Commit fb68e855 authored by mjs's avatar mjs

top level:

        Reviewed by: Richard Williamson

        * pcre/doc/*: Added.
        * pcre/testdata/*: Added.


   (i)   Added long-form option names like gnu grep.
   (ii)  Added --help to list all options with an explanatory phrase.
   (iii) Added -r, --recursive to recurse into sub-directories.
   (iv)  Added -f, --file to read patterns from a file.

git-svn-id: 268f45cc-cd09-0410-ab3c-d52691b4dbfc
parent e62e1a3c
2002-12-04 Maciej Stachowiak <>
Reviewed by: Richard Williamson
* pcre/doc/*: Added.
* pcre/testdata/*: Added.
2002-12-03 Maciej Stachowiak <>
Reviewed by: Darin Adler
2002-12-04 Maciej Stachowiak <>
Reviewed by: Richard Williamson
* pcre/doc/*: Added.
* pcre/testdata/*: Added.
2002-12-03 Maciej Stachowiak <>
Reviewed by: Darin Adler
Technical Notes about PCRE
Many years ago I implemented some regular expression functions to an algorithm
suggested by Martin Richards. These were not Unix-like in form, and were quite
restricted in what they could do by comparison with Perl. The interesting part
about the algorithm was that the amount of space required to hold the compiled
form of an expression was known in advance. The code to apply an expression did
not operate by backtracking, as the Henry Spencer and Perl code does, but
instead checked all possibilities simultaneously by keeping a list of current
states and checking all of them as it advanced through the subject string. (In
the terminology of Jeffrey Friedl's book, it was a "DFA algorithm".) When the
pattern was all used up, all remaining states were possible matches, and the
one matching the longest subset of the subject string was chosen. This did not
necessarily maximize the individual wild portions of the pattern, as is
expected in Unix and Perl-style regular expressions.
By contrast, the code originally written by Henry Spencer and subsequently
heavily modified for Perl actually compiles the expression twice: once in a
dummy mode in order to find out how much store will be needed, and then for
real. The execution function operates by backtracking and maximizing (or,
optionally, minimizing in Perl) the amount of the subject that matches
individual wild portions of the pattern. This is an "NFA algorithm" in Friedl's
For the set of functions that forms PCRE (which are unrelated to those
mentioned above), I tried at first to invent an algorithm that used an amount
of store bounded by a multiple of the number of characters in the pattern, to
save on compiling time. However, because of the greater complexity in Perl
regular expressions, I couldn't do this. In any case, a first pass through the
pattern is needed, in order to find internal flag settings like (?i) at top
level. So PCRE works by running a very degenerate first pass to calculate a
maximum store size, and then a second pass to do the real compile - which may
use a bit less than the predicted amount of store. The idea is that this is
going to turn out faster because the first pass is degenerate and the second
pass can just store stuff straight into the vector. It does make the compiling
functions bigger, of course, but they have got quite big anyway to handle all
the Perl stuff.
The compiled form of a pattern is a vector of bytes, containing items of
variable length. The first byte in an item is an opcode, and the length of the
item is either implicit in the opcode or contained in the data bytes which
follow it. A list of all the opcodes follows:
Opcodes with no following data
These items are all just one byte long
OP_END end of pattern
OP_ANY match any character
OP_SOD match start of data: \A
OP_CIRC ^ (start of data, or after \n in multiline)
OP_EODN match end of data or \n at end: \Z
OP_EOD match end of data: \z
OP_DOLL $ (end of data, or before \n in multiline)
OP_RECURSE match the pattern recursively
Repeating single characters
The common repeats (*, +, ?) when applied to a single character appear as
two-byte items using the following opcodes:
Those with "MIN" in their name are the minimizing versions. Each is followed by
the character that is to be repeated. Other repeats make use of
which are followed by a two-byte count (most significant first) and the
repeated character. OP_UPTO matches from 0 to the given number. A repeat with a
non-zero minimum and a fixed maximum is coded as an OP_EXACT followed by an
Repeating character types
Repeats of things like \d are done exactly as for single characters, except
that instead of a character, the opcode for the type is stored in the data
byte. The opcodes are:
Matching a character string
The OP_CHARS opcode is followed by a one-byte count and then that number of
characters. If there are more than 255 characters in sequence, successive
instances of OP_CHARS are used.
Character classes
OP_CLASS is used for a character class, provided there are at least two
characters in the class. If there is only one character, OP_CHARS is used for a
positive class, and OP_NOT for a negative one (that is, for something like
[^a]). Another set of repeating opcodes (OP_NOTSTAR etc.) are used for a
repeated, negated, single-character class. The normal ones (OP_STAR etc.) are
used for a repeated positive single-character class.
OP_CLASS is followed by a 32-byte bit map containing a 1 bit for every
character that is acceptable. The bits are counted from the least significant
end of each byte.
Back references
OP_REF is followed by two bytes containing the reference number.
Repeating character classes and back references
Single-character classes are handled specially (see above). This applies to
OP_CLASS and OP_REF. In both cases, the repeat information follows the base
item. The matching code looks at the following opcode to see if it is one of
