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revision 91 by nigel, Sat Feb 24 21:41:34 2007 UTC revision 572 by ph10, Wed Nov 17 17:55:57 2010 UTC
# Line 16  man page, in case the conversion went wr Line 16  man page, in case the conversion went wr
16  <li><a name="TOC1" href="#SEC1">PCRE MATCHING ALGORITHMS</a>  <li><a name="TOC1" href="#SEC1">PCRE MATCHING ALGORITHMS</a>
17  <li><a name="TOC2" href="#SEC2">REGULAR EXPRESSIONS AS TREES</a>  <li><a name="TOC2" href="#SEC2">REGULAR EXPRESSIONS AS TREES</a>
18  <li><a name="TOC3" href="#SEC3">THE STANDARD MATCHING ALGORITHM</a>  <li><a name="TOC3" href="#SEC3">THE STANDARD MATCHING ALGORITHM</a>
19  <li><a name="TOC4" href="#SEC4">THE DFA MATCHING ALGORITHM</a>  <li><a name="TOC4" href="#SEC4">THE ALTERNATIVE MATCHING ALGORITHM</a>
20  <li><a name="TOC5" href="#SEC5">ADVANTAGES OF THE DFA ALGORITHM</a>  <li><a name="TOC5" href="#SEC5">ADVANTAGES OF THE ALTERNATIVE ALGORITHM</a>
21  <li><a name="TOC6" href="#SEC6">DISADVANTAGES OF THE DFA ALGORITHM</a>  <li><a name="TOC6" href="#SEC6">DISADVANTAGES OF THE ALTERNATIVE ALGORITHM</a>
22    <li><a name="TOC7" href="#SEC7">AUTHOR</a>
23    <li><a name="TOC8" href="#SEC8">REVISION</a>
24  </ul>  </ul>
25  <br><a name="SEC1" href="#TOC1">PCRE MATCHING ALGORITHMS</a><br>  <br><a name="SEC1" href="#TOC1">PCRE MATCHING ALGORITHMS</a><br>
26  <P>  <P>
# Line 46  is matched against the string Line 48  is matched against the string
48    &#60;something&#62; &#60;something else&#62; &#60;something further&#62;    &#60;something&#62; &#60;something else&#62; &#60;something further&#62;
49  </pre>  </pre>
50  there are three possible answers. The standard algorithm finds only one of  there are three possible answers. The standard algorithm finds only one of
51  them, whereas the DFA algorithm finds all three.  them, whereas the alternative algorithm finds all three.
52  </P>  </P>
53  <br><a name="SEC2" href="#TOC1">REGULAR EXPRESSIONS AS TREES</a><br>  <br><a name="SEC2" href="#TOC1">REGULAR EXPRESSIONS AS TREES</a><br>
54  <P>  <P>
# Line 59  correspond to the two matching algorithm Line 61  correspond to the two matching algorithm
61  </P>  </P>
62  <br><a name="SEC3" href="#TOC1">THE STANDARD MATCHING ALGORITHM</a><br>  <br><a name="SEC3" href="#TOC1">THE STANDARD MATCHING ALGORITHM</a><br>
63  <P>  <P>
64  In the terminology of Jeffrey Friedl's book \fIMastering Regular  In the terminology of Jeffrey Friedl's book "Mastering Regular
65  Expressions\fP, the standard algorithm is an "NFA algorithm". It conducts a  Expressions", the standard algorithm is an "NFA algorithm". It conducts a
66  depth-first search of the pattern tree. That is, it proceeds along a single  depth-first search of the pattern tree. That is, it proceeds along a single
67  path through the tree, checking that the subject matches what is required. When  path through the tree, checking that the subject matches what is required. When
68  there is a mismatch, the algorithm tries any alternatives at the current point,  there is a mismatch, the algorithm tries any alternatives at the current point,
# Line 83  straightforward for this algorithm to ke Line 85  straightforward for this algorithm to ke
85  matched by portions of the pattern in parentheses. This provides support for  matched by portions of the pattern in parentheses. This provides support for
86  capturing parentheses and back references.  capturing parentheses and back references.
