EControl Syntax Editor SDK
Syntax of Regular Expressions


Regular Expressions are a widely-used method of specifying patterns of text to search for. Special metacharacters allow You to specify, for instance, that a particular string You are looking for occurs at the beginning or end of a line, or contains n recurrences of a certain character. 

Regular expressions look ugly for novices, but really they are very simple (well, usually simple ;) ), handily and powerful tool. 


Simple matches 

Any single character matches itself, unless it is a metacharacter with a special meaning described below. 

A series of characters matches that series of characters in the target string, so the pattern "bluh" would match "bluh'' in the target string. Quite simple, eh ? 

You can cause characters that normally function as metacharacters or escape sequences to be interpreted literally by 'escaping' them by preceding them with a backslash "\", for instance: metacharacter "^" match beginning of string, but "\^" match character "^", "\\" match "\" and so on. 



matches string 'foobar' 
matchs '^FooBarPtr' 


Escape sequences 

Characters may be specified using a escape sequences syntax much like that used in C and Perl: "\n'' matches a newline, "\t'' a tab, etc. More generally, \xnn, where nn is a string of hexadecimal digits, matches the character whose ASCII value is nn. If You need wide (Unicode) character code, You can use '\x{nnnn}', where 'nnnn' - one or more hexadecimal digits.

char with hex code nn 
char with hex code nnnn (one byte for plain text and two bytes for Unicode) 
tab (HT/TAB), same as \x09 
newline (NL), same as \x0a 
car.return (CR), same as \x0d 
form feed (FF), same as \x0c 
alarm (bell) (BEL), same as \x07 
escape (ESC), same as \x1b 



matchs 'foo bar' (note space in the middle) 
matchs 'foobar' predefined by tab 


Character classes 

You can specify a character class, by enclosing a list of characters in [], which will match any one character from the list. 

If the first character after the "['' is "^'', the class matches any character not in the list. 



finds strings 'foobar', 'foober' etc. but not 'foobbr', 'foobcr' etc. 
find strings 'foobbr', 'foobcr' etc. but not 'foobar', 'foober' etc. 


Within a list, the "-'' character is used to specify a range, so that a-z represents all characters between "a'' and "z'', inclusive. 

If You want "-'' itself to be a member of a class, put it at the start or end of the list, or escape it with a backslash. If You want ']' you may place it at the start of list or escape it with a backslash. 



matches 'a', 'z' and '-' 
matches 'a', 'z' and '-' 
matches 'a', 'z' and '-' 
matches all twenty six small characters from 'a' to 'z' 
matches any of #10,#11,#12,#13 
matches any digit, '-' or 't' 
matches any char from ']'..'a' 



Metacharacters are special characters which are the essence of Regular Expressions. There are different types of metacharacters, described below. 


Metacharacters - line separators  

start of line 
end of line 
start of text 
end of text 
any character in line 
single line break. Instead of $ metacharacter it matches line break characters, not only line break position. Possible sequences:
$0D0A ; $0D ; $0A 



matches string 'foobar' only if it's at the beginning of line 
matches string 'foobar' only if it's at the end of line 
matches string 'foobar' only if it's the only string in line 
matches strings like 'foobar', 'foobbr', 'foob1r' and so on 


The "^" metacharacter by default is only guaranteed to match at the beginning of the input string/text, the "$" metacharacter only at the end. Embedded line separators will not be matched by "^'' or "$''. 

You may, however, wish to treat a string as a multi-line buffer, such that the "^'' will match after any line separator within the string, and "$'' will match before any line separator. You can do this by switching On the modifier /m

The \A and \Z are just like "^'' and "$'', except that they won't match multiple times when the modifier /m is used, while "^'' and "$'' will match at every internal line separator. 


The ".'' metacharacter by default matches any character, but if You switch Off the modifier /s, then '.' won't match embedded line separators. 


TecRegExpr works with line separators as recommended at ( ): 


"^" is at the beginning of a input string, and, if modifier /m is On, also immediately following any occurrence of \x0D\x0A or \x0A or \x0D (if You are using Unicode version of TecRegExpr, then also \x2028 or \x2029 or \x0B or \x0C or \x85). Note that there is no empty line within the sequence \x0D\x0A. 


