer, and then click Properties.
  2. Click the Advanced tab.
  3. Click Environment variables.
  4. Select PATHEXT, then click Edit.
  5. Append ;.PL to the current value.

Make I/O redirection work (WinXP only)

I/O redirection (e.g. program | myscript) doesn’t work for programs started via a file association. There is a registry patch to correct the problem.

  1. Start Registry Editor.
  2. Locate and then click the following key in the registry: HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE/Software/Microsoft/Windows/CurrentVersion/Policies/Explorer
  3. On the Edit menu, click Add Value, and then add the following registry value:
    • Value name: InheritConsoleHandles
    • Data type: REG_DWORD
    • Radix: Decimal
    • Value data: 1
  4. Quit Registry Editor.

See also STDIN/STDOUT Redirection May Not Work If Started from a File Association.

If patching the registry isn’t an option running program | perl -S is a less annoying work-around for scripts in your PATH.

Add a drop handler

Adding a drop handler for Perl allows you to run a Perl script via drag & drop; e.g. dragging a file over the file icon in Windows Explorer and dropping it there. Run the following script to add the necessary entries to the registry:

use Win32::TieRegistry;
$perlKey = $Registry-> {"HKEY_CLASSES_ROOT/Perl/"};
$perlKey-> {"shellex/"} = {
    "DropHandler/" =>  {
        "/" => "{86C86720-42A0-1069-A2E8-08002B30309D}"

Convert your perl scripts into batch files using pl2bat once they are ready to be run by users.

The trick works through the perl -x switch which, according to perldoc perlrun, makes Perl search for the first line looking like #!.*perl.

I believe Michael Carman’s “Associate *.pl files with perl” has a small bug. The second command should read ftype PerlScript=C:/bin/perl.exe “%1” %*. Without the quotes around %1, any script that is in a path with spaces will fail.

The Win32 perl wiki entry has the correct syntax, but the Strawberry perl installer itself seems to use the version without the quotes. I’m not sure what the proper place to report the problem is.

Microsoft, in its infinite wisdom, decided to make the set command use an “=” but the setx command complains if you use the “=”! Thanks MS! šŸ™