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1 .TH PCRE 3
2 .SH NAME
3 PCRE - Perl-compatible regular expressions
4 .SH INTRODUCTION
5 .rs
6 .sp
7 The PCRE library is a set of functions that implement regular expression
8 pattern matching using the same syntax and semantics as Perl, with just a few
9 differences. Some features that appeared in Python and PCRE before they
10 appeared in Perl are also available using the Python syntax, there is some
11 support for one or two .NET and Oniguruma syntax items, and there is an option
12 for requesting some minor changes that give better JavaScript compatibility.
13 .P
14 The current implementation of PCRE corresponds approximately with Perl 5.10,
15 including support for UTF-8 encoded strings and Unicode general category
16 properties. However, UTF-8 and Unicode support has to be explicitly enabled; it
17 is not the default. The Unicode tables correspond to Unicode release 5.1.
18 .P
19 In addition to the Perl-compatible matching function, PCRE contains an
20 alternative function that matches the same compiled patterns in a different
21 way. In certain circumstances, the alternative function has some advantages.
22 For a discussion of the two matching algorithms, see the
23 .\" HREF
24 \fBpcrematching\fP
25 .\"
26 page.
27 .P
28 PCRE is written in C and released as a C library. A number of people have
29 written wrappers and interfaces of various kinds. In particular, Google Inc.
30 have provided a comprehensive C++ wrapper. This is now included as part of the
31 PCRE distribution. The
32 .\" HREF
33 \fBpcrecpp\fP
34 .\"
35 page has details of this interface. Other people's contributions can be found
36 in the \fIContrib\fR directory at the primary FTP site, which is:
37 .sp
38 .\" HTML <a href="ftp://ftp.csx.cam.ac.uk/pub/software/programming/pcre">
39 .\" </a>
40 ftp://ftp.csx.cam.ac.uk/pub/software/programming/pcre
41 .P
42 Details of exactly which Perl regular expression features are and are not
43 supported by PCRE are given in separate documents. See the
44 .\" HREF
45 \fBpcrepattern\fR
46 .\"
47 and
48 .\" HREF
49 \fBpcrecompat\fR
50 .\"
51 pages. There is a syntax summary in the
52 .\" HREF
53 \fBpcresyntax\fR
54 .\"
55 page.
56 .P
57 Some features of PCRE can be included, excluded, or changed when the library is
58 built. The
59 .\" HREF
60 \fBpcre_config()\fR
61 .\"
62 function makes it possible for a client to discover which features are
63 available. The features themselves are described in the
64 .\" HREF
65 \fBpcrebuild\fP
66 .\"
67 page. Documentation about building PCRE for various operating systems can be
68 found in the \fBREADME\fP and \fBNON-UNIX-USE\fP files in the source
69 distribution.
70 .P
71 The library contains a number of undocumented internal functions and data
72 tables that are used by more than one of the exported external functions, but
73 which are not intended for use by external callers. Their names all begin with
74 "_pcre_", which hopefully will not provoke any name clashes. In some
75 environments, it is possible to control which external symbols are exported
76 when a shared library is built, and in these cases the undocumented symbols are
77 not exported.
78 .
79 .
80 .SH "USER DOCUMENTATION"
81 .rs
82 .sp
83 The user documentation for PCRE comprises a number of different sections. In
84 the "man" format, each of these is a separate "man page". In the HTML format,
85 each is a separate page, linked from the index page. In the plain text format,
86 all the sections, except the \fBpcredemo\fP section, are concatenated, for ease
87 of searching. The sections are as follows:
88 .sp
89 pcre this document
90 pcre-config show PCRE installation configuration information
91 pcreapi details of PCRE's native C API
92 pcrebuild options for building PCRE
93 pcrecallout details of the callout feature
94 pcrecompat discussion of Perl compatibility
95 pcrecpp details of the C++ wrapper
96 pcredemo a demonstration C program that uses PCRE
97 pcregrep description of the \fBpcregrep\fP command
98 pcrematching discussion of the two matching algorithms
99 pcrepartial details of the partial matching facility
100 .\" JOIN
101 pcrepattern syntax and semantics of supported
102 regular expressions
103 pcreperform discussion of performance issues
104 pcreposix the POSIX-compatible C API
105 pcreprecompile details of saving and re-using precompiled patterns
106 pcresample discussion of the pcredemo program
107 pcrestack discussion of stack usage
108 pcresyntax quick syntax reference
109 pcretest description of the \fBpcretest\fP testing command
110 .sp
111 In addition, in the "man" and HTML formats, there is a short page for each
112 C library function, listing its arguments and results.
113 .