87  </P>  </P>
88  <br><a name="SEC4" href="#TOC1">THE DFA MATCHING ALGORITHM</a><br>  <br><a name="SEC4" href="#TOC1">THE ALTERNATIVE MATCHING ALGORITHM</a><br>
89  <P>  <P>
90  DFA stands for "deterministic finite automaton", but you do not need to  This algorithm conducts a breadth-first search of the tree. Starting from the
91  understand the origins of that name. This algorithm conducts a breadth-first  first matching point in the subject, it scans the subject string from left to
92  search of the tree. Starting from the first matching point in the subject, it  right, once, character by character, and as it does this, it remembers all the
93  scans the subject string from left to right, once, character by character, and  paths through the tree that represent valid matches. In Friedl's terminology,
94  as it does this, it remembers all the paths through the tree that represent  this is a kind of "DFA algorithm", though it is not implemented as a
95  valid matches.  traditional finite state machine (it keeps multiple states active
96    simultaneously).
97    </P>
98    <P>
99    Although the general principle of this matching algorithm is that it scans the
100    subject string only once, without backtracking, there is one exception: when a
101    lookaround assertion is encountered, the characters following or preceding the
102    current point have to be independently inspected.
103  </P>  </P>
104  <P>  <P>
105  The scan continues until either the end of the subject is reached, or there are  The scan continues until either the end of the subject is reached, or there are
106  no more unterminated paths. At this point, terminated paths represent the  no more unterminated paths. At this point, terminated paths represent the
107  different matching possibilities (if there are none, the match has failed).  different matching possibilities (if there are none, the match has failed).
108  Thus, if there is more than one possible match, this algorithm finds all of  Thus, if there is more than one possible match, this algorithm finds all of
109  them, and in particular, it finds the longest. In PCRE, there is an option to  them, and in particular, it finds the longest. The matches are returned in
110  stop the algorithm after the first match (which is necessarily the shortest)  decreasing order of length. There is an option to stop the algorithm after the
111  has been found.  first match (which is necessarily the shortest) is found.
112  </P>  </P>
113  <P>  <P>
114  Note that all the matches that are found start at the same point in the  Note that all the matches that are found start at the same point in the
115  subject. If the pattern  subject. If the pattern
116  <pre>  <pre>
117    cat(er(pillar)?)    cat(er(pillar)?)?
118  </pre>  </pre>
119  is matched against the string "the caterpillar catchment", the result will be  is matched against the string "the caterpillar catchment", the result will be
120  the three strings "cat", "cater", and "caterpillar" that start at the fourth  the three strings "caterpillar", "cater", and "cat" that start at the fifth
121  character of the subject. The algorithm does not automatically move on to find  character of the subject. The algorithm does not automatically move on to find
122  matches that start at later positions.  matches that start at later positions.
123  </P>  </P>
124  <P>  <P>
125  There are a number of features of PCRE regular expressions that are not  There are a number of features of PCRE regular expressions that are not
126  supported by the DFA matching algorithm. They are as follows:  supported by the alternative matching algorithm. They are as follows:
127  </P>  </P>
128  <P>  <P>
129  1. Because the algorithm finds all possible matches, the greedy or ungreedy  1. Because the algorithm finds all possible matches, the greedy or ungreedy
130  nature of repetition quantifiers is not relevant. Greedy and ungreedy  nature of repetition quantifiers is not relevant. Greedy and ungreedy
131  quantifiers are treated in exactly the same way.  quantifiers are treated in exactly the same way. However, possessive
132    quantifiers can make a difference when what follows could also match what is
133    quantified, for example in a pattern like this:
134    <pre>
135      ^a++\w!
136    </pre>
137    This pattern matches "aaab!" but not "aaa!", which would be matched by a
138    non-possessive quantifier. Similarly, if an atomic group is present, it is
139    matched as if it were a standalone pattern at the current point, and the
140    longest match is then "locked in" for the rest of the overall pattern.
141  </P>  </P>
142  <P>  <P>
143  2. When dealing with multiple paths through the tree simultaneously, it is not  2. When dealing with multiple paths through the tree simultaneously, it is not
# Line 133  not supported, and cause errors if encou Line 151  not supported, and cause errors if encou
151  </P>  </P>
152  <P>  <P>
153  4. For the same reason, conditional expressions that use a backreference as the  4. For the same reason, conditional expressions that use a backreference as the
154  condition are not supported.  condition or test for a specific group recursion are not supported.
155  </P>  </P>
156  <P>  <P>
157  5. Callouts are supported, but the value of the <i>capture_top</i> field is  5. Because many paths through the tree may be active, the \K escape sequence,
158    which resets the start of the match when encountered (but may be on some paths
159    and not on others), is not supported. It causes an error if encountered.
