regexp - obsolete regular expression routines
regcomp(const char *exp);
regexec(const regexp *prog, const char *string);
regsub(const regexp *prog, const char *source, char *dest);
This interface is made obsolete by regex(3). It is
available from the
compatibility library, libcompat.
The regcomp(), regexec(), regsub(), and regerror() functions
egrep(1)-style regular expressions and supporting facilities.
The regcomp() function compiles a regular expression into a
type regexp, and returns a pointer to it. The space has
using malloc(3) and may be released by free(3).
The regexec() function matches a NUL-terminated string
against the compiled
regular expression in prog. It returns 1 for success
and 0 for
failure, and adjusts the contents of prog's startp and endp
The members of a regexp structure include at least the following (not
necessarily in order):
where NSUBEXP is defined (as 10) in the header file. Once a
regexec() has been done using the regexp(), each startp-
endp pair describes
one substring within the string, with the startp
pointing to the
first character of the substring and the endp pointing to
the first character
following the substring. The 0th substring is the
string that matched the whole regular expression. The others are those
substrings that matched parenthesized expressions within the
with parenthesized expressions numbered in leftto-right order
of their opening parentheses.
The regsub() function copies source to dest, making substitutions according
to the most recent regexec() performed using prog. Each
`&' in source is replaced by the substring indicated by
endp. Each instance of `n', where n is a digit, is replaced by the
substring indicated by startp[n] and endp[n]. To get a literal `&' or
`n' into dest, prefix it with `'; to get a literal `' preceding `&' or
`n', prefix it with another `'.
The regerror() function is called whenever an error is detected in
regcomp(), regexec(), or regsub(). The default regerror()
string msg, with a suitable indicator of origin, on the
output and invokes exit(3). The regerror() function can be
the user if other actions are desirable.
REGULAR EXPRESSION SYNTAX [Toc] [Back]
A regular expression is zero or more branches, separated by
matches anything that matches one of the branches.
A branch is zero or more pieces, concatenated. It matches a
the first, followed by a match for the second, etc.
A piece is an atom possibly followed by `*', `+', or `?'.
An atom followed
by `*' matches a sequence of 0 or more matches of the
atom followed by `+' matches a sequence of 1 or more matches
of the atom.
An atom followed by `?' matches a match of the atom, or the
An atom is a regular expression in parentheses (matching a
match for the
regular expression), a range (see below), `.' (matching any
`^' (matching the null string at the beginning of
string), `$' (matching the null string at the end of the input string), a
`' followed by a single character (matching that character),
or a single
character with no other significance (matching that character).
A range is a sequence of characters enclosed in `'. It
any single character from the sequence. If the sequence
`^', it matches any single character not from the rest of
If two characters in the sequence are separated by `-', this
for the full list of ASCII characters between them (e.g.,
any decimal digit). To include a literal `]' in the sequence, make it
the first character (following a possible `^'). To include
`-', make it the first or last character.
If a regular expression could match two different parts of
string, it will match the one which begins earliest. If
both begin in
the same place but match different lengths, or match the
same length in
different ways, life gets messier, as follows.
In general, the possibilities in a list of branches are considered in
left-to-right order, the possibilities for `*', `+', and `?'
longest-first, nested constructs are considered from
in, and concatenated constructs are considered leftmostfirst. The match
that will be chosen is the one that uses the earliest possibility in the
first choice that has to be made. If there is more than one
next will be made in the same manner (earliest possibility)
the decision on the first choice. And so forth.
For example, `(ab|a)b*c' could match `abc' in one of two
ways. The first
choice is between `ab' and `a'; since `ab' is earlier, and
does lead to a
successful overall match, it is chosen. Since the `b' is
for, the `b*' must match its last possibility--the empty
must respect the earlier choice.
In the particular case where no `|'s are present and there
is only one
`*', `+', or `?', the net effect is that the longest possible match will
be chosen. So `ab*', presented with `xabbbby', will match
that if `ab*', is tried against `xabyabbbz', it will match
`ab' just after
`x', due to the begins-earliest rule. (In effect, the
where to start the match is the first choice to be made;
choices must respect it even if this leads them to less-preferred alternatives.)
The regcomp() function returns NULL for a failure
where failures are syntax errors, exceeding implementation limits,
or applying `+' or `*' to a possibly NULL operand.
ed(1), egrep(1), ex(1), expr(1), fgrep(1), grep(1), regex(3)
Both code and manual page for regcomp(), regexec(),
regerror() were written at the University of Toronto and appeared in
4.3BSD-Tahoe. They are intended to be compatible with the
regexp(), but are not derived from Bell code.
Empty branches and empty regular expressions are not
portable to V8.
The restriction against applying `*' or `+' to a possibly
NULL operand is
an artifact of the simplistic implementation.
Does not support egrep(1)'s newline-separated branches; neither does the
V8 regexp() though.
Due to emphasis on compactness and simplicity, it's not
It does give special attention to handling simple cases
OpenBSD 3.6 June 4, 1993
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