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PERLFAQ6(1)	       Perl Programmers	Reference Guide		   PERLFAQ6(1)

       perlfaq6	- Regular Expressions

       version 5.021011

       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 can be
       handled with regular expressions, but those answers are found elsewhere
       in this document	(in perlfaq9: "How do I	decode or create those
       %-encodings on the web" and perlfaq4: "How do I determine whether a
       scalar is a number/whole/integer/float",	to be precise).

   How can I hope to use regular expressions without creating illegible	and
       unmaintainable code?
       Three techniques	can make regular expressions maintainable and

       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 a few other	places), 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 pattern.

       Different Delimiters
	   While we normally think of patterns as being	delimited with "/"
	   characters, they can	be delimited by	almost any character. perlre
	   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

	   Using logically paired delimiters can be even more readable:

	       s{/usr/local/}{/usr/share}g;	 # better still

   I'm having trouble matching over more than one line.	What's wrong?
       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 perlre 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 don't want
       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 whole paragraph,	not just one line
	   while ( <> )	{
	       while ( /\b([\w'-]+)(\s+\g1)+\b/gi ) {	  # word starts	alpha
		   print "Duplicate $1 at paragraph $.\n";

       Here's some code	that finds sentences that begin	with "From " (which
       would be	mangled	by many	mailers):

	   $/ =	'';	     # read in 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 paragraph:

	   undef $/;	      #	read in	whole file, not	just one line or paragraph
	   while ( <> )	{
	       while ( /START(.*?)END/sgm ) { #	/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

	   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 (<>) {
	       my $in_header =	 1  .. /^$/;
	       my $in_body   = /^$/ .. eof;
	   # now choose	between	them
	   } continue {
	       $. = 0 if eof;	 # fix $.

   How do I match XML, HTML, or	other nasty, ugly things with a	regex?
       Do not use regexes. Use a module	and forget about the regular
       expressions. The	XML::LibXML, HTML::TokeParser and HTML::TreeBuilder
       modules are good	starts,	although each namespace	has other parsing
       modules specialized for certain tasks and different ways	of doing it.
       Start at	CPAN Search ( <> ) and wonder at all the
       work people have	done for you already! :)

   I put a regular expression into $/ but it didn't work. What's wrong?
       $/ has to be a string. You can use these	examples if you	really need to
       do this.

       If you have File::Stream, this is easy.

	   use File::Stream;

	   my $stream =	File::Stream->new(
	       separator => qr/\s*,\s*/,

	   print "$_\n"	while <$stream>;

       If you don't have File::Stream, you have	to do a	little more work.

       You can use the four-argument form of sysread to	continually add	to a
       buffer. After you add to	the buffer, you	check if you have a complete
       line (using your	regular	expression).

	   local $_ = "";
	   while( sysread FH, $_, 8192,	length ) {
	       while( s/^((?s).*?)your_pattern// ) {
		   my $record =	$1;
		   # do	stuff here.

       You can do the same thing with foreach and a match using	the c flag and
       the \G anchor, if you do	not mind your entire file being	in memory at
       the end.

	   local $_ = "";
	   while( sysread FH, $_, 8192,	length ) {
	       foreach my $record ( m/\G((?s).*?)your_pattern/gc ) {
		   # do	stuff here.
	       substr( $_, 0, pos ) = "" if pos;

   How do I substitute case-insensitively on the LHS while 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, modeled 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))

	   $string = "this is a	TEsT case";
	   $string =~ s/(test)/preserve_case($1, "success")/egi;
	   print "$string\n";

       This prints:

	   this	is a SUcCESS case

       As an alternative, to keep the case of the replacement word if it is
       longer than the original, you can use this code,	by Jeff	Pinyan:

	   sub preserve_case {
	       my ($from, $to) = @_;
	       my ($lf,	$lt) = map length, @_;

	       if ($lt < $lf) {	$from =	substr $from, 0, $lt }
	       else { $from .= substr $to, $lf }

	       return uc $to | ($from ^	uc $from);

       This changes the	sentence to "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?
       Put "use	locale;" in your script. The \w	character class	is taken from
       the current locale.

       See perllocale for details.

   How can I match a locale-smart version of "/[a-zA-Z]/"?
       You can use the POSIX character class syntax "/[[:alpha:]]/" documented
       in perlre.

