RT 4.4.1 Documentation



RT::StyleGuide - RT Style Guide


This file is somewhat out of date; hacking takes precedence over it.


All code and documentation that is submitted to be included in the RT distribution should follow the style in this document. This is not to try to stifle your creativity, but to make life easier for everybody who has to work with your code, and to aid those who are not quite sure how to do something.

These conventions below apply to perl modules, web programs, and command-line programs, specifically, but also might apply to some degree to any Perl code written for use in RT.

Note that these are all guidelines, not unbreakable rules. If you have a really good need to break one of the rules herein, however, then it is best to ask on the rt-devel mailing list first.

Note that with much of this document, it is not so much the Right Way as it is Our Way. We need to have conventions in order to make life easier for everyone. So don't gripe, and just follow it, because you didn't get a good grade in "Plays Well With Others" in kindergarten and you want to make up for it now.

If you have any questions, please ask us on the rt-devel mailing list:


We don't always follow this guide. We are making changes throughout our code to be in line with it. But just because we didn't do it yet, that is no excuse. Do it anyway. :-)

This document is subject to change at the whims of the core RT team. We hope to add any significant changes at the bottom of the document.


Perl Version

We code everything to Perl 5.10.1 or higher.


All modules will be documented using the POD examples in the module boilerplate. The function, purpose, use of the module will be explained, and each public API will be documented with name, description, inputs, outputs, side effects, etc.

If an array or hash reference is returned, document the size of the array (including what each element is, as appropriate) and name each key in the hash. For complex data structures, map out the structure as appropriate (e.g., name each field returned for each column from a DB call; yes, this means you shouldn't use "SELECT *", which you shouldn't use anyway).

Also document what kind of data returned values are. Is it an integer, a block of HTML, a boolean?

All command-line program options will be documented using the boilerplate code for command-line programs, which doesn't yet exist. Each available function, switch, etc. should be documented, along with a statement of function, purpose, use of the program. Do not use the same options as another program, for a different purpose.

All web templates should be documented with a statement of function, purpose, and use in a mason comment block.

Any external documents, and documentation for command-line programs and modules, should be written in POD, where appropriate. From there, they can be translated to many formats with the various pod2* translators. Read the perlpod manpage before writing any POD, because although POD is not difficult, it is not what most people are used to. It is not a regular markup language; it is just a way to make easy documentation for translating to other formats. Read, and understand, the perlpod manpage, and ask us or someone else who knows if you have any questions.


Our distribution versions use tuples, where the first number is the major revision, the second number is the version, and third number is the subversion. Odd-numbered versions are development versions. Examples:

        1.0.0           First release of RT 1
        1.0.1           Second release of RT 1.0
        1.0.10          etc.
        1.1.0           First development release of RT 1.2 (or 2.0)
        2.0.0           First release of RT 2

Versions may end in "rc" and a number if they are release candidates:

        2.0.0rc1        First release candiate for real 2.0.0


All code should be self-documenting as much as possible. Only include necessary comments. Use names like "$ticket_count", so you don't need to do something like:

        # ticket count
        my $tc = 0;

Include any comments that are, or might be, necessary in order for someone else to understand the code. Sometimes a simple one-line comment is good to explain what the purpose of the following code is for. Sometimes each line needs to be commented because of a complex algorithm. Read Kernighan & Pike's Practice of Programming about commenting. Good stuff, Maynard.

Warnings and Strict

All code must compile and run cleanly with "use strict" enabled and the perl "-w" (warnings) option on. If you must do something that -w or strict complains about, there are workarounds, but the chances that you really need to do it that way are remote.

Lexical Variables

Use only lexical variables, except for special global variables ($VERSION, %ENV, @ISA, $!, etc.) or very special circumstances (see %HTML::Mason::Commands::session ). Global variables for regular use are never appropriate. When necessary, "declare" globals with "use vars" or "our()".

A lexical variable is created with my(). A global variable is pre-existing (if it is a special variable), or it pops into existence when it is used. local() is used to tell perl to assign a temporary value to a variable. This should only be used with special variables, like $/, or in special circumstances. If you must assign to any global variable, consider whether or not you should use local().

local() may also be used on elements of arrays and hashes, though there is seldom a need to do it, and you shouldn't.