114 .
115 .SH LIMITATIONS
116 .rs
117 .sp
118 There are some size limitations in PCRE but it is hoped that they will never in
119 practice be relevant.
120 .P
121 The maximum length of a compiled pattern is 65539 (sic) bytes if PCRE is
122 compiled with the default internal linkage size of 2. If you want to process
123 regular expressions that are truly enormous, you can compile PCRE with an
124 internal linkage size of 3 or 4 (see the \fBREADME\fP file in the source
125 distribution and the
126 .\" HREF
127 \fBpcrebuild\fP
128 .\"
129 documentation for details). In these cases the limit is substantially larger.
130 However, the speed of execution is slower.
131 .P
132 All values in repeating quantifiers must be less than 65536.
133 .P
134 There is no limit to the number of parenthesized subpatterns, but there can be
135 no more than 65535 capturing subpatterns.
136 .P
137 The maximum length of name for a named subpattern is 32 characters, and the
138 maximum number of named subpatterns is 10000.
139 .P
140 The maximum length of a subject string is the largest positive number that an
141 integer variable can hold. However, when using the traditional matching
142 function, PCRE uses recursion to handle subpatterns and indefinite repetition.
143 This means that the available stack space may limit the size of a subject
144 string that can be processed by certain patterns. For a discussion of stack
145 issues, see the
146 .\" HREF
147 \fBpcrestack\fP
148 .\"
149 documentation.
150 .
151 .
152 .\" HTML <a name="utf8support"></a>
153 .
154 .SH "UTF-8 AND UNICODE PROPERTY SUPPORT"
155 .rs
156 .sp
157 From release 3.3, PCRE has had some support for character strings encoded in
158 the UTF-8 format. For release 4.0 this was greatly extended to cover most
159 common requirements, and in release 5.0 additional support for Unicode general
160 category properties was added.
161 .P
162 In order process UTF-8 strings, you must build PCRE to include UTF-8 support in
163 the code, and, in addition, you must call
164 .\" HREF
165 \fBpcre_compile()\fP
166 .\"
167 with the PCRE_UTF8 option flag, or the pattern must start with the sequence
168 (*UTF8). When either of these is the case, both the pattern and any subject
169 strings that are matched against it are treated as UTF-8 strings instead of
170 strings of 1-byte characters.
171 .P
172 If you compile PCRE with UTF-8 support, but do not use it at run time, the
173 library will be a bit bigger, but the additional run time overhead is limited
174 to testing the PCRE_UTF8 flag occasionally, so should not be very big.
175 .P
176 If PCRE is built with Unicode character property support (which implies UTF-8
177 support), the escape sequences \ep{..}, \eP{..}, and \eX are supported.
178 The available properties that can be tested are limited to the general
179 category properties such as Lu for an upper case letter or Nd for a decimal
180 number, the Unicode script names such as Arabic or Han, and the derived
181 properties Any and L&. A full list is given in the
182 .\" HREF
183 \fBpcrepattern\fP
184 .\"
185 documentation. Only the short names for properties are supported. For example,
186 \ep{L} matches a letter. Its Perl synonym, \ep{Letter}, is not supported.
187 Furthermore, in Perl, many properties may optionally be prefixed by "Is", for
188 compatibility with Perl 5.6. PCRE does not support this.
189 .
190 .
191 .\" HTML <a name="utf8strings"></a>
192 .
193 .SS "Validity of UTF-8 strings"
194 .rs
195 .sp
196 When you set the PCRE_UTF8 flag, the strings passed as patterns and subjects
197 are (by default) checked for validity on entry to the relevant functions. From
198 release 7.3 of PCRE, the check is according the rules of RFC 3629, which are
199 themselves derived from the Unicode specification. Earlier releases of PCRE
200 followed the rules of RFC 2279, which allows the full range of 31-bit values (0
201 to 0x7FFFFFFF). The current check allows only values in the range U+0 to
202 U+10FFFF, excluding U+D800 to U+DFFF.
203 .P
204 The excluded code points are the "Low Surrogate Area" of Unicode, of which the
205 Unicode Standard says this: "The Low Surrogate Area does not contain any
206 character assignments, consequently no character code charts or namelists are
207 provided for this area. Surrogates are reserved for use with UTF-16 and then
208 must be used in pairs." The code points that are encoded by UTF-16 pairs are
209 available as independent code points in the UTF-8 encoding. (In other words,
210 the whole surrogate thing is a fudge for UTF-16 which unfortunately messes up