       No matter which locale you are in, the alphabetic characters are	the
       characters in \w	without	the digits and the underscore.	As a regex,
       that looks like "/[^\W\d_]/". Its complement, the non-alphabetics, is
       then everything in \W along with	the digits and the underscore, or

   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 perlop	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 = "Placido P. Octopus";
	   $regex  = "P.";

	   $string =~ s/$regex/Polyp/;
	   # $string is	now "Polypacido	P. Octopus"

       Because "." is special in regular expressions, and can match any	single
       character, the regex "P." here has matched the <Pl> in the original

       To escape the special meaning of	".", we	use "\Q":

	   $string = "Placido P. Octopus";
	   $regex  = "P.";

	   $string =~ s/\Q$regex/Polyp/;
	   # $string is	now "Placido Polyp Octopus"

       The use of "\Q" causes the <.> in the regex to be treated as a regular
       character, so that "P." matches a "P" followed by a dot.

   What	is "/o"	really for?
       (contributed by brian d foy)

       The "/o"	option for regular expressions (documented in perlop and
       perlreref) tells	Perl to	compile	the regular expression only once.
       This is only useful when	the pattern contains a variable. Perls 5.6 and
       later handle this automatically if the pattern does not change.

       Since the match operator	"m//", the substitution	operator "s///", and
       the regular expression quoting operator "qr//" are double-quotish
       constructs, you can interpolate variables into the pattern. See the
       answer to "How can I quote a variable to	use in a regex?" for more

       This example takes a regular expression from the	argument list and
       prints the lines	of input that match it:

	   my $pattern = shift @ARGV;

	   while( <> ) {
	       print if	m/$pattern/;

       Versions	of Perl	prior to 5.6 would recompile the regular expression
       for each	iteration, even	if $pattern had	not changed. The "/o" would
       prevent this by telling Perl to compile the pattern the first time,
       then reuse that for subsequent iterations:

	   my $pattern = shift @ARGV;

	   while( <> ) {
	       print if	m/$pattern/o; #	useful for Perl	< 5.6

       In versions 5.6 and later, Perl won't recompile the regular expression
       if the variable hasn't changed, so you probably don't need the "/o"
       option. It doesn't hurt,	but it doesn't help either. If you want	any
       version of Perl to compile the regular expression only once even	if the
       variable	changes	(thus, only using its initial value), you still	need
       the "/o".

       You can watch Perl's regular expression engine at work to verify	for
       yourself	if Perl	is recompiling a regular expression. The "use re
       'debug'"	pragma (comes with Perl	5.005 and later) shows the details.
       With Perls before 5.6, you should see "re" reporting that its compiling
       the regular expression on each iteration. With Perl 5.6 or later, you
       should only see "re" report that	for the	first iteration.

	   use re 'debug';

	   my $regex = 'Perl';
	   foreach ( qw(Perl Java Ruby Python) ) {
	       print STDERR "-"	x 73, "\n";
	       print STDERR "Trying $_...\n";
	       print STDERR "\t$_ is good!\n" if m/$regex/;

   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;
	   $_ =	<>;
	   s#/\*[^*]*\*+([^/*][^*]*\*+)*/|("(\\.|[^"\\])*"|'(\\.|[^'\\])*'|.[^/"'\\]*)#defined $2 ? $2 : ""#gse;

       This could, of course, be more legibly written with the "/x" modifier,
       adding whitespace and comments. Here it is expanded, courtesy of	Fred

	      /\*	  ##  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
	    }{defined $2 ? $2 :	""}gxse;

       A slight	modification also removes C++ comments,	possibly spanning
       multiple	lines using a continuation character:

	s#/\*[^*]*\*+([^/*][^*]*\*+)*/|//([^\\]|[^\n][\n]?)*?\n|("(\\.|[^"\\])*"|'(\\.|[^'\\])*'|.[^/"'\\]*)#defined $3	? $3 : ""#gse;

   Can I use Perl regular expressions to match balanced	text?
       (contributed by brian d foy)

       Your first try should probably be the Text::Balanced module, which is
       in the Perl standard library since Perl 5.8. It has a variety of
       functions to deal with tricky text. The Regexp::Common module can also
       help by providing canned	patterns you can use.