Pass by Reference

Arrays and hashes should be passed to and from functions by reference only. Note that a list and an array are NOT the same thing. This is perfectly fine:

        return($user, $form, $constants);

An exception might be a temporary array of discrete arguments:

        my @return = ($user, $form);
        push @return, $constants if $flag;
        return @return;

Although, usually, this is better (faster, easier to read, etc.):

        if ($flag) {
                return($user, $form, $constants);
        } else {
                return($user, $form);

We need to talk about Class::ReturnValue here.

Method parameters

If a method takes exactly one mandatory argument, the argument should be passed in a straightforward manner:

        my $self = shift;
        my $id = shift;

In all other cases, the method needs to take named parameters, usually using a %args hash to store them:

        my $self = shift;
        my %args = (
            Name => undef,
            Description => undef,

You may specify defaults to those named parameters instead of using undef above, as long as it is documented as such.

It is worth noting that the existing RT codebase had not followed this style perfectly; we are trying to fix it without breaking existing APIs.


Modules should provide test code, with documentation on how to use it. Test::More makes it easy to create tests. Any code you write should have a testsuite. Any code you alter should have a test suite. If a patch comes in without tests, there is something wrong.

When altering code, you must run the test harness before submitting a patch or committing code to the repository.

"make test" will run the test suite.


Always report errors using $RT::Logger. It's a Log::Dispatch object. Unlike message meant for the user, log messages are not to be internationalized.

There are several different levels ($RT::Logger methods) of logging:


Used for messages only needed during system debugging.


Should be used to describe "system-critical" events which aren't errors. Examples: creating users, deleting users, creating tickets, creating queues, sending email (message id, time, recipients), recieving mail, changing passwords, changing access control, superuser logins)


Used for RT-generated failures during execution.


Should be used for messages when an action can not be completed due to some error condition beyond our control.

In the web UI and modules, never print directly to STDERR. Do not print directly to STDOUT, unless you need to print directly to the user's console.

In command-line programs, feel free to print to STDERR and STDOUT as needed for direct console communication. But for actual error reporting, use the logging API.

System Calls

Always check return values from system calls, including open(), close(), mkdir(), or anything else that talks directly to the system. Perl built-in system calls return the error in $!; some functions in modules might return an error in $@ or some other way, so read the module's documentation if you don't know. Always do something, even if it is just calling $RT::Logger->warning(), when the return value is not what you'd expect.


Much of the style section is taken from the perlsyle manpage. We make some changes to it here, but it wouldn't be a bad idea to read that document, too.


function vs. sub(routine) vs. method

Just because it is the Perl Way (not necessarily right for all languages, but the documented terminology in the perl documentation), "method" should be used only to refer to a subroutine that are object methods or class methods; that is, these are functions that are used with OOP that always take either an object or a class as the first argument. Regular subroutines, ones that are not object or class methods, are functions. Class methods that create and return an object are optionally called constructors.


"users" are normally users of RT, the ones hitting the site; if using it in any other context, specify. "system users" are user names on the operating system. "database users" are the user names in the database server. None of these needs to be capitalized.


Don't use single-character variables, except as iterator variables.

Don't use two-character variables just to spite us over the above rule.

Constants are in all caps; these are variables whose value will never change during the course of the program.

        $Minimum = 10;          # wrong
        $MAXIMUM = 50;          # right

Other variables are lowercase, with underscores separating the words. They words used should, in general, form a noun (usually singular), unless the variable is a flag used to denote some action that should be taken, in which case they should be verbs (or gerunds, as appropriate) describing that action.

        $thisVar      = 'foo';  # wrong
        $this_var     = 'foo';  # right
        $work_hard    = 1;      # right, verb, boolean flag
        $running_fast = 0;      # right, gerund, boolean flag

Arrays and hashes should be plural nouns, whether as regular arrays and hashes or array and hash references. Do not name references with "ref" or the data type in the name.

        @stories     = (1, 2, 3);      # right
        $comment_ref = [4, 5, 6];      # wrong
        $comments    = [4, 5, 6];      # right
        $comment     = $comments->[0]; # right

Make the name descriptive. Don't use variables like "$sc" when you could call it "$story_count". See "Comments".