160    </P>
161    <P>
162    6. Callouts are supported, but the value of the <i>capture_top</i> field is
163  always 1, and the value of the <i>capture_last</i> field is always -1.  always 1, and the value of the <i>capture_last</i> field is always -1.
164  </P>  </P>
165  <P>  <P>
166  6.  7. The \C escape sequence, which (in the standard algorithm) matches a single
167  The \C escape sequence, which (in the standard algorithm) matches a single  byte, even in UTF-8 mode, is not supported because the alternative algorithm
168  byte, even in UTF-8 mode, is not supported because the DFA algorithm moves  moves through the subject string one character at a time, for all active paths
 through the subject string one character at a time, for all active paths  
169  through the tree.  through the tree.
170  </P>  </P>
 <br><a name="SEC5" href="#TOC1">ADVANTAGES OF THE DFA ALGORITHM</a><br>  
171  <P>  <P>
172  Using the DFA matching algorithm provides the following advantages:  8. Except for (*FAIL), the backtracking control verbs such as (*PRUNE) are not
173    supported. (*FAIL) is supported, and behaves like a failing negative assertion.
174    </P>
175    <br><a name="SEC5" href="#TOC1">ADVANTAGES OF THE ALTERNATIVE ALGORITHM</a><br>
176    <P>
177    Using the alternative matching algorithm provides the following advantages:
178  </P>  </P>
179  <P>  <P>
180  1. All possible matches (at a single point in the subject) are automatically  1. All possible matches (at a single point in the subject) are automatically
# Line 157  match using the standard algorithm, you Line 183  match using the standard algorithm, you
183  callouts.  callouts.
184  </P>  </P>
185  <P>  <P>
186  2. There is much better support for partial matching. The restrictions on the  2. Because the alternative algorithm scans the subject string just once, and
187  content of the pattern that apply when using the standard algorithm for partial  never needs to backtrack, it is possible to pass very long subject strings to
188  matching do not apply to the DFA algorithm. For non-anchored patterns, the  the matching function in several pieces, checking for partial matching each
189  starting position of a partial match is available.  time. Although it is possible to do multi-segment matching using the standard
190    algorithm (<b>pcre_exec()</b>), by retaining partially matched substrings, it is
191    more complicated. The
192    <a href="pcrepartial.html"><b>pcrepartial</b></a>
193    documentation gives details of partial matching and discusses multi-segment
194    matching.
195  </P>  </P>
196    <br><a name="SEC6" href="#TOC1">DISADVANTAGES OF THE ALTERNATIVE ALGORITHM</a><br>
197  <P>  <P>
198  3. Because the DFA algorithm scans the subject string just once, and never  The alternative algorithm suffers from a number of disadvantages:
 needs to backtrack, it is possible to pass very long subject strings to the  
 matching function in several pieces, checking for partial matching each time.  
 </P>  
 <br><a name="SEC6" href="#TOC1">DISADVANTAGES OF THE DFA ALGORITHM</a><br>  
 <P>  
 The DFA algorithm suffers from a number of disadvantages:  
199  </P>  </P>
200  <P>  <P>
201  1. It is substantially slower than the standard algorithm. This is partly  1. It is substantially slower than the standard algorithm. This is partly
# Line 180  less susceptible to optimization. Line 206  less susceptible to optimization.
206  2. Capturing parentheses and back references are not supported.  2. Capturing parentheses and back references are not supported.
207  </P>  </P>
208  <P>  <P>
209  3. The "atomic group" feature of PCRE regular expressions is supported, but  3. Although atomic groups are supported, their use does not provide the
210  does not provide the advantage that it does for the standard algorithm.  performance advantage that it does for the standard algorithm.
211    </P>
212    <br><a name="SEC7" href="#TOC1">AUTHOR</a><br>
213    <P>
214    Philip Hazel
215    <br>
216    University Computing Service
217    <br>
218    Cambridge CB2 3QH, England.
219    <br>
220  </P>  </P>
221    <br><a name="SEC8" href="#TOC1">REVISION</a><br>
222  <P>  <P>
223  Last updated: 06 June 2006  Last updated: 17 November 2010
224    <br>
225    Copyright &copy; 1997-2010 University of Cambridge.
226  <br>  <br>
 Copyright &copy; 1997-2006 University of Cambridge.  
227  <p>  <p>
228  Return to the <a href="index.html">PCRE index page</a>.  Return to the <a href="index.html">PCRE index page</a>.
229  </p>  </p>

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