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Fix bugs in the documentation.

1 <html>
2 <head>
3 <title>pcrepartial specification</title>
4 </head>
5 <body bgcolor="#FFFFFF" text="#00005A" link="#0066FF" alink="#3399FF" vlink="#2222BB">
6 <h1>pcrepartial man page</h1>
7 <p>
8 Return to the <a href="index.html">PCRE index page</a>.
9 </p>
10 <p>
11 This page is part of the PCRE HTML documentation. It was generated automatically
12 from the original man page. If there is any nonsense in it, please consult the
13 man page, in case the conversion went wrong.
14 <br>
15 <ul>
16 <li><a name="TOC1" href="#SEC1">PARTIAL MATCHING IN PCRE</a>
17 <li><a name="TOC2" href="#SEC2">RESTRICTED PATTERNS FOR PCRE_PARTIAL</a>
18 <li><a name="TOC3" href="#SEC3">EXAMPLE OF PARTIAL MATCHING USING PCRETEST</a>
19 <li><a name="TOC4" href="#SEC4">MULTI-SEGMENT MATCHING WITH pcre_dfa_exec()</a>
20 <li><a name="TOC5" href="#SEC5">AUTHOR</a>
21 <li><a name="TOC6" href="#SEC6">REVISION</a>
22 </ul>
23 <br><a name="SEC1" href="#TOC1">PARTIAL MATCHING IN PCRE</a><br>
24 <P>
25 In normal use of PCRE, if the subject string that is passed to
26 <b>pcre_exec()</b> or <b>pcre_dfa_exec()</b> matches as far as it goes, but is
27 too short to match the entire pattern, PCRE_ERROR_NOMATCH is returned. There
28 are circumstances where it might be helpful to distinguish this case from other
29 cases in which there is no match.
30 </P>
31 <P>
32 Consider, for example, an application where a human is required to type in data
33 for a field with specific formatting requirements. An example might be a date
34 in the form <i>ddmmmyy</i>, defined by this pattern:
35 <pre>
36 ^\d?\d(jan|feb|mar|apr|may|jun|jul|aug|sep|oct|nov|dec)\d\d$
37 </pre>
38 If the application sees the user's keystrokes one by one, and can check that
39 what has been typed so far is potentially valid, it is able to raise an error
40 as soon as a mistake is made, possibly beeping and not reflecting the
41 character that has been typed. This immediate feedback is likely to be a better
42 user interface than a check that is delayed until the entire string has been
43 entered.
44 </P>
45 <P>
46 PCRE supports the concept of partial matching by means of the PCRE_PARTIAL
47 option, which can be set when calling <b>pcre_exec()</b> or
48 <b>pcre_dfa_exec()</b>. When this flag is set for <b>pcre_exec()</b>, the return
49 code PCRE_ERROR_NOMATCH is converted into PCRE_ERROR_PARTIAL if at any time
50 during the matching process the last part of the subject string matched part of
51 the pattern. Unfortunately, for non-anchored matching, it is not possible to
52 obtain the position of the start of the partial match. No captured data is set
53 when PCRE_ERROR_PARTIAL is returned.
54 </P>
55 <P>
56 When PCRE_PARTIAL is set for <b>pcre_dfa_exec()</b>, the return code
57 PCRE_ERROR_NOMATCH is converted into PCRE_ERROR_PARTIAL if the end of the
58 subject is reached, there have been no complete matches, but there is still at
59 least one matching possibility. The portion of the string that provided the
60 partial match is set as the first matching string.
61 </P>
62 <P>
63 Using PCRE_PARTIAL disables one of PCRE's optimizations. PCRE remembers the
64 last literal byte in a pattern, and abandons matching immediately if such a
65 byte is not present in the subject string. This optimization cannot be used
66 for a subject string that might match only partially.
67 </P>
68 <br><a name="SEC2" href="#TOC1">RESTRICTED PATTERNS FOR PCRE_PARTIAL</a><br>
69 <P>
70 Because of the way certain internal optimizations are implemented in the
71 <b>pcre_exec()</b> function, the PCRE_PARTIAL option cannot be used with all
72 patterns. These restrictions do not apply when <b>pcre_dfa_exec()</b> is used.
73 For <b>pcre_exec()</b>, repeated single characters such as
74 <pre>
75 a{2,4}
76 </pre>
77 and repeated single metasequences such as
78 <pre>
79 \d+
80 </pre>
81 are not permitted if the maximum number of occurrences is greater than one.
82 Optional items such as \d? (where the maximum is one) are permitted.
83 Quantifiers with any values are permitted after parentheses, so the invalid
84 examples above can be coded thus:
85 <pre>
86 (a){2,4}
87 (\d)+
88 </pre>
89 These constructions run more slowly, but for the kinds of application that are
90 envisaged for this facility, this is not felt to be a major restriction.
91 </P>
92 <P>
93 If PCRE_PARTIAL is set for a pattern that does not conform to the restrictions,
94 <b>pcre_exec()</b> returns the error code PCRE_ERROR_BADPARTIAL (-13).