There are several variables in RT that are used throughout the code, that you should use in your code. Do not use these variable names for anything other than how they are normally used, and do not use any other variable names in their place. Some of these are:

        $self           # first named argument in object method

Subroutines (except for special cases, like AUTOLOAD and simple accessors) begin with a verb, with words following to complete the action. Accessors don't start with "Get" if they're just the name of the attribute.

Accessors which return an object should end with the suffix Obj.

This section needs clarification for RT.

Words begin with a capital letter. They should as clearly as possible describe the activity to be peformed, and the data to be returned.

        Load();         # good
        LoadByName();   # good
        LoadById();             # good

Subroutines beginning with _ are special: they are not to be used outside the current object. There is not to be enforced by the code itself, but by someone very big and very scary.

For large for() loops, do not use $_, but name the variable. Do not use $_ (or assume it) except for when it is absolutely clear what is going on, or when it is required (such as with map() and grep()).

        for (@list) {
            print;                      # OK; everyone knows this one
            print uc;                   # wrong; few people know this
            print uc $_;                # better

Note that the special variable _ should be used when possible. It is a placeholder that can be passed to stat() and the file test operators, that saves perl a trip to re-stat the file. In the example below, using $file over for each file test, instead of _ for subsequent uses, is a performance hit. You should be careful that the last-tested file is what you think it is, though.

        if (-d $file) {         # $file is a directory
            # ...
        } elsif (-l _) {        # $file is a symlink
            # ...

Package names begin with a capital letter in each word, followed by lower case letters (for the most part). Multiple words should be StudlyCapped.

        RT::User                        # good
        RT::Database::MySQL             # proper name
        RT::Display::Provider           # good
        RT::CustomField                 # not so good, but OK

Plugin modules should begin with "RT::Extension::", followed by the name of the plugin.

Code formatting

When in doubt, use perltidy; RT includes a .perltidyrc.

Indents and Blank Space

All indents should be four spaces; hard tabs are forbidden.

No space before a semicolon that closes a statement.

        foo(@bar) ;     # wrong
        foo(@bar);      # right

Line up corresponding items vertically.

        my $foo   = 1;
        my $bar   = 2;
        my $xyzzy = 3;

        open(FILE, $fh)   or die $!;
        open(FILE2, $fh2) or die $!;

        $rot13 =~ tr[abcedfghijklmnopqrstuvwxyz]

        # note we use a-mn-z instead of a-z,
        # for readability
        $rot13 =~ tr[a-mn-z]

Put blank lines between groups of code that do different things. Put blank lines after your variable declarations. Put a blank line before a final return() statement. Put a blank line following a block (and before, with the exception of comment lines).

An example:

        # this is my function!
        sub foo {
            my $val = shift;
            my $obj = new Constructor;
            my($var1, $var2);

            $var1 = $obj->Foo();


        print 1;


For control structures, there is a space between the keyword and opening parenthesis. For functions, there is not.

        for(@list)      # wrong
        for (@list)     # right

        my ($ref)       # wrong
        my($ref)        # right

Be careful about list vs. scalar context with parentheses!

        my @array = ('a', 'b', 'c');
        my($first_element) = @array;            # a
        my($first_element) = ('a', 'b', 'c');   # a
        my $element_count  = @array;            # 3
        my $last_element   = ('a', 'b', 'c');   # c

Always include parentheses after functions, even if there are no arguments. There are some exceptions, such as list operators (like print) and unary operators (like undef, delete, uc).

There is no space inside the parentheses, unless it is needed for readability.

        for ( map { [ $_, 1 ] } @list ) # OK
        for ( @list )                   # not really OK, not horrible

On multi-line expressions, match up the closing parenthesis with either the opening statement, or the opening parenthesis, whichever works best. Examples:

        @list = qw(
        );                      # right

        if ($foo && $bar && $baz
                 && $buz && $xyzzy) {
            print $foo;

Whether or not there is space following a closing parenthesis is dependent on what it is that follows.

        print foo(@bar), baz(@buz) if $xyzzy;

Note also that parentheses around single-statement control expressions, as in if $xyzzy, are optional (and discouraged) if it is absolutely clear -- to a programmer -- what is going on. There is absolutely no need for parentheses around $xyzzy above, so leaving them out enhances readability. Use your best discretion. Better to include them, if there is any question.

