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Feature request / RFC: builtin for numeric sort

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Ed Avis
July 1, 2021 07:04
Feature request / RFC: builtin for numeric sort
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Every Perl programmer has hundreds of times written

    sort { $a <=> $b } @stuff

to get a numeric sort.  Sometimes it takes an outsider to spot things, and I found myself explaining to another programmer that Perl doesn't have a builtin syntax for sorting numerically, but this incantation with its magic $a and $b variables is the way it's always been done.

I propose a new builtin

    sortnum @stuff

exactly equivalent to the above, but a bit less baroque, and it might likely be a touch faster.

Benefits: easy things should be easy.  Sorting by numeric value is such a common operation that it deserves its own keyword.  Generally, Perl provides two versions of each builtin (so we have both == and eq, both <= and le, etc) but there is not a numeric equivalent of 'sort' without an additional code block.

Problems: if the word sortnum is already used in someone's program.  It could be protected by 'use version'.

This is a subjective opinion, of course I understand that you can write sort {$a<=>$b}, you can package it as a subroutine, you can provide it as a CPAN module... but the request is specifically that it's common enough to be a builtin.  Despite twenty years of muscle memory writing it out, I think Perl would be a better language if it had numeric sort out of the box.

Ed Avis <>
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