There's a lot of CPAN distributions in the Arch repositories, but not all of them. How should I handle a situation when I need a dist that is not already in the repos?
Should I use the
cpan program then, or is there a better solution?
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Well, the best solution would probably be to create a distribution package for the CPAN package you want, contribute it to the Arch team, and maintain it (of course, the best solution for you would be for someone else to do this, :-) ). This way, everyone would benefit from it.
In reality, you're probably fine to just use CPAN directly to install it:
perl -MCPAN -e "install Package"
of course, the drawback here is that you don't get automatic updates when the upstream package changes. You'll need to keep track of the CPAN package yourself.