The same essentially goes for perl's built-in functions, when there is nothing confusing about what is going on (for example, there is only one function call in the statement, or the function call is separated by a flow control operator). User-supplied functions must always include parentheses.

        print 1, 2, 3;                          # good
        delete $hash{key} if isAnon($uid);      # good

However, if there is any possible confusion at all, then include the parentheses. Remember the words of Larry Wall in the perlstyle manpage:

        When in doubt, parenthesize.  At the very least it will
        let some poor schmuck bounce on the % key in vi.

        Even if you aren't in doubt, consider the mental welfare
        of the person who has to maintain the code after you, and
        who will probably put parens in the wrong place.

So leave them out when it is absoutely clear to a programmer, but if there is any question, leave them in.


(This is about control braces, not hash/data structure braces.)

There is always a space befor the opening brace.

        while (<$fh>){  # wrong
        while (<$fh>) { # right

A one-line block may be put on one line, and the semicolon may be omitted.

        for (@list) { print }

Otherwise, finish each statement with a semicolon, put the keyword and opening curly on the first line, and the ending curly lined up with the keyword at the end.

        for (@list) {

Generally, we prefer "cuddled elses":

        if ($foo) {
        } else {


Put space around most operators. The primary exception is the for aesthetics; e.g., sometimes the space around "**" is ommitted, and there is never a space before a ",", but always after.

        print $x , $y;  # wrong
        print $x, $y;   # right

        $x = 2 >> 1;    # good
        $y = 2**2;      # ok

Note that "&&" and "||" have a higher precedence than "and" and "or". Other than that, they are exactly the same. It is best to use the lower precedence version for control, and the higher for testing/returning values. Examples:

        $bool = $flag1 or $flag2;       # WRONG (doesn't work)
        $value = $foo || $bar;          # right
        open(FILE, $file) or die $!;

        $true  = foo($bar) && baz($buz);
        foo($bar) and baz($buz);

Note that "and" is seldom ever used, because the statement above is better written using "if":

        baz($buz) if foo($bar);

Most of the time, the confusion between and/&&, or/|| can be alleviated by using parentheses. If you want to leave off the parentheses then you must use the proper operator. But if you use parentheses -- and normally, you should, if there is any question at all -- then it doesn't matter which you use. Use whichever is most readable and aesthetically pleasing to you at the time, and be consistent within your block of code.

Break long lines AFTER operators, except for ".", "and", "or", "&&", "||". Try to keep the two parts to a binary operator (an operator that has two operands) together when possible.

        print "foo" . "bar" . "baz" .
              "buz";                            # wrong

        print "foo" . "bar" . "baz"
            . "buz";                            # right

        print $foo unless $x == 3 && $y ==
                4 && $z == 5;                   # wrong

        print $foo unless $x == 3 && $y == 4
                       && $z == 5;              # right


Put space around a complex subscript inside the brackets or braces.

        $foo{$bar{baz}{buz}};   # OK
        $foo{ $bar{baz}{buz} }; # better

In general, use single-quotes around literals, and double-quotes when the text needs to be interpolated.

It is OK to omit quotes around names in braces and when using the => operator, but be careful not to use a name that doubles as a function; in that case, quote.

        $what{'time'}{it}{is} = time();

When making compound statements, put the primary action first.

        open(FILE, $fh) or die $!;      # right
        die $! unless open(FILE, $fh);  # wrong

        print "Starting\n" if $verbose; # right
        $verbose && print "Starting\n"; # wrong

Use here-docs instead of repeated print statements.

                print <<EOT;
        This is a whole bunch of text.
        I like it.  I don't need to worry about messing
        with lots of print statements and lining them up.

Just remember that unless you put single quotes around your here-doc token (<<'EOT'), the text will be interpolated, so escape any "$" or "@" as needed.


String extraction styleguide

Web templates

Templates should use the /l filtering component to call the localisation framework

The string Foo!

