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OpenSolaris 2009.06 - man page for pcrecompat (opensolaris section 3)


       PCRE - Perl-compatible regular expressions


       This  document  describes  the  differences  in the ways that PCRE and Perl handle regular
       expressions. The differences described here are mainly with respect to  Perl  5.8,  though
       PCRE versions 7.0 and later contain some features that are expected to be in the forthcom-
       ing Perl 5.10.

       1. PCRE has only a subset of Perl's UTF-8 and Unicode support. Details  of  what  it  does
       have are given in the section on UTF-8 support in the main pcre page.

       2.  PCRE does not allow repeat quantifiers on lookahead assertions. Perl permits them, but
       they do not mean what you might think. For example, (?!a){3} does not assert that the next
       three  characters  are  not  "a". It just asserts that the next character is not "a" three

       3. Capturing subpatterns that occur inside negative lookahead assertions are counted,  but
       their  entries in the offsets vector are never set. Perl sets its numerical variables from
       any such patterns that are matched before the assertion fails to match something  (thereby
       succeeding), but only if the negative lookahead assertion contains just one branch.

       4. Though binary zero characters are supported in the subject string, they are not allowed
       in a pattern string because it is passed as a normal C string,  terminated  by  zero.  The
       escape sequence \0 can be used in the pattern to represent a binary zero.

       5.  The following Perl escape sequences are not supported: \l, \u, \L, \U, and \N. In fact
       these are implemented by Perl's general string-handling and are not part  of  its  pattern
       matching engine. If any of these are encountered by PCRE, an error is generated.

       6.  The Perl escape sequences \p, \P, and \X are supported only if PCRE is built with Uni-
       code character property support. The properties that can be tested with \p and \P are lim-
       ited  to  the general category properties such as Lu and Nd, script names such as Greek or
       Han, and the derived properties Any and L&.

       7. PCRE does support the \Q...\E escape for quoting substrings. Characters in between  are
       treated as literals. This is slightly different from Perl in that $ and @ are also handled
       as literals inside the quotes. In Perl, they cause variable interpolation (but  of  course
       PCRE does not have variables). Note the following examples:

	   Pattern	      PCRE matches	Perl matches

	   \Qabc$xyz\E	      abc$xyz		abc followed by the
						  contents of $xyz
	   \Qabc\$xyz\E       abc\$xyz		abc\$xyz
	   \Qabc\E\$\Qxyz\E   abc$xyz		abc$xyz

       The \Q...\E sequence is recognized both inside and outside character classes.

       8.  Fairly  obviously,  PCRE  does not support the (?{code}) and (??{code}) constructions.
       However, there is support for recursive patterns. This is not available in Perl	5.8,  but
       will  be  in Perl 5.10. Also, the PCRE "callout" feature allows an external function to be
       called during pattern matching. See the pcrecallout documentation for details.

       9. Subpatterns that are called recursively or  as  "subroutines"  are  always  treated  as
       atomic groups in PCRE. This is like Python, but unlike Perl.

       10.  There  are	some differences that are concerned with the settings of captured strings
       when part of a pattern is repeated.  For  example,  matching  "aba"  against  the  pattern
       /^(a(b)?)+$/ in Perl leaves $2 unset, but in PCRE it is set to "b".

       11.  PCRE does support Perl 5.10's backtracking verbs (*ACCEPT), (*FAIL), (*F), (*COMMIT),
       (*PRUNE), (*SKIP), and (*THEN), but only in the forms without an argument. PCRE	does  not
       support (*MARK). If (*ACCEPT) is within capturing parentheses, PCRE does not set that cap-
       ture group; this is different to Perl.

       12. PCRE provides some extensions to the Perl regular expression  facilities.   Perl  5.10
       will  include  new features that are not in earlier versions, some of which (such as named
       parentheses) have been in PCRE for some time. This list is with respect to Perl 5.10:

       (a) Although lookbehind assertions must	match  fixed  length  strings,	each  alternative
       branch  of  a  lookbehind  assertion can match a different length of string. Perl requires
       them all to have the same length.

       (b) If PCRE_DOLLAR_ENDONLY is set and PCRE_MULTILINE is	not  set,  the	$  meta-character
       matches only at the very end of the string.

       (c)  If	PCRE_EXTRA  is	set,  a backslash followed by a letter with no special meaning is
       faulted. Otherwise, like Perl, the backslash is quietly ignored.  (Perl	can  be  made  to
       issue a warning.)

       (d)  If	PCRE_UNGREEDY  is  set, the greediness of the repetition quantifiers is inverted,
       that is, by default they are not greedy, but if followed by a question mark they are.

       (e) PCRE_ANCHORED can be used at matching time to force a pattern to be tried only at  the
       first matching position in the subject string.

       pcre_exec() have no Perl equivalents.

       (g) The \R escape sequence can be restricted  to  match	only  CR,  LF,	or  CRLF  by  the
       PCRE_BSR_ANYCRLF option.

       (h) The callout facility is PCRE-specific.

       (i) The partial matching facility is PCRE-specific.

       (j)  Patterns compiled by PCRE can be saved and re-used at a later time, even on different
       hosts that have the other endianness.

       (k) The alternative matching function (pcre_dfa_exec()) matches in a different way and  is
       not Perl-compatible.

       (l)  PCRE  recognizes  some special sequences such as (*CR) at the start of a pattern that
       set overall options that cannot be changed within the pattern.


       Philip Hazel
       University Computing Service
       Cambridge CB2 3QH, England.


       Last updated: 11 September 2007
       Copyright (c) 1997-2007 University of Cambridge.

       See attributes(5) for descriptions of the following attributes:

       |Availability	    | SUNWpcre	      |
       |Interface Stability | Uncommitted     |
       Source for PCRE is available on http://opensolaris.org.


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