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perlfaq6 ()
  • >> perlfaq6 (1) ( Solaris man: Команды и прикладные программы пользовательского уровня )
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         perlfaq6 - Regexes ($Revision: 1.27 $, $Date: 1999/05/23
         16:08:30 $)


         This section is surprisingly small because the rest of the
         FAQ is littered with answers involving regular expressions.
         For example, decoding a URL and checking whether something
         is a number are handled with regular expressions, but those
         answers are found elsewhere in this document (in the section
         on Data and the Networking one on networking, to be
         How can I hope to use regular expressions without creating
         illegible and unmaintainable code?
         Three techniques can make regular expressions maintainable
         and understandable.
         Comments Outside the Regex
             Describe what you're doing and how you're doing it,
             using normal Perl comments.
                 # turn the line into the first word, a colon, and the
                 # number of characters on the rest of the line
                 s/^(\w+)(.*)/ lc($1) . ":" . length($2) /meg;
         Comments Inside the Regex
             The `/x' modifier causes whitespace to be ignored in a
             regex pattern (except in a character class), and also
             allows you to use normal comments there, too.  As you
             can imagine, whitespace and comments help a lot.
             `/x' lets you turn this:
             into this:
                 s{ <                    # opening angle bracket
                     (?:                 # Non-backreffing grouping paren
                          [^>'"] *       # 0 or more things that are neither > nor ' nor "
                             |           #    or else
                          ".*?"          # a section between double quotes (stingy match)
                             |           #    or else
                          '.*?'          # a section between single quotes (stingy match)
                     ) +                 #   all occurring one or more times
                    >                    # closing angle bracket
                 }{}gsx;                 # replace with nothing, i.e. delete
             It's still not quite so clear as prose, but it is very
             useful for describing the meaning of each part of the
         Different Delimiters
             While we normally think of patterns as being delimited
             with `/' characters, they can be delimited by almost any
             character.  the perlre manpage describes this.  For
             example, the `s///' above uses braces as delimiters.
             Selecting another delimiter can avoid quoting the
             delimiter within the pattern:
                 s/\/usr\/local/\/usr\/share/g;      # bad delimiter choice
                 s#/usr/local#/usr/share#g;          # better
         I'm having trouble matching over more than one line.  What's
         Either you don't have more than one line in the string
         you're looking at (probably), or else you aren't using the
         correct modifier(s) on your pattern (possibly).
         There are many ways to get multiline data into a string.  If
         you want it to happen automatically while reading input,
         you'll want to set $/ (probably to '' for paragraphs or
         `undef' for the whole file) to allow you to read more than
         one line at a time.
         Read the perlre manpage to help you decide which of `/s' and
         `/m' (or both) you might want to use: `/s' allows dot to
         include newline, and `/m' allows caret and dollar to match
         next to a newline, not just at the end of the string.  You
         do need to make sure that you've actually got a multiline
         string in there.
         For example, this program detects duplicate words, even when
         they span line breaks (but not paragraph ones).  For this
         example, we don't need `/s' because we aren't using dot in a
         regular expression that we want to cross line boundaries.
         Neither do we need `/m' because we aren't wanting caret or
         dollar to match at any point inside the record next to
         newlines.  But it's imperative that $/ be set to something
         other than the default, or else we won't actually ever have
         a multiline record read in.
             $/ = '';            # read in more whole paragraph, not just one line
             while ( <> ) {
                 while ( /\b([\w'-]+)(\s+\1)+\b/gi ) {   # word starts alpha
                     print "Duplicate $1 at paragraph $.\n";
         Here's code that finds sentences that begin with "From "
         (which would be mangled by many mailers):
             $/ = '';            # read in more whole paragraph, not just one line
             while ( <> ) {
                 while ( /^From /gm ) { # /m makes ^ match next to \n
                     print "leading from in paragraph $.\n";
         Here's code that finds everything between START and END in a
             undef $/;           # read in whole file, not just one line or paragraph
             while ( <> ) {
                 while ( /START(.*?)END/sm ) { # /s makes . cross line boundaries
                     print "$1\n";
         How can I pull out lines between two patterns that are
         themselves on different lines?
         You can use Perl's somewhat exotic `..' operator (documented
         in the perlop manpage):
             perl -ne 'print if /START/ .. /END/' file1 file2 ...
         If you wanted text and not lines, you would use
             perl -0777 -ne 'print "$1\n" while /START(.*?)END/gs' file1 file2 ...
         But if you want nested occurrences of `START' through `END',
         you'll run up against the problem described in the question
         in this section on matching balanced text.