211 UTF-8.)
212 .P
213 If an invalid UTF-8 string is passed to PCRE, an error return
214 (PCRE_ERROR_BADUTF8) is given. In some situations, you may already know that
215 your strings are valid, and therefore want to skip these checks in order to
216 improve performance. If you set the PCRE_NO_UTF8_CHECK flag at compile time or
217 at run time, PCRE assumes that the pattern or subject it is given
218 (respectively) contains only valid UTF-8 codes. In this case, it does not
219 diagnose an invalid UTF-8 string.
220 .P
221 If you pass an invalid UTF-8 string when PCRE_NO_UTF8_CHECK is set, what
222 happens depends on why the string is invalid. If the string conforms to the
223 "old" definition of UTF-8 (RFC 2279), it is processed as a string of characters
224 in the range 0 to 0x7FFFFFFF. In other words, apart from the initial validity
225 test, PCRE (when in UTF-8 mode) handles strings according to the more liberal
226 rules of RFC 2279. However, if the string does not even conform to RFC 2279,
227 the result is undefined. Your program may crash.
228 .P
229 If you want to process strings of values in the full range 0 to 0x7FFFFFFF,
230 encoded in a UTF-8-like manner as per the old RFC, you can set
231 PCRE_NO_UTF8_CHECK to bypass the more restrictive test. However, in this
232 situation, you will have to apply your own validity check.
233 .
234 .SS "General comments about UTF-8 mode"
235 .rs
236 .sp
237 1. An unbraced hexadecimal escape sequence (such as \exb3) matches a two-byte
238 UTF-8 character if the value is greater than 127.
239 .P
240 2. Octal numbers up to \e777 are recognized, and match two-byte UTF-8
241 characters for values greater than \e177.
242 .P
243 3. Repeat quantifiers apply to complete UTF-8 characters, not to individual
244 bytes, for example: \ex{100}{3}.
245 .P
246 4. The dot metacharacter matches one UTF-8 character instead of a single byte.
247 .P
248 5. The escape sequence \eC can be used to match a single byte in UTF-8 mode,
249 but its use can lead to some strange effects. This facility is not available in
250 the alternative matching function, \fBpcre_dfa_exec()\fP.
251 .P
252 6. The character escapes \eb, \eB, \ed, \eD, \es, \eS, \ew, and \eW correctly
253 test characters of any code value, but the characters that PCRE recognizes as
254 digits, spaces, or word characters remain the same set as before, all with
255 values less than 256. This remains true even when PCRE includes Unicode
256 property support, because to do otherwise would slow down PCRE in many common
257 cases. If you really want to test for a wider sense of, say, "digit", you
258 must use Unicode property tests such as \ep{Nd}. Note that this also applies to
259 \eb, because it is defined in terms of \ew and \eW.
260 .P
261 7. Similarly, characters that match the POSIX named character classes are all
262 low-valued characters.
263 .P
264 8. However, the Perl 5.10 horizontal and vertical whitespace matching escapes
265 (\eh, \eH, \ev, and \eV) do match all the appropriate Unicode characters.
266 .P
267 9. Case-insensitive matching applies only to characters whose values are less
268 than 128, unless PCRE is built with Unicode property support. Even when Unicode
269 property support is available, PCRE still uses its own character tables when
270 checking the case of low-valued characters, so as not to degrade performance.
271 The Unicode property information is used only for characters with higher
272 values. Even when Unicode property support is available, PCRE supports
273 case-insensitive matching only when there is a one-to-one mapping between a
274 letter's cases. There are a small number of many-to-one mappings in Unicode;
275 these are not supported by PCRE.
276 .
277 .
278 .SH AUTHOR
279 .rs
280 .sp
281 .nf
282 Philip Hazel
283 University Computing Service
284 Cambridge CB2 3QH, England.
285 .fi
286 .P
287 Putting an actual email address here seems to have been a spam magnet, so I've
288 taken it away. If you want to email me, use my two initials, followed by the
289 two digits 10, at the domain cam.ac.uk.
290 .
291 .
292 .SH REVISION
293 .rs
294 .sp
295 .nf
296 Last updated: 28 September 2009
297 Copyright (c) 1997-2009 University of Cambridge.
298 .fi

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