       As of Perl 5.10,	you can	match balanced text with regular expressions
       using recursive patterns. Before	Perl 5.10, you had to resort to
       various tricks such as using Perl code in "(??{})" sequences.

       Here's an example using a recursive regular expression. The goal	is to
       capture all of the text within angle brackets, including	the text in
       nested angle brackets. This sample text has two "major" groups: a group
       with one	level of nesting and a group with two levels of	nesting. There
       are five	total groups in	angle brackets:

	   I have some <brackets in <nested brackets> >	and
	   <another group <nested once <nested twice> >	>
	   and that's it.

       The regular expression to match the balanced text uses two new (to Perl
       5.10) regular expression	features. These	are covered in perlre and this
       example is a modified version of	one in that documentation.

       First, adding the new possessive	"+" to any quantifier finds the
       longest match and does not backtrack. That's important since you	want
       to handle any angle brackets through the	recursion, not backtracking.
       The group "[^<>]++" finds one or	more non-angle brackets	without

       Second, the new "(?PARNO)" refers to the	sub-pattern in the particular
       capture group given by "PARNO". In the following	regex, the first
       capture group finds (and	remembers) the balanced	text, and you need
       that same pattern within	the first buffer to get	past the nested	text.
       That's the recursive part. The "(?1)" uses the pattern in the outer
       capture group as	an independent part of the regex.

       Putting it all together,	you have:


	   my $string =<<"HERE";
	   I have some <brackets in <nested brackets> >	and
	   <another group <nested once <nested twice> >	>
	   and that's it.

	   my @groups =	$string	=~ m/
		   (		       # start of capture group	1
		   <		       # match an opening angle	bracket
			   [^<>]++     # one or	more non angle brackets, non backtracking
			   (?1)	       # found < or >, so recurse to capture group 1
		   >		       # match a closing angle bracket
		   )		       # end of	capture	group 1

	   $" =	"\n\t";
	   print "Found:\n\t@groups\n";

       The output shows	that Perl found	the two	major groups:

	       <brackets in <nested brackets> >
	       <another	group <nested once <nested twice> > >

       With a little extra work, you can get all of the	groups in angle
       brackets	even if	they are in other angle	brackets too. Each time	you
       get a balanced match, remove its	outer delimiter	(that's	the one	you
       just matched so don't match it again) and add it	to a queue of strings
       to process. Keep	doing that until you get no matches:


	   my @queue =<<"HERE";
	   I have some <brackets in <nested brackets> >	and
	   <another group <nested once <nested twice> >	>
	   and that's it.

	   my $regex = qr/
		   (		       # start of bracket 1
		   <		       # match an opening angle	bracket
			   [^<>]++     # one or	more non angle brackets, non backtracking
			   (?1)	       # recurse to bracket 1
		   >		       # match a closing angle bracket
		   )		       # end of	bracket	1

	   $" =	"\n\t";

	   while( @queue ) {
	       my $string = shift @queue;

	       my @groups = $string =~ m/$regex/g;
	       print "Found:\n\t@groups\n\n" if	@groups;

	       unshift @queue, map { s/^<//; s/>$//; $_	} @groups;

       The output shows	all of the groups. The outermost matches show up first
       and the nested matches show up later:

	       <brackets in <nested brackets> >
	       <another	group <nested once <nested twice> > >

	       <nested brackets>

	       <nested once <nested twice> >

	       <nested twice>

   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:

	   my $s1 = my $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, as you would if you were
       playing hot potato.

   How do I process each word on each line?
       Use the split function:

	   while (<>) {
	       foreach my $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	(including underscores), 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 summary?
       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 question:

	   my (%seen);
	   while (<>) {
	       while ( /(\b[^\W_\d][\w'-]+\b)/g	) {   #	misses "`sheep'"

	   while ( my ($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:

	   my (%seen);

	   while (<>) {

	   while ( my ($line, $count) =	each %seen ) {
	       print "$count $line";

       If you want these output	in a sorted order, see perlfaq4: "How do I
       sort a hash (optionally by value	instead	of key)?".

   How can I do	approximate matching?
       See the module String::Approx available from CPAN.