         Here's another example of using `..':
             while (<>) {
                 $in_header =   1  .. /^$/;
                 $in_body   = /^$/ .. eof();
                 # now choose between them
             } continue {
                 reset if eof();         # fix $.
         I put a regular expression into $/ but it didn't work.
         What's wrong?
         $/ must be a string, not a regular expression.  Awk has to
         be better for something. :-)
         Actually, you could do this if you don't mind reading the
         whole file into memory:
             undef $/;
             @records = split /your_pattern/, <FH>;
         The Net::Telnet module (available from CPAN) has the
         capability to wait for a pattern in the input stream, or
         timeout if it doesn't appear within a certain time.
             ## Create a file with three lines.
             open FH, ">file";
             print FH "The first line\nThe second line\nThe third line\n";
             close FH;
             ## Get a read/write filehandle to it.
             $fh = new FileHandle "+<file";
             ## Attach it to a "stream" object.
             use Net::Telnet;
             $file = new Net::Telnet (-fhopen => $fh);
             ## Search for the second line and print out the third.
             $file->waitfor('/second line\n/');
             print $file->getline;
         How do I substitute case insensitively on the LHS, but
         preserving case on the RHS?
         Here's a lovely Perlish solution by Larry Rosler.  It
         exploits properties of bitwise xor on ASCII strings.
             $_= "this is a TEsT case";
             $old = 'test';
             $new = 'success';
              { uc $new | (uc $1 ^ $1) .
                 (uc(substr $1, -1) ^ substr $1, -1) x
                     (length($new) - length $1)
         And here it is as a subroutine, modelled after the above:
             sub preserve_case($$) {
                 my ($old, $new) = @_;
                 my $mask = uc $old ^ $old;
                 uc $new | $mask .
                     substr($mask, -1) x (length($new) - length($old))
             $a = "this is a TEsT case";
             $a =~ s/(test)/preserve_case($1, "success")/egi;
             print "$a\n";
         This prints:
             this is a SUcCESS case
         Just to show that C programmers can write C in any
         programming language, if you prefer a more C-like solution,
         the following script makes the substitution have the same
         case, letter by letter, as the original.  (It also happens
         to run about 240% slower than the Perlish solution runs.)
         If the substitution has more characters than the string
         being substituted, the case of the last character is used
         for the rest of the substitution.
             # Original by Nathan Torkington, massaged by Jeffrey Friedl
             sub preserve_case($$)
                 my ($old, $new) = @_;
                 my ($state) = 0; # 0 = no change; 1 = lc; 2 = uc
                 my ($i, $oldlen, $newlen, $c) = (0, length($old), length($new));
                 my ($len) = $oldlen < $newlen ? $oldlen : $newlen;
                 for ($i = 0; $i < $len; $i++) {
                     if ($c = substr($old, $i, 1), $c =~ /[\W\d_]/) {
                         $state = 0;
                     } elsif (lc $c eq $c) {
                         substr($new, $i, 1) = lc(substr($new, $i, 1));
                         $state = 1;
                     } else {
                         substr($new, $i, 1) = uc(substr($new, $i, 1));
                         $state = 2;
                 # finish up with any remaining new (for when new is longer than old)
                 if ($newlen > $oldlen) {
                     if ($state == 1) {
                         substr($new, $oldlen) = lc(substr($new, $oldlen));
                     } elsif ($state == 2) {
                         substr($new, $oldlen) = uc(substr($new, $oldlen));
                 return $new;
         How can I make `\w' match national character sets?
         See the perllocale manpage.
         How can I match a locale-smart version of `/[a-zA-Z]/'?
         One alphabetic character would be `/[^\W\d_]/', no matter
         what locale you're in.  Non-alphabetics would be `/[\W\d_]/'
         (assuming you don't consider an underscore a letter).
         How can I quote a variable to use in a regex?
         The Perl parser will expand $variable and @variable
         references in regular expressions unless the delimiter is a
         single quote.  Remember, too, that the right-hand side of a
         `s///' substitution is considered a double-quoted string
         (see the perlop manpage for more details).  Remember also
         that any regex special characters will be acted on unless
         you precede the substitution with \Q.  Here's an example:
             $string = "to die?";
             $lhs = "die?";
             $rhs = "sleep, no more";
             $string =~ s/\Q$lhs/$rhs/;
             # $string is now "to sleep no more"
         Without the \Q, the regex would also spuriously match "di".
         What is `/o' really for?
         Using a variable in a regular expression match forces a re-
         evaluation (and perhaps recompilation) each time through.
         The `/o' modifier locks in the regex the first time it's
         used.  This always happens in a constant regular expression,
         and in fact, the pattern was compiled into the internal
         format at the same time your entire program was.
