Regular Expressions

The patterns used in pattern matching are regular expressions such as those supplied in the Version 8 regexp routines. (In fact, the routines are derived from Henry Spencer's freely redistributable reimplementation of the V8 routines.) In addition, \w matches an alphanumeric character (including "_") and \W a nonalphanumeric. Word boundaries may be matched by \b, and non-boundaries by \B. A whitespace character is matched by \s, non-whitespace by \S. A numeric character is matched by \d, non-numeric by \D. You may use \w, \s and \d within character classes. Also, \n, \r, \f, \t and \NNN have their normal interpretations. Within character classes \b represents backspace rather than a word boundary. Alternatives may be separated by |. The bracketing construct (\ ...\ ) may also be used, in which case \<digit> matches the digit'th substring. (Outside of the pattern, always use $ instead of \ in front of the digit. The scope of $<digit> (and $\`, $& and $') extends to the end of the enclosing BLOCK or eval string, or to the next pattern match with subexpressions. The \<digit> notation sometimes works outside the current pattern, but should not be relied upon.) You may have as many parentheses as you wish. If you have more than 9 substrings, the variables $10, $11, ... refer to the corresponding substring. Within the pattern, \10, \11, etc. refer back to substrings if there have been at least that many left parens before the backreference. Otherwise (for backward compatibilty) \10 is the same as \010, a backspace, and \11 the same as \011, a tab. And so on. (\1 through \9 are always backreferences.)

$+ returns whatever the last bracket match matched. $& returns the entire matched string. ($0 used to return the same thing, but not any more.) $` returns everything before the matched string. $' returns everything after the matched string. Examples:

	s/^([^ ]*) *([^ ]*)/$2 $1/;	# swap first two words

	if (/Time: (..):(..):(..)/) {
		$hours = $1;
		$minutes = $2;
		$seconds = $3;
By default, the ^ character is only guaranteed to match at the beginning of the string, the $ character only at the end (or before the newline at the end) and perl does certain optimizations with the assumption that the string contains only one line. The behavior of ^ and $ on embedded newlines will be inconsistent. You may, however, wish to treat a string as a multi-line buffer, such that the ^ will match after any newline within the string, and $ will match before any newline. At the cost of a little more overhead, you can do this by setting the variable $* to 1. Setting it back to 0 makes perl revert to its old behavior.

To facilitate multi-line substitutions, the . character never matches a newline (even when $* is 0). In particular, the following leaves a newline on the $_ string:

	$_ = <STDIN>;

If the newline is unwanted, try one of

	chop; s/.*(some_string).*/$1/;
	/(some_string)/ && ($_ = $1);
Any item of a regular expression may be followed with digits in curly brackets of the form {n,m}, where n gives the minimum number of times to match the item and m gives the maximum. The form {n} is equivalent to {n,n} and matches exactly n times. The form {n,} matches n or more times. (If a curly bracket occurs in any other context, it is treated as a regular character.) The * modifier is equivalent to {0,}, the + modifier to {1,} and the ? modifier to {0,1}. There is no limit to the size of n or m, but large numbers will chew up more memory.

You will note that all backslashed metacharacters in perl are alphanumeric, such as \b, \w, \n. Unlike some other regular expression languages, there are no backslashed symbols that aren't alphanumeric. So anything that looks like \\, \(, \), \<, \>, \{, or \} is always interpreted as a literal character, not a metacharacter. This makes it simple to quote a string that you want to use for a pattern but that you are afraid might contain metacharacters. Simply quote all the non-alphanumeric characters:

	$pattern =~ s/(\W)/\\$1/g;