   How do I efficiently	match many regular expressions at once?
       (contributed by brian d foy)

       If you have Perl	5.10 or	later, this is almost trivial. You just	smart
       match against an	array of regular expression objects:

	   my @patterns	= ( qr/Fr.d/, qr/B.rn.y/, qr/W.lm./ );

	   if( $string ~~ @patterns ) {

       The smart match stops when it finds a match, so it doesn't have to try
       every expression.

       Earlier than Perl 5.10, you have	a bit of work to do. You want to avoid
       compiling a regular expression every time you want to match it.	In
       this example, perl must recompile the regular expression	for every
       iteration of the	"foreach" loop since it	has no way to know what
       $pattern	will be:

	   my @patterns	= qw( foo bar baz );

	   LINE: while(	<DATA> ) {
	       foreach $pattern	( @patterns ) {
		   if( /\b$pattern\b/i ) {
		       next LINE;

       The "qr//" operator showed up in	perl 5.005. It compiles	a regular
       expression, but doesn't apply it. When you use the pre-compiled version
       of the regex, perl does less work. In this example, I inserted a	"map"
       to turn each pattern into its pre-compiled form.	The rest of the	script
       is the same, but	faster:

	   my @patterns	= map {	qr/\b$_\b/i } qw( foo bar baz );

	   LINE: while(	<> ) {
	       foreach $pattern	( @patterns ) {
		   if( /$pattern/ ) {
		       next LINE;

       In some cases, you may be able to make several patterns into a single
       regular expression. Beware of situations	that require backtracking

	   my $regex = join '|', qw( foo bar baz );

	   LINE: while(	<> ) {
	       print if	/\b(?:$regex)\b/i;

       For more	details	on regular expression efficiency, see Mastering
       Regular Expressions by Jeffrey Friedl. He explains how the regular
       expressions engine works	and why	some patterns are surprisingly
       inefficient. Once you understand	how perl applies regular expressions,
       you can tune them for individual	situations.

   Why don't word-boundary searches with "\b" work for me?
       (contributed by brian d foy)

       Ensure that you know what \b really does: it's the boundary between a
       word character, \w, and something that isn't a word character. That
       thing that isn't	a word character might be \W, but it can also be the
       start or	end of the string.

       It's not	(not!) the boundary between whitespace and non-whitespace, and
       it's not	the stuff between words	we use to create sentences.

       In regex	speak, a word boundary (\b) is a "zero width assertion",
       meaning that it doesn't represent a character in	the string, but	a
       condition at a certain position.

       For the regular expression, /\bPerl\b/, there has to be a word boundary
       before the "P" and after	the "l". As long as something other than a
       word character precedes the "P" and succeeds the	"l", the pattern will
       match. These strings match /\bPerl\b/.

	   "Perl"    # no word char before P or	after l
	   "Perl "   # same as previous	(space is not a	word char)
	   "'Perl'"  # the ' char is not a word	char
	   "Perl's"  # no word char before P, non-word char after "l"

       These strings do	not match /\bPerl\b/.

	   "Perl_"   # _ is a word char!
	   "Perler"  # no word char before P, but one after l

       You don't have to use \b	to match words though. You can look for	non-
       word characters surrounded by word characters. These strings match the
       pattern /\b'\b/.

	   "don't"   # the ' char is surrounded	by "n" and "t"
	   "qep'a'"  # the ' char is surrounded	by "p" and "a"

       These strings do	not match /\b'\b/.

	   "foo'"    # there is	no word	char after non-word '

       You can also use	the complement of \b, \B, to specify that there	should
       not be a	word boundary.

       In the pattern /\Bam\B/,	there must be a	word character before the "a"
       and after the "m". These	patterns match /\Bam\B/:

	   "llama"   # "am" surrounded by word chars
	   "Samuel"  # same

       These strings do	not match /\Bam\B/

	   "Sam"      #	no word	boundary before	"a", but one after "m"
	   "I am Sam" #	"am" surrounded	by non-word chars

   Why does using $&, $`, or $'	slow my	program	down?
       (contributed by Anno Siegel)

       Once Perl sees that you need one	of these variables anywhere in the
       program,	it provides them on each and every pattern match. That means
       that on every pattern match the entire string will be copied, part of
       it to $`, part to $&, and part to $'. Thus the penalty is most severe
       with long strings and patterns that match often.	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.