95 </P>
96 <br><a name="SEC3" href="#TOC1">EXAMPLE OF PARTIAL MATCHING USING PCRETEST</a><br>
97 <P>
98 If the escape sequence \P is present in a <b>pcretest</b> data line, the
99 PCRE_PARTIAL flag is used for the match. Here is a run of <b>pcretest</b> that
100 uses the date example quoted above:
101 <pre>
102 re&#62; /^\d?\d(jan|feb|mar|apr|may|jun|jul|aug|sep|oct|nov|dec)\d\d$/
103 data&#62; 25jun04\P
104 0: 25jun04
105 1: jun
106 data&#62; 25dec3\P
107 Partial match
108 data&#62; 3ju\P
109 Partial match
110 data&#62; 3juj\P
111 No match
112 data&#62; j\P
113 No match
114 </pre>
115 The first data string is matched completely, so <b>pcretest</b> shows the
116 matched substrings. The remaining four strings do not match the complete
117 pattern, but the first two are partial matches. The same test, using
118 <b>pcre_dfa_exec()</b> matching (by means of the \D escape sequence), produces
119 the following output:
120 <pre>
121 re&#62; /^\d?\d(jan|feb|mar|apr|may|jun|jul|aug|sep|oct|nov|dec)\d\d$/
122 data&#62; 25jun04\P\D
123 0: 25jun04
124 data&#62; 23dec3\P\D
125 Partial match: 23dec3
126 data&#62; 3ju\P\D
127 Partial match: 3ju
128 data&#62; 3juj\P\D
129 No match
130 data&#62; j\P\D
131 No match
132 </pre>
133 Notice that in this case the portion of the string that was matched is made
134 available.
135 </P>
136 <br><a name="SEC4" href="#TOC1">MULTI-SEGMENT MATCHING WITH pcre_dfa_exec()</a><br>
137 <P>
138 When a partial match has been found using <b>pcre_dfa_exec()</b>, it is possible
139 to continue the match by providing additional subject data and calling
140 <b>pcre_dfa_exec()</b> again with the same compiled regular expression, this
141 time setting the PCRE_DFA_RESTART option. You must also pass the same working
142 space as before, because this is where details of the previous partial match
143 are stored. Here is an example using <b>pcretest</b>, using the \R escape
144 sequence to set the PCRE_DFA_RESTART option (\P and \D are as above):
145 <pre>
146 re&#62; /^\d?\d(jan|feb|mar|apr|may|jun|jul|aug|sep|oct|nov|dec)\d\d$/
147 data&#62; 23ja\P\D
148 Partial match: 23ja
149 data&#62; n05\R\D
150 0: n05
151 </pre>
152 The first call has "23ja" as the subject, and requests partial matching; the
153 second call has "n05" as the subject for the continued (restarted) match.
154 Notice that when the match is complete, only the last part is shown; PCRE does
155 not retain the previously partially-matched string. It is up to the calling
156 program to do that if it needs to.
157 </P>
158 <P>
159 You can set PCRE_PARTIAL with PCRE_DFA_RESTART to continue partial matching
160 over multiple segments. This facility can be used to pass very long subject
161 strings to <b>pcre_dfa_exec()</b>. However, some care is needed for certain
162 types of pattern.
163 </P>
164 <P>
165 1. If the pattern contains tests for the beginning or end of a line, you need
166 to pass the PCRE_NOTBOL or PCRE_NOTEOL options, as appropriate, when the
167 subject string for any call does not contain the beginning or end of a line.
168 </P>
169 <P>
170 2. If the pattern contains backward assertions (including \b or \B), you need
171 to arrange for some overlap in the subject strings to allow for this. For
172 example, you could pass the subject in chunks that are 500 bytes long, but in
173 a buffer of 700 bytes, with the starting offset set to 200 and the previous 200
174 bytes at the start of the buffer.
175 </P>
176 <P>
177 3. Matching a subject string that is split into multiple segments does not
178 always produce exactly the same result as matching over one single long string.
179 The difference arises when there are multiple matching possibilities, because a
180 partial match result is given only when there are no completed matches in a
181 call to <b>pcre_dfa_exec()</b>. This means that as soon as the shortest match has
182 been found, continuation to a new subject segment is no longer possible.
183 Consider this <b>pcretest</b> example:
184 <pre>
185 re&#62; /dog(sbody)?/
186 data&#62; do\P\D
187 Partial match: do
188 data&#62; gsb\R\P\D
189 0: g
190 data&#62; dogsbody\D
191 0: dogsbody
192 1: dog
193 </pre>
194 The pattern matches the words "dog" or "dogsbody". When the subject is
195 presented in several parts ("do" and "gsb" being the first two) the match stops
196 when "dog" has been found, and it is not possible to continue. On the other
197 hand, if "dogsbody" is presented as a single string, both matches are found.
198 </P>
199 <P>
200 Because of this phenomenon, it does not usually make sense to end a pattern
201 that is going to be matched in this way with a variable repeat.
202 </P>
203 <P>
204 4. Patterns that contain alternatives at the top level which do not all
205 start with the same pattern item may not work as expected. For example,
206 consider this pattern:
207 <pre>
208 1234|3789
209 </pre>
210 If the first part of the subject is "ABC123", a partial match of the first
211 alternative is found at offset 3. There is no partial match for the second
212 alternative, because such a match does not start at the same point in the
213 subject string. Attempting to continue with the string "789" does not yield a
214 match because only those alternatives that match at one point in the subject
215 are remembered. The problem arises because the start of the second alternative
216 matches within the first alternative. There is no problem with anchored
217 patterns or patterns such as:
218 <pre>
219 1234|ABCD
220 </pre>
221 where no string can be a partial match for both alternatives.
222 </P>
223 <br><a name="SEC5" href="#TOC1">AUTHOR</a><br>
224 <P>
225 Philip Hazel
226 <br>
227 University Computing Service
228 <br>
229 Cambridge CB2 3QH, England.
230 <br>
231 </P>
232 <br><a name="SEC6" href="#TOC1">REVISION</a><br>
233 <P>
234 Last updated: 06 March 2007
235 <br>
236 Copyright &copy; 1997-2007 University of Cambridge.
237 <br>
238 <p>
239 Return to the <a href="index.html">PCRE index page</a>.
240 </p>

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