         Use of `/o' is irrelevant unless variable interpolation is
         used in the pattern, and if so, the regex engine will
         neither know nor care whether the variables change after the
         pattern is evaluated the very first time.
         `/o' is often used to gain an extra measure of efficiency by
         not performing subsequent evaluations when you know it won't
         matter (because you know the variables won't change), or
         more rarely, when you don't want the regex to notice if they
         For example, here's a "paragrep" program:
             $/ = '';  # paragraph mode
             $pat = shift;
             while (<>) {
                 print if /$pat/o;
         How do I use a regular expression to strip C style comments
         from a file?
         While this actually can be done, it's much harder than you'd
         think.  For example, this one-liner
             perl -0777 -pe 's{/\*.*?\*/}{}gs' foo.c
         will work in many but not all cases.  You see, it's too
         simple-minded for certain kinds of C programs, in
         particular, those with what appear to be comments in quoted
         strings.  For that, you'd need something like this, created
         by Jeffrey Friedl and later modified by Fred Curtis.
             $/ = undef;
             $_ = <>;
         This could, of course, be more legibly written with the `/x'
         modifier, adding whitespace and comments.  Here it is
         expanded, courtesy of Fred Curtis.
                /\*         ##  Start of /* ... */ comment
                [^*]*\*+    ##  Non-* followed by 1-or-more *'s
                )*          ##  0-or-more things which don't start with /
                            ##    but do end with '*'
                /           ##  End of /* ... */ comment
              |         ##     OR  various things which aren't comments:
                  "           ##  Start of " ... " string
                    \\.           ##  Escaped char
                  |               ##    OR
                    [^"\\]        ##  Non "\
                  "           ##  End of " ... " string
                |         ##     OR
                  '           ##  Start of ' ... ' string
                    \\.           ##  Escaped char
                  |               ##    OR
                    [^'\\]        ##  Non '\
                  '           ##  End of ' ... ' string
                |         ##     OR
                  .           ##  Anything other char
                  [^/"'\\]*   ##  Chars which doesn't start a comment, string or escape
         A slight modification also removes C++ comments:
         Can I use Perl regular expressions to match balanced text?
         Although Perl regular expressions are more powerful than
         "mathematical" regular expressions, because they feature
         conveniences like backreferences (`\1' and its ilk), they
         still aren't powerful enough -- with the possible exception
         of bizarre and experimental features in the development-
         track releases of Perl.  You still need to use non-regex
         techniques to parse balanced text, such as the text enclosed
         between matching parentheses or braces, for example.
         An elaborate subroutine (for 7-bit ASCII only) to pull out
         balanced and possibly nested single chars, like ``' and `'',
         `{' and `}', or `(' and `)' can be found in
         The C::Scan module from CPAN contains such subs for internal
         usage, but they are undocumented.
         What does it mean that regexes are greedy?  How can I get
         around it?
         Most people mean that greedy regexes match as much as they
         can.  Technically speaking, it's actually the quantifiers
         (`?', `*', `+', `{}') that are greedy rather than the whole
         pattern; Perl prefers local greed and immediate
         gratification to overall greed.  To get non-greedy versions
         of the same quantifiers, use (`??', `*?', `+?', `{}?').
         An example:
                 $s1 = $s2 = "I am very very cold";
                 $s1 =~ s/ve.*y //;      # I am cold
                 $s2 =~ s/ve.*?y //;     # I am very cold
         Notice how the second substitution stopped matching as soon
         as it encountered "y ".  The `*?' quantifier effectively
         tells the regular expression engine to find a match as
         quickly as possible and pass control on to whatever is next
         in line, like you would if you were playing hot potato.
         How do I process each word on each line?
         Use the split function:
             while (<>) {
                 foreach $word ( split ) {
                     # do something with $word here
         Note that this isn't really a word in the English sense;
         it's just chunks of consecutive non-whitespace characters.
         To work with only alphanumeric sequences, you might consider
             while (<>) {
                 foreach $word (m/(\w+)/g) {
                     # do something with $word here
         How can I print out a word-frequency or line-frequency
         To do this, you have to parse out each word in the input
         stream.  We'll pretend that by word you mean chunk of
         alphabetics, hyphens, or apostrophes, rather than the non-
         whitespace chunk idea of a word given in the previous
             while (<>) {
                 while ( /(\b[^\W_\d][\w'-]+\b)/g ) {   # misses "`sheep'"
             while ( ($word, $count) = each %seen ) {
                 print "$count $word\n";
         If you wanted to do the same thing for lines, you wouldn't
         need a regular expression:
             while (<>) {
             while ( ($line, $count) = each %seen ) {
                 print "$count $line";
         If you want these output in a sorted order, see the section
         on Hashes.
