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PERLFAQ6(1)	       Perl Programmers Reference Guide 	   PERLFAQ6(1)

       perlfaq6 - Regular Expressions ($Revision: 1.38 $, $Date: 2005/12/31
       00:54:37 $)

       This section is surprisingly small because the rest of the FAQ is lit
       tered with answers involving regular expressions.  For example, decod
       ing a URL and checking whether something is a number are handled with
       regular expressions, but those answers are found elsewhere in this doc
       ument (in perlfaq9: "How do I decode or create those %-encodings on the
       web" and perlfaq4: "How do I determine whether a scalar is a num
       ber/whole/integer/float", to be precise).

       How can I hope to use regular expressions without creating illegible
       and unmaintainable code?

       Three techniques can make regular expressions maintainable and under

       Comments Outside the Regex
	   Describe what youre doing and how youre doing it, using normal
	   Perl comments.

	       # turn the line into the first word, a colon, and the
	       # number of characters on the rest of the line
	       s/^(\w+)(.*)/ lc($1) . ":" . length($2) /meg;

       Comments Inside the Regex
	   The "/x" modifier causes whitespace to be ignored in a regex pat
	   tern (except in a character class), and also allows you to use nor
	   mal comments there, too.  As you can imagine, whitespace and com
	   ments help a lot.

	   "/x" lets you turn this:


	   into this:

	       s{ <		       # opening angle bracket
		   (?:		       # Non-backreffing grouping paren
			[^>"] *       # 0 or more things that are neither > nor  nor "
			   |	       #    or else
			".*?"	       # a section between double quotes (stingy match)
			   |	       #    or else
			.*?	     # a section between single quotes (stingy match)
		   ) +		       #   all occurring one or more times
		  >		       # closing angle bracket
	       }{}gsx;		       # replace with nothing, i.e. delete

	   Its still not quite so clear as prose, but it is very useful for
	   describing the meaning of each part of the pattern.

       Different Delimiters
	   While we normally think of patterns as being delimited with "/"
	   characters, they can be delimited by almost any character.  perlre
	   describes this.  For example, the "s///" above uses braces as
	   delimiters.	Selecting another delimiter can avoid quoting the
	   delimiter within the pattern:

	       s/\/usr\/local/\/usr\/share/g;	   # bad delimiter choice
	       s#/usr/local#/usr/share#g;	   # better

       Im having trouble matching over more than one line.  Whats wrong?

       Either you dont have more than one line in the string youre looking
       at (probably), or else you arent using the correct modifier(s) on your
       pattern (possibly).

       There are many ways to get multiline data into a string.  If you want
       it to happen automatically while reading input, youll want to set $/
       (probably to  for paragraphs or "undef" for the whole file) to allow
       you to read more than one line at a time.

       Read perlre to help you decide which of "/s" and "/m" (or both) you
       might want to use: "/s" allows dot to include newline, and "/m" allows
       caret and dollar to match next to a newline, not just at the end of the
       string.	You do need to make sure that youve actually got a multiline
       string in there.

       For example, this program detects duplicate words, even when they span
       line breaks (but not paragraph ones).  For this example, we dont need
       "/s" because we arent using dot in a regular expression that we want
       to cross line boundaries.  Neither do we need "/m" because we arent
       wanting caret or dollar to match at any point inside the record next to
       newlines.  But its imperative that $/ be set to something other than
       the default, or else we wont actually ever have a multiline record
       read in.

	   $/ = ;	     # read in more whole paragraph, not just one line
	   while ( <> ) {
	       while ( /\b([\w-]+)(\s+\1)+\b/gi ) {   # word starts alpha
		   print "Duplicate $1 at paragraph $.\n";

       Heres code that finds sentences that begin with "From " (which would
       be mangled by many mailers):

	   $/ = ;	     # read in more whole paragraph, not just one line
	   while ( <> ) {
	       while ( /^From /gm ) { # /m makes ^ match next to \n
		   print "leading from in paragraph $.\n";

       Heres code that finds everything between START and END in a paragraph:

	   undef $/;	       # read in whole file, not just one line or paragraph
	   while ( <> ) {
	       while ( /START(.*?)END/sgm ) { # /s makes . cross line boundaries
		   print "$1\n";

       How can I pull out lines between two patterns that are themselves on
       different lines?

       You can use Perls somewhat exotic ".." operator (documented in per

	   perl -ne print if /START/ .. /END/ file1 file2 ...

       If you wanted text and not lines, you would use

	   perl -0777 -ne print "$1\n" while /START(.*?)END/gs file1 file2 ...

       But if you want nested occurrences of "START" through "END", youll run
       up against the problem described in the question in this section on
       matching balanced text.