Should become <&|/l&>Foo!</&>

All newlines should be removed from localized strings, to make it easy to grep the codebase for strings to be localized

The string Foo Bar Baz

Should become <&|/l&>Foo Bar Baz</&>

Variable subsititutions should be moved to Locale::MakeText format

The string Hello, <%$name %>

should become <&|/l, $name &>Hello, [_1]</&>

Multiple variables work just like single variables

The string You found <%$num%> tickets in queue <%$queue%>

should become <&|/l, $num, $queue &>You found [_1] tickets in queue [_2]</&>

When subcomponents are called in the middle of a phrase, they need to be escaped too:

The string <input type="submit" value="New ticket in">&nbsp<& /Elements/SelectNewTicketQueue&>

should become <&|/l, $m->scomp('/Elements/SelectNewTicketQueue')&><input type="submit" value="New ticket in">&nbsp;[_1]</&>

The string <& /Widgets/TitleBoxStart, width=> "40%", titleright => "RT $RT::VERSION for RT->Config->Get('rtname')", title => 'Login' &>

should become <& /Widgets/TitleBoxStart, width=> "40%", titleright => loc("RT [_1] for [_2]",$RT::VERSION, RT->Config->Get('rtname')), title => loc('Login'), &>

Library code

Within RT's core code, every module has a localization handle available through the 'loc' method:

The code return ( $id, "Queue created" );

should become return ( $id, $self->loc("Queue created") );

When returning or localizing a single string, the "extra" set of parenthesis () should be omitted.

The code return ("Subject changed to ". $self->Data );

should become return $self->loc( "Subject changed to [_1]", $self->Data );

It is important not to localize the names of rights or statuses within RT's core, as there is logic that depends on them as string identifiers. The proper place to localize these values is when they're presented for display in the web or commandline interfaces.


This is for new programs, modules, specific APIs, or anything else.

Present idea to rt-devel

We may know of a better way to approach the problem, or know of an existing way to deal with it, or know someone else is working on it. This is mostly informal, but a fairly complete explanation for the need and use of the code should be provided.

Present complete specs to rt-devel

The complete proposed API should be submitted for approval and discussion. For web and command-line programs, present the functionality and interface (op codes, command-lin switches, etc.).

The best way to do this is to take the documentation portion of the boilerplate and fill it in. You can make changes later if necessary, but fill it in as much as you can.

Prepare for code review

When you are done, the code will undergo a code review by a member of the core team, or someone picked by the core team. This is not to belittle you (that's just a nice side effect), it is to make sure that you understand your code, that we understand your code, that it won't break other code, that it follows the documentation and existing proposal. It is to check for possible optimizations or better ways of doing it.

Note that all code is expected to follow the coding principles and style guide contained in this document.

Finish it up

After the code is done (possibly going through multiple code reviews), if you do not have repository access, submit it to rt-bugs@fsck.com as a unified diff. From that point on, it'll be handled by someone with repository access.


Use rt-bugs@bestpractical.com for any bug that is not being fixed immediately. If it is not in RT, there is a good chance it will not be dealt with.

Send patches to rt-bugs@bestpractical.com, too. Use diff -u for patches.


RT uses a convention to denote the foreign key status in its tables. The rule of thumb is:

When it references to another table, always use the table name

For example, the Template field in the Scrips table refers to the Id of the same-named Template table.

Otherwise, always use the Id suffix

For example, the ObjectId field in the ACL table can refer to any object, so it has the Id suffix.

There are some legacy fields that did not follow this rule, namely ACL.PrincipalId, GroupMembers.GroupId and Attachments.TransactionId, but new tables are expected to be consistent.


The Overlay mechanism

RT's classes allow "overlay" methods to be placed into files named Filename_Vendor.pm and Filename_Local.pm _Vendor is for 3rd-party vendor add-ons, while _Local is for site-local customizations.

These overlay files can contain new subs or subs to replace existing subs in this module.

Each of these files should begin with the line

   no warnings qw(redefine);

so that perl does not kick and scream when you redefine a subroutine or variable in your overlay.


Talk about DBIx::SearchBuilder

Talk about mason component style cascading style sheets

Talk about adding a new translation

Talk more about logging

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