All but the last two are just single-byte items. The others are followed by
four bytes of data, comprising the minimum and maximum repeat counts.
Brackets and alternation
A pair of non-capturing (round) brackets is wrapped round each expression at
compile time, so alternation always happens in the context of brackets.
Non-capturing brackets use the opcode OP_BRA, while capturing brackets use
OP_BRA+1, OP_BRA+2, etc. [Note for North Americans: "bracket" to some English
speakers, including myself, can be round, square, curly, or pointy. Hence this
Originally PCRE was limited to 99 capturing brackets (so as not to use up all
the opcodes). From release 3.5, there is no limit. What happens is that the
first ones, up to EXTRACT_BASIC_MAX are handled with separate opcodes, as
above. If there are more, the opcode is set to EXTRACT_BASIC_MAX+1, and the
first operation in the bracket is OP_BRANUMBER, followed by a 2-byte bracket
number. This opcode is ignored while matching, but is fished out when handling
the bracket itself. (They could have all been done like this, but I was making
minimal changes.)
A bracket opcode is followed by two bytes which give the offset to the next
alternative OP_ALT or, if there aren't any branches, to the matching KET
opcode. Each OP_ALT is followed by two bytes giving the offset to the next one,
or to the KET opcode.
OP_KET is used for subpatterns that do not repeat indefinitely, while
OP_KETRMIN and OP_KETRMAX are used for indefinite repetitions, minimally or
maximally respectively. All three are followed by two bytes giving (as a
positive number) the offset back to the matching BRA opcode.
If a subpattern is quantified such that it is permitted to match zero times, it
is preceded by one of OP_BRAZERO or OP_BRAMINZERO. These are single-byte
opcodes which tell the matcher that skipping this subpattern entirely is a
valid branch.
A subpattern with an indefinite maximum repetition is replicated in the
compiled data its minimum number of times (or once with a BRAZERO if the
minimum is zero), with the final copy terminating with a KETRMIN or KETRMAX as
A subpattern with a bounded maximum repetition is replicated in a nested
fashion up to the maximum number of times, with BRAZERO or BRAMINZERO before
each replication after the minimum, so that, for example, (abc){2,5} is
compiled as (abc)(abc)((abc)((abc)(abc)?)?)?. The 99 and 200 bracket limits do
not apply to these internally generated brackets.
Forward assertions are just like other subpatterns, but starting with one of
the opcodes OP_ASSERT or OP_ASSERT_NOT. Backward assertions use the opcodes
OP_ASSERTBACK and OP_ASSERTBACK_NOT, and the first opcode inside the assertion
is OP_REVERSE, followed by a two byte count of the number of characters to move
back the pointer in the subject string. When operating in UTF-8 mode, the count
is a character count rather than a byte count. A separate count is present in
each alternative of a lookbehind assertion, allowing them to have different
fixed lengths.
Once-only subpatterns
These are also just like other subpatterns, but they start with the opcode
Conditional subpatterns
These are like other subpatterns, but they start with the opcode OP_COND. If
the condition is a back reference, this is stored at the start of the
subpattern using the opcode OP_CREF followed by two bytes containing the
reference number. Otherwise, a conditional subpattern will always start with
one of the assertions.
Changing options
If any of the /i, /m, or /s options are changed within a parenthesized group,
an OP_OPT opcode is compiled, followed by one byte containing the new settings
of these flags. If there are several alternatives in a group, there is an
occurrence of OP_OPT at the start of all those following the first options
change, to set appropriate options for the start of the alternative.
Immediately after the end of the group there is another such item to reset the
flags to their previous values. Other changes of flag within the pattern can be
handled entirely at compile time, and so do not cause anything to be put into
the compiled data.
Philip Hazel
August 2001
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The perltest program
The perltest program tests Perl's regular expressions; it has the same
specification as pcretest, and so can be given identical input, except that
input patterns can be followed only by Perl's lower case modifiers and /+ (as
used by pcretest), which is recognized and handled by the program.
The data lines are processed as Perl double-quoted strings, so if they contain
" \ $ or @ characters, these have to be escaped. For this reason, all such
characters in testinput1 and testinput3 are escaped so that they can be used
for perltest as well as for pcretest, and the special upper case modifiers such
as /A that pcretest recognizes are not used in these files. The output should
be identical, apart from the initial identifying banner.
For testing UTF-8 features, an alternative form of perltest, called perltest8,
is supplied. This requires Perl 5.6 or higher. It recognizes the special
modifier /8 that pcretest uses to invoke UTF-8 functionality. The testinput5
file can be fed to perltest8.
The testinput2 and testinput4 files are not suitable for feeding to perltest,
since they do make use of the special upper case modifiers and escapes that
pcretest uses to test some features of PCRE. The first of these files also
contains malformed regular expressions, in order to check that PCRE diagnoses
them correctly. Similarly, testinput6 tests UTF-8 features that do not relate
to Perl.
Philip Hazel <>
August 2000
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