       Since Perl 5.6.1	the special variables @- and @+	can functionally
       replace $`, $& and $'. These arrays contain pointers to the beginning
       and end of each match (see perlvar for the full story), so they give
       you essentially the same	information, but without the risk of excessive
       string copying.

       Perl 5.10 added three specials, "${^MATCH}", "${^PREMATCH}", and
       "${^POSTMATCH}" to do the same job but without the global performance
       penalty.	Perl 5.10 only sets these variables if you compile or execute
       the regular expression with the "/p" modifier.

   What	good is	"\G" in	a regular expression?
       You use the "\G"	anchor to start	the next match on the same string
       where the last match left off. The regular expression engine cannot
       skip over any characters	to find	the next match with this anchor, so
       "\G" is similar to the beginning	of string anchor, "^". The "\G"	anchor
       is typically used with the "g" flag. It uses the	value of "pos()" as
       the position to start the next match. As	the match operator makes
       successive matches, it updates "pos()" with the position	of the next
       character past the last match (or the first character of	the next
       match, depending	on how you like	to look	at it).	Each string has	its
       own "pos()" value.

       Suppose you want	to match all of	consecutive pairs of digits in a
       string like "1122a44" and stop matching when you	encounter non-digits.
       You want	to match 11 and	22 but the letter <a> shows up between 22 and
       44 and you want to stop at "a". Simply matching pairs of	digits skips
       over the	"a" and	still matches 44.

	   $_ =	"1122a44";
	   my @pairs = m/(\d\d)/g;   # qw( 11 22 44 )

       If you use the "\G" anchor, you force the match after 22	to start with
       the "a".	The regular expression cannot match there since	it does	not
       find a digit, so	the next match fails and the match operator returns
       the pairs it already found.

	   $_ =	"1122a44";
	   my @pairs = m/\G(\d\d)/g; # qw( 11 22 )

       You can also use	the "\G" anchor	in scalar context. You still need the
       "g" flag.

	   $_ =	"1122a44";
	   while( m/\G(\d\d)/g ) {
	       print "Found $1\n";

       After the match fails at	the letter "a",	perl resets "pos()" and	the
       next match on the same string starts at the beginning.

	   $_ =	"1122a44";
	   while( m/\G(\d\d)/g ) {
	       print "Found $1\n";

	   print "Found	$1 after while"	if m/(\d\d)/g; # finds "11"

       You can disable "pos()" resets on fail with the "c" flag, documented in
       perlop and perlreref. Subsequent	matches	start where the	last
       successful match	ended (the value of "pos()") even if a match on	the
       same string has failed in the meantime. In this case, the match after
       the "while()" loop starts at the	"a" (where the last match stopped),
       and since it does not use any anchor it can skip	over the "a" to	find

	   $_ =	"1122a44";
	   while( m/\G(\d\d)/gc	) {
	       print "Found $1\n";

	   print "Found	$1 after while"	if m/(\d\d)/g; # finds "44"

       Typically you use the "\G" anchor with the "c" flag when	you want to
       try a different match if	one fails, such	as in a	tokenizer. Jeffrey
       Friedl offers this example which	works in 5.004 or later.

	   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;	};

       For each	line, the "PARSER" loop	first tries to match a series of
       digits followed by a word boundary. This	match has to start at the
       place the last match left off (or the beginning of the string on	the
       first match). Since "m/ \G( \d+\b )/gcx"	uses the "c" flag, if the
       string does not match that regular expression, perl does	not reset
       pos() and the next match	starts at the same position to try a different

   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 perlfaq2).

   What's wrong	with using grep	in a void context?
       The problem is that grep	builds a return	list, regardless of the
       context.	 This means you're making Perl go to the trouble of building a
       list that you then just throw away. If the list is large, you waste
       both time and space.  If	your intent is to iterate over the list, then
       use a for loop for this purpose.

       In perls	older than 5.8.1, map suffers from this	problem	as well.  But
       since 5.8.1, this has been fixed, and map is context aware - in void
       context,	no lists are constructed.

   How can I match strings with	multibyte characters?
       Starting	from Perl 5.6 Perl has had some	level of multibyte character
       support.	Perl 5.8 or later is recommended. Supported multibyte
       character repertoires include Unicode, and legacy encodings through the
       Encode module. See perluniintro,	perlunicode, and Encode.