"$" is at the end of a input string, and, if modifier /m is On, also immediately preceding any occurrence of \x0D\x0A or \x0A or \x0D (if You are using Unicode version of TecRegExpr, then also \x2028 or \x2029 or \x0B or \x0C or \x85). Note that there is no empty line within the sequence \x0D\x0A. 


"." matches any character, but if You switch Off modifier /s then "." doesn't match \x0D\x0A and \x0A and \x0D (if You are using Unicode version of TecRegExpr, then also \x2028 and \x2029 and \x0B and \x0C and \x85). 


Note that "^.*$" (an empty line pattern) does not match the empty string within the sequence \x0D\x0A, but matches the empty string within the sequence \x0A\x0D. 


Metacharacters - predefined classes  

an alphanumeric character (including "_") 
a non-alphanumeric 
a numeric character 
a non-numeric 
any space (same as [ \t\n\r\f]) 
a non space 

New predefined classes added in v 2.27

hexadecimal digit 
non-hexadecimal digit 
letter character (any language) 
non-letter character (any language) 
identifier character (a-z, A-Z, 0-9, _) 
non-identifier character 
Latin letter (a-z, A-Z, _) 
non-Latin letter 
European digit 
non-European digit 

Predefined classes \w, \W, \d, \D - for any language. 

You may use \w, \d, \s, \h, \l, \c, \g, \k within custom character classes. 



matches strings like 'foob1r', ''foob6r' and so on but not 'foobar', 'foobbr' and so on 
matches strings like 'foobar', 'foob r', 'foobbr' and so on but not 'foob1r', 'foob=r' and so on 


Metacharacters - word boundaries

Match a word boundary 
Match a non-(word boundary) 

A word boundary (\b) is a spot between two characters that has a \w on one side of it and a \W on the other side of it (in either order), counting the imaginary characters off the beginning and end of the string as matching a \W. 


Metacharacters - iterators 

Any item of a regular expression may be followed by another type of metacharacters - iterators. Using this metacharacters You can specify number of occurrences of previous character, metacharacter or sub-expression.

zero or more ("greedy"), similar to {0,} 
one or more ("greedy"), similar to {1,} 
zero or one ("greedy"), similar to {0,1} 
exactly n times ("greedy") 
at least n times ("greedy") 
at least n but not more than m times ("greedy") 
zero or more ("non-greedy"), similar to {0,}? 
one or more ("non-greedy"), similar to {1,}? 
zero or one ("non-greedy"), similar to {0,1}? 
exactly n times ("non-greedy") 
at least n times ("non-greedy") 
at least n but not more than m times ("non-greedy") 

So, digits in curly brackets of the form {n,m}, specify the minimum number of times to match the item n and the maximum m. The form {n} is equivalent to {n,n} and matches exactly n times. The form {n,} matches n or more times. There is no limit to the size of n or m, but large numbers will chew up more memory and slow down r.e. execution. 

If a curly bracket occurs in any other context, it is treated as a regular character. 



matches strings like 'foobar', 'foobalkjdflkj9r' and 'foobr' 
matches strings like 'foobar', 'foobalkjdflkj9r' but not 'foobr' 
matches strings like 'foobar', 'foobbr' and 'foobr' but not 'foobalkj9r' 
matches the string 'foobaar' 
matches strings like 'foobaar', 'foobaaar', 'foobaaaar' etc. 
matches strings like 'foobaar', or 'foobaaar' but not 'foobaaaar' 

A little explanation about "greediness". "Greedy" takes as many as possible, "non-greedy" takes as few as possible. For example, 'b+' and 'b*' applied to string 'abbbbc' return 'bbbb', 'b+?' returns 'b', 'b*?' returns empty string, 'b{2,3}?' returns 'bb', 'b{2,3}' returns 'bbb'. 


You can switch all iterators into "non-greedy" mode (see the modifier /g). 