         How can I do approximate matching?
         See the module String::Approx available from CPAN.
         How do I efficiently match many regular expressions at once?
         The following is extremely inefficient:
             # slow but obvious way
             @popstates = qw(CO ON MI WI MN);
             while (defined($line = <>)) {
                 for $state (@popstates) {
                     if ($line =~ /\b$state\b/i) {
                         print $line;
         That's because Perl has to recompile all those patterns for
         each of the lines of the file.  As of the 5.005 release,
         there's a much better approach, one which makes use of the
         new `qr//' operator:
             # use spiffy new qr// operator, with /i flag even
             use 5.005;
             @popstates = qw(CO ON MI WI MN);
             @poppats   = map { qr/\b$_\b/i } @popstates;
             while (defined($line = <>)) {
                 for $patobj (@poppats) {
                     print $line if $line =~ /$patobj/;
         Why don't word-boundary searches with `\b' work for me?
         Two common misconceptions are that `\b' is a synonym for
         `\s+', and that it's the edge between whitespace characters
         and non-whitespace characters.  Neither is correct.  `\b' is
         the place between a `\w' character and a `\W' character
         (that is, `\b' is the edge of a "word").  It's a zero-width
         assertion, just like `^', `$', and all the other anchors, so
         it doesn't consume any characters.  the perlre manpage
         describes the behavior of all the regex metacharacters.
         Here are examples of the incorrect application of `\b', with
             "two words" =~ /(\w+)\b(\w+)/;          # WRONG
             "two words" =~ /(\w+)\s+(\w+)/;         # right
             " =matchless= text" =~ /\b=(\w+)=\b/;   # WRONG
             " =matchless= text" =~ /=(\w+)=/;       # right
         Although they may not do what you thought they did, `\b' and
         `\B' can still be quite useful.  For an example of the
         correct use of `\b', see the example of matching duplicate
         words over multiple lines.
         An example of using `\B' is the pattern `\Bis\B'.  This will
         find occurrences of "is" on the insides of words only, as in
         "thistle", but not "this" or "island".
         Why does using $&, $`, or $' slow my program down?
         Because once Perl sees that you need one of these variables
         anywhere in the program, it has to provide them on each and
         every pattern match.  The same mechanism that handles these
         provides for the use of $1, $2, etc., so you pay the same
         price for each regex that contains capturing parentheses.
         But if you never use $&, etc., in your script, then regexes
         without capturing parentheses won't be penalized. So avoid
         $&, $', and $` if you can, but if you can't, once you've
         used them at all, use them at will because you've already
         paid the price.  Remember that some algorithms really
         appreciate them.  As of the 5.005 release.  the $& variable
         is no longer "expensive" the way the other two are.
         What good is `\G' in a regular expression?
         The notation `\G' is used in a match or substitution in
         conjunction the `/g' modifier (and ignored if there's no
         `/g') to anchor the regular expression to the point just
         past where the last match occurred, i.e. the pos() point.  A
         failed match resets the position of `\G' unless the `/c'
         modifier is in effect.
         For example, suppose you had a line of text quoted in
         standard mail and Usenet notation, (that is, with leading
         `>' characters), and you want change each leading `>' into a
         corresponding `:'.  You could do so in this way:
              s/^(>+)/':' x length($1)/gem;
         Or, using `\G', the much simpler (and faster):
         A more sophisticated use might involve a tokenizer.  The
         following lex-like example is courtesy of Jeffrey Friedl.
         It did not work in 5.003 due to bugs in that release, but
         does work in 5.004 or better.  (Note the use of `/c', which
         prevents a failed match with `/g' from resetting the search
         position back to the beginning of the string.)
             while (<>) {
               PARSER: {
                    m/ \G( \d+\b    )/gcx    && do { print "number: $1\n";  redo; };
                    m/ \G( \w+      )/gcx    && do { print "word:   $1\n";  redo; };
                    m/ \G( \s+      )/gcx    && do { print "space:  $1\n";  redo; };
                    m/ \G( [^\w\d]+ )/gcx    && do { print "other:  $1\n";  redo; };
         Of course, that could have been written as
             while (<>) {
               PARSER: {
                    if ( /\G( \d+\b    )/gcx  {
                         print "number: $1\n";
                         redo PARSER;
                    if ( /\G( \w+      )/gcx  {
                         print "word: $1\n";
                         redo PARSER;
                    if ( /\G( \s+      )/gcx  {
                         print "space: $1\n";
                         redo PARSER;
                    if ( /\G( [^\w\d]+ )/gcx  {
                         print "other: $1\n";
                         redo PARSER;
         But then you lose the vertical alignment of the regular
         Are Perl regexes DFAs or NFAs?  Are they POSIX compliant?
