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1 .TH PCRESTACK 3
2 .SH NAME
3 PCRE - Perl-compatible regular expressions
4 .SH "PCRE DISCUSSION OF STACK USAGE"
5 .rs
6 .sp
7 When you call \fBpcre_exec()\fP, it makes use of an internal function called
8 \fBmatch()\fP. This calls itself recursively at branch points in the pattern,
9 in order to remember the state of the match so that it can back up and try a
10 different alternative if the first one fails. As matching proceeds deeper and
11 deeper into the tree of possibilities, the recursion depth increases.
12 .P
13 Not all calls of \fBmatch()\fP increase the recursion depth; for an item such
14 as a* it may be called several times at the same level, after matching
15 different numbers of a's. Furthermore, in a number of cases where the result of
16 the recursive call would immediately be passed back as the result of the
17 current call (a "tail recursion"), the function is just restarted instead.
18 .P
19 The \fBpcre_dfa_exec()\fP function operates in an entirely different way, and
20 hardly uses recursion at all. The limit on its complexity is the amount of
21 workspace it is given. The comments that follow do NOT apply to
22 \fBpcre_dfa_exec()\fP; they are relevant only for \fBpcre_exec()\fP.
23 .P
24 You can set limits on the number of times that \fBmatch()\fP is called, both in
25 total and recursively. If the limit is exceeded, an error occurs. For details,
26 see the
27 .\" HTML <a href="pcreapi.html#extradata">
28 .\" </a>
29 section on extra data for \fBpcre_exec()\fP
30 .\"
31 in the
32 .\" HREF
33 \fBpcreapi\fP
34 .\"
35 documentation.
36 .P
37 Each time that \fBmatch()\fP is actually called recursively, it uses memory
38 from the process stack. For certain kinds of pattern and data, very large
39 amounts of stack may be needed, despite the recognition of "tail recursion".
40 You can often reduce the amount of recursion, and therefore the amount of stack
41 used, by modifying the pattern that is being matched. Consider, for example,
42 this pattern:
43 .sp
44 ([^<]|<(?!inet))+
45 .sp
46 It matches from wherever it starts until it encounters "<inet" or the end of
47 the data, and is the kind of pattern that might be used when processing an XML
48 file. Each iteration of the outer parentheses matches either one character that
49 is not "<" or a "<" that is not followed by "inet". However, each time a
50 parenthesis is processed, a recursion occurs, so this formulation uses a stack
51 frame for each matched character. For a long string, a lot of stack is
52 required. Consider now this rewritten pattern, which matches exactly the same
53 strings:
54 .sp
55 ([^<]++|<(?!inet))
56 .sp
57 This uses very much less stack, because runs of characters that do not contain
58 "<" are "swallowed" in one item inside the parentheses. Recursion happens only
59 when a "<" character that is not followed by "inet" is encountered (and we
60 assume this is relatively rare). A possessive quantifier is used to stop any
61 backtracking into the runs of non-"<" characters, but that is not related to
62 stack usage.
63 .P
64 In environments where stack memory is constrained, you might want to compile
65 PCRE to use heap memory instead of stack for remembering back-up points. This
66 makes it run a lot more slowly, however. Details of how to do this are given in
67 the
68 .\" HREF
69 \fBpcrebuild\fP
70 .\"
71 documentation.
72 .P
73 In Unix-like environments, there is not often a problem with the stack, though
74 the default limit on stack size varies from system to system. Values from 8Mb
75 to 64Mb are common. You can find your default limit by running the command:
76 .sp
77 ulimit -s
78 .sp
79 The effect of running out of stack is often SIGSEGV, though sometimes an error
80 message is given. You can normally increase the limit on stack size by code
81 such as this:
82 .sp
83 struct rlimit rlim;
84 getrlimit(RLIMIT_STACK, &rlim);
85 rlim.rlim_cur = 100*1024*1024;
86 setrlimit(RLIMIT_STACK, &rlim);
87 .sp
88 This reads the current limits (soft and hard) using \fBgetrlimit()\fP, then
89 attempts to increase the soft limit to 100Mb using \fBsetrlimit()\fP. You must
90 do this before calling \fBpcre_exec()\fP.
91 .P
92 PCRE has an internal counter that can be used to limit the depth of recursion,
93 and thus cause \fBpcre_exec()\fP to give an error code before it runs out of
94 stack. By default, the limit is very large, and unlikely ever to operate. It
95 can be changed when PCRE is built, and it can also be set when
96 \fBpcre_exec()\fP is called. For details of these interfaces, see the
97 .\" HREF
98 \fBpcrebuild\fP
99 .\"
100 and
101 .\" HREF
102 \fBpcreapi\fP
103 .\"
104 documentation.
105 .P
106 As a very rough rule of thumb, you should reckon on about 500 bytes per
107 recursion. Thus, if you want to limit your stack usage to 8Mb, you
108 should set the limit at 16000 recursions. A 64Mb stack, on the other hand, can
109 support around 128000 recursions. The \fBpcretest\fP test program has a command
110 line option (\fB-S\fP) that can be used to increase its stack.
111 .P
112 .in 0
113 Last updated: 29 June 2006
114 .br
115 Copyright (c) 1997-2006 University of Cambridge.

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