       If you are stuck	with older Perls, you can do Unicode with the
       Unicode::String module, and character conversions using the
       Unicode::Map8 and Unicode::Map modules. If you are using	Japanese
       encodings, you might try	using the jperl	5.005_03.

       Finally,	the following set of approaches	was offered by Jeffrey Friedl,
       whose article in	issue #5 of The	Perl Journal talks about this very

       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 problem.

       Here are	a few ways, all	painful, to deal with it:

	   # Make sure adjacent	"martian" bytes	are no longer adjacent.
	   $martian =~ s/([A-Z][A-Z])/ $1 /g;

	   print "found	GX!\n" if $martian =~ /GX/;

       Or like this:

	   my @chars = $martian	=~ m/([A-Z][A-Z]|[^A-Z])/g;
	   # above is conceptually similar to:	   my @chars = $text =~	m/(.)/g;
	   foreach my $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
	       if ($1 eq 'GX') {
		   print "found	GX!\n";

       Here's another, slightly	less painful, way to do	it from	Benjamin
       Goldberg, who uses a zero-width negative	look-behind assertion.

	   print "found	GX!\n" if    $martian =~ m/

       This succeeds if	the "martian" character	GX is in the string, and fails
       otherwise. If you don't like using (?<!), a zero-width negative look-
       behind assertion, you can replace (?<![A-Z]) with (?:^|[^A-Z]).

       It does have the	drawback of putting the	wrong thing in $-[0] and
       $+[0], but this usually can be worked around.

   How do I match a regular expression that's in a variable?
       (contributed by brian d foy)

       We don't	have to	hard-code patterns into	the match operator (or
       anything	else that works	with regular expressions). We can put the
       pattern in a variable for later use.

       The match operator is a double quote context, so	you can	interpolate
       your variable just like a double	quoted string. In this case, you read
       the regular expression as user input and	store it in $regex.  Once you
       have the	pattern	in $regex, you use that	variable in the	match

	   chomp( my $regex = <STDIN> );

	   if( $string =~ m/$regex/ ) {	... }

       Any regular expression special characters in $regex are still special,
       and the pattern still has to be valid or	Perl will complain.  For
       instance, in this pattern there is an unpaired parenthesis.

	   my $regex = "Unmatched ( paren";

	   "Two	parens to bind them all" =~ m/$regex/;

       When Perl compiles the regular expression, it treats the	parenthesis as
       the start of a memory match. When it doesn't find the closing
       parenthesis, it complains:

	   Unmatched ( in regex; marked	by <-- HERE in m/Unmatched ( <-- HERE  paren/ at script	line 3.

       You can get around this in several ways depending on our	situation.
       First, if you don't want	any of the characters in the string to be
       special,	you can	escape them with "quotemeta" before you	use the

	   chomp( my $regex = <STDIN> );
	   $regex = quotemeta( $regex );

	   if( $string =~ m/$regex/ ) {	... }

       You can also do this directly in	the match operator using the "\Q" and
       "\E" sequences. The "\Q"	tells Perl where to start escaping special
       characters, and the "\E"	tells it where to stop (see perlop for more

	   chomp( my $regex = <STDIN> );

	   if( $string =~ m/\Q$regex\E/	) { ...	}

       Alternately, you	can use	"qr//",	the regular expression quote operator
       (see perlop for more details). It quotes	and perhaps compiles the
       pattern,	and you	can apply regular expression flags to the pattern.

	   chomp( my $input = <STDIN> );

	   my $regex = qr/$input/is;

	   $string =~ m/$regex/	 # same	as m/$input/is;

       You might also want to trap any errors by wrapping an "eval" block
       around the whole	thing.

	   chomp( my $input = <STDIN> );

	   eval	{
	       if( $string =~ m/\Q$input\E/ ) {	... }
	   warn	$@ if $@;


	   my $regex = eval { qr/$input/is };
	   if( defined $regex )	{
	       $string =~ m/$regex/;
	   else	{
	       warn $@;

       Copyright (c) 1997-2010 Tom Christiansen, Nathan	Torkington, and	other
       authors as noted. All rights reserved.

       This documentation is free; you can redistribute	it and/or modify it
       under the same terms as Perl itself.

       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.

perl v5.28.3			  2020-05-14			   PERLFAQ6(1)


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