         While it's true that Perl's regular expressions resemble the
         DFAs (deterministic finite automata) of the egrep(1)
         program, they are in fact implemented as NFAs (non-
         deterministic finite automata) to allow backtracking and
         backreferencing.  And they aren't POSIX-style either,
         because those guarantee worst-case behavior for all cases.
         (It seems that some people prefer guarantees of consistency,
         even when what's guaranteed is slowness.)  See the book
         "Mastering Regular Expressions" (from O'Reilly) by Jeffrey
         Friedl for all the details you could ever hope to know on
         these matters (a full citation appears in the perlfaq2
         What's wrong with using grep or map in a void context?
         Both grep and map build a return list, regardless of their
         context.  This means you're making Perl go to the trouble of
         building up a return list that you then just ignore.  That's
         no way to treat a programming language, you insensitive
         How can I match strings with multibyte characters?
         This is hard, and there's no good way.  Perl does not
         directly support wide characters.  It pretends that a byte
         and a character are synonymous.  The following set of
         approaches was offered by Jeffrey Friedl, whose article in
         issue #5 of The Perl Journal talks about this very matter.
         Let's suppose you have some weird Martian encoding where
         pairs of ASCII uppercase letters encode single Martian
         letters (i.e. the two bytes "CV" make a single Martian
         letter, as do the two bytes "SG", "VS", "XX", etc.). Other
         bytes represent single characters, just like ASCII.
         So, the string of Martian "I am CVSGXX!" uses 12 bytes to
         encode the nine characters 'I', ' ', 'a', 'm', ' ', 'CV',
         'SG', 'XX', '!'.
         Now, say you want to search for the single character `/GX/'.
         Perl doesn't know about Martian, so it'll find the two bytes
         "GX" in the "I am CVSGXX!"  string, even though that
         character isn't there: it just looks like it is because "SG"
         is next to "XX", but there's no real "GX".  This is a big
         Here are a few ways, all painful, to deal with it:
            $martian =~ s/([A-Z][A-Z])/ $1 /g; # Make sure adjacent ``martian'' bytes
                                               # are no longer adjacent.
            print "found GX!\n" if $martian =~ /GX/;
         Or like this:
            @chars = $martian =~ m/([A-Z][A-Z]|[^A-Z])/g;
            # above is conceptually similar to:     @chars = $text =~ m/(.)/g;
            foreach $char (@chars) {
                print "found GX!\n", last if $char eq 'GX';
         Or like this:
            while ($martian =~ m/\G([A-Z][A-Z]|.)/gs) {  # \G probably unneeded
                print "found GX!\n", last if $1 eq 'GX';
         Or like this:
             die "sorry, Perl doesn't (yet) have Martian support )-:\n";
         There are many double- (and multi-) byte encodings commonly
         used these days.  Some versions of these have 1-, 2-, 3-,
         and 4-byte characters, all mixed.
         How do I match a pattern that is supplied by the user?
         Well, if it's really a pattern, then just use
             chomp($pattern = <STDIN>);
             if ($line =~ /$pattern/) { }
         Or, since you have no guarantee that your user entered a
         valid regular expression, trap the exception this way:
             if (eval { $line =~ /$pattern/ }) { }
         But if all you really want to search for a string, not a
         pattern, then you should either use the index() function,
         which is made for string searching, or if you can't be
         disabused of using a pattern match on a non-pattern, then be
         sure to use `\Q'...`\E', documented in the perlre manpage.
             $pattern = <STDIN>;
             open (FILE, $input) or die "Couldn't open input $input: $!; aborting";
             while (<FILE>) {
                 print if /\Q$pattern\E/;
             close FILE;


         Copyright (c) 1997-1999 Tom Christiansen and Nathan
         Torkington.  All rights reserved.
         When included as part of the Standard Version of Perl, or as
         part of its complete documentation whether printed or
         otherwise, this work may be distributed only under the terms
         of Perl's Artistic License.  Any distribution of this file
         or derivatives thereof outside of that package require that
         special arrangements be made with copyright holder.
         Irrespective of its distribution, all code examples in this
         file are hereby placed into the public domain.  You are
         permitted and encouraged to use this code in your own
         programs for fun or for profit as you see fit.  A simple
         comment in the code giving credit would be courteous but is
         not required.

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