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REGULAR EXPRESSIONS
A regular expression is a pattern that describes a set of
strings. Regular expressions are constructed analogously
to arithmetic expressions, by using various operators to
combine smaller expressions.
The fundamental building blocks are the regular expressions
that match a single character. Most characters,
including all letters and digits, are regular expressions
that match themselves. Any metacharacter with special
meaning may be quoted by preceding it with a backslash
(see examples below).
A list of characters enclosed by [ and ] matches any single
character in that list; if the first character of the
list is the caret ^ then it matches any character not in
the list. For example, the regular expression
[0123456789] matches any single digit, and [^0123456789]
matches any single character that is not a digit. A range of ASCII
characters may be specified by giving the first and last
characters, separated by a hyphen ([qt] is the same as
[qrst]). Most metacharacters lose their special
meaning inside lists. To include a literal ] place it
first in the list. Similarly, to include a literal ^
place it anywhere but first. Finally, to include a literal
 place it last.
The period . matches any single character. To match a single
period, you must quote it: use \. with a backslash in front.
The caret ^ and the dollar sign $ are metacharacters that
respectively match the empty string at the beginning and
end of a line. The symbols \< and \> respectively match
the empty string at the beginning and end of a word. The
symbol \b matches the empty string at the edge of a word,
and \B matches the empty string provided it's not at the
edge of a word.
A regular expression may be followed by one of several
repetition operators:
? 
The preceding item is optional and matched at most once. 
* 
The preceding item will be matched zero or more times. 
+ 
The preceding item will be matched one or more times. 
{n} 
The preceding item is matched exactly n times. 
{n,} 
The preceding item is matched n or more times. 
{,m} 
The preceding item is optional and is matched at most m
times. 
{n,m} 
The preceding item is matched at least n times, but not
more than m times. 
Two regular expressions may be concatenated; the resulting
regular expression matches any string formed by concatenating
two substrings that respectively match the concatenated
subexpressions.
Two regular expressions may be joined by the infix operator
; the resulting regular expression matches any string
matching either subexpression.
Repetition takes precedence over concatenation, which in
turn takes precedence over alternation. A whole subexpression
may be enclosed in parentheses to override these
precedence rules.
In basic regular expressions the metacharacters ?, +,
{, , (, and ) lose their special meaning;
instead use the backslashed versions \?, \+, \{,
\, \(, and \).
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Last modified: 30Jan2006 

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