Metacharacters - alternatives 

You can specify a series of alternatives for a pattern using "|'' to separate them, so that fee|fie|foe will match any of "fee'', "fie'', or "foe'' in the target string (as would f(e|i|o)e). The first alternative includes everything from the last pattern delimiter ("('', "['', or the beginning of the pattern) up to the first "|'', and the last alternative contains everything from the last "|'' to the next pattern delimiter. For this reason, it's common practice to include alternatives in parentheses, to minimize confusion about where they start and end. 

Alternatives are tried from left to right, so the first alternative found for which the entire expression matches, is the one that is chosen. This means that alternatives are not necessarily greedy. For example: when matching foo|foot against "barefoot'', only the "foo'' part will match, as that is the first alternative tried, and it successfully matches the target string. (This might not seem important, but it is important when you are capturing matched text using parentheses.) 

Also remember that "|'' is interpreted as a literal within square brackets, so if You write [fee|fie|foe] You're really only matching [feio|]. 



matches strings 'foobar' or 'foofoo' 


Metacharacters - sub-expressions 

The bracketing construct ( ... ) may also be used for define r.e. sub-expressions (after parsing You can find sub-expression positions, lengths and actual values in MatchPos, MatchLen and GetMatch properties and substitute it in template strings by Substitute). 

Sub-expressions are numbered based on the left to right order of their opening parenthesis. 

First sub-expression has number '1' (whole r.e. match has number '0' - You can substitute it in TecRegExpr.Substitute as '\0'). 



matches strings which contain 8, 9 or 10 instances of the 'foobar' 
matches 'foob0r', 'foob1r' , 'foobar', 'foobaar', 'foobaar' etc. 


Metacharacters - back-references 

Metacharacters \1 through \9 are interpreted as back-references. \<n> matches previously matched sub-expression #<n>. 



matches 'aaaa' and 'cc' 
also match 'abab' and '123123' 
matches '"13" (in double quotes), or '4' (in single quotes) or 77 (without quotes) etc 



Modifiers are for changing behavior of TecRegExpr

There are many ways to set up modifiers. 

Any of these modifiers may be embedded within the regular expression itself using the (?...) construct. 


Do case-insensitive pattern matching (using installed in you system locale settings). 
Treat string as multiple lines. That is, change "^'' and "$'' from matching at only the very start or end of the string to the start or end of any line anywhere within the string. 
Treat string as single line. That is, change ".'' to match any character whatsoever, even a line separators, which it normally would not match. 
Non standard modifier. Switching it Off You'll switch all following operators into non-greedy mode (by default this modifier is On). So, if modifier /g is Off then '+' works as '+?', '*' as '*?' and so on 
Extend your pattern's legibility by permitting whitespace and comments (see explanation below). 
Non-standard modifier. When modifier R is switched off languages support is turned off, i.e: \w = \c, \W = \C, \l = \g, \L = \G, \d = \k, \D = \K

The modifier /x itself needs a little more explanation. It tells the TecRegExpr to ignore whitespace that is neither backslashed nor within a character class. You can use this to break up your regular expression into (slightly) more readable parts. The # character is also treated as a metacharacter introducing a comment, for example: 


(abc) # comment 1 

| # You can use spaces to format r.e. - TecRegExpr ignores it 

(efg) # comment 2 


This also means that if you want real whitespace or # characters in the pattern (outside a character class, where they are unaffected by /x), that you'll either have to escape them or encode them using octal or hex escapes. Taken together, these features go a long way towards making regular expressions text more readable. 


Perl extensions 


You may use it into r.e. for modifying modifiers by the fly. If this construction inlined into sub-expression, then it effects only into this sub-expression 



matches 'Saint-petersburg' and 'Saint-Petersburg' 
matches 'Saint-Petersburg' but not 'Saint-petersburg' 
matches 'Saint-petersburg' and 'saint-petersburg' 
matches 'saint-Petersburg', but not 'saint-petersburg' 



A comment, the text is ignored. Note that TecRegExpr closes the comment as soon as it sees a ")", so there is no way to put a literal ")" in the comment.

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