       Heres another example of using "..":

	   while (<>) {
	       $in_header =   1  .. /^$/;
	       $in_body   = /^$/ .. eof();
	       # now choose between them
	   } continue {
	       reset if eof();	       # fix $.

       I put a regular expression into $/ but it didnt work. Whats wrong?

       Up to Perl 5.8.0, $/ has to be a string.  This may change in 5.10, but
       dont get your hopes up. Until then, you can use these examples if you
       really need to do this.

       If you have File::Stream, this is easy.

				use File::Stream;
		    my $stream = File::Stream->new(
			 separator => qr/\s*,\s*/,

				print "$_\n" while <$stream>;

       If you dont have File::Stream, you have to do a little more work.

       You can use the four argument form of sysread to continually add to a
       buffer.	After you add to the buffer, you check if you have a complete
       line (using your regular expression).

	      local $_ = "";
	      while( sysread FH, $_, 8192, length ) {
		 while( s/^((?s).*?)your_pattern/ ) {
		    my $record = $1;
		    # do stuff here.

	You can do the same thing with foreach and a match using the
	c flag and the \G anchor, if you do not mind your entire file
	being in memory at the end.

	      local $_ = "";
	      while( sysread FH, $_, 8192, length ) {
		 foreach my $record ( m/\G((?s).*?)your_pattern/gc ) {
		    # do stuff here.
		 substr( $_, 0, pos ) = "" if pos;

       How do I substitute case insensitively on the LHS while preserving case
       on the RHS?

       Heres a lovely Perlish solution by Larry Rosler.  It exploits proper
       ties of bitwise xor on ASCII strings.

	   $_= "this is a TEsT case";

	   $old = test;
	   $new = success;

	    { uc $new | (uc $1 ^ $1) .
	       (uc(substr $1, -1) ^ substr $1, -1) x
		   (length($new) - length $1)


       And here it is as a subroutine, modeled after the above:

	   sub preserve_case($$) {
	       my ($old, $new) = @_;
	       my $mask = uc $old ^ $old;

	       uc $new | $mask .
		   substr($mask, -1) x (length($new) - length($old))

	   $a = "this is a TEsT case";
	   $a =~ s/(test)/preserve_case($1, "success")/egi;
	   print "$a\n";

       This prints:

	   this is a SUcCESS case

       As an alternative, to keep the case of the replacement word if it is
       longer than the original, you can use this code, by Jeff Pinyan:

	 sub preserve_case {
	   my ($from, $to) = @_;
	   my ($lf, $lt) = map length, @_;

	   if ($lt < $lf) { $from = substr $from, 0, $lt }
	   else { $from .= substr $to, $lf }

	   return uc $to | ($from ^ uc $from);

       This changes the sentence to "this is a SUcCess case."

       Just to show that C programmers can write C in any programming lan
       guage, if you prefer a more C-like solution, the following script makes
       the substitution have the same case, letter by letter, as the original.
       (It also happens to run about 240% slower than the Perlish solution
       runs.)  If the substitution has more characters than the string being
       substituted, the case of the last character is used for the rest of the

	   # Original by Nathan Torkington, massaged by Jeffrey Friedl
	   sub preserve_case($$)
	       my ($old, $new) = @_;
	       my ($state) = 0; # 0 = no change; 1 = lc; 2 = uc
	       my ($i, $oldlen, $newlen, $c) = (0, length($old), length($new));
	       my ($len) = $oldlen < $newlen ? $oldlen : $newlen;

	       for ($i = 0; $i < $len; $i++) {
		   if ($c = substr($old, $i, 1), $c =~ /[\W\d_]/) {
		       $state = 0;
		   } elsif (lc $c eq $c) {
		       substr($new, $i, 1) = lc(substr($new, $i, 1));
		       $state = 1;
		   } else {
		       substr($new, $i, 1) = uc(substr($new, $i, 1));
		       $state = 2;
	       # finish up with any remaining new (for when new is longer than old)
	       if ($newlen > $oldlen) {
		   if ($state == 1) {
		       substr($new, $oldlen) = lc(substr($new, $oldlen));
		   } elsif ($state == 2) {
		       substr($new, $oldlen) = uc(substr($new, $oldlen));
	       return $new;

       How can I make "\w" match national character sets?

       Put "use locale;" in your script.  The \w character class is taken from
       the current locale.

       See perllocale for details.

       How can I match a locale-smart version of "/[a-zA-Z]/"?

       You can use the POSIX character class syntax "/[[:alpha:]]/" documented
       in perlre.

       No matter which locale you are in, the alphabetic characters are the
       characters in \w without the digits and the underscore.	As a regex,
       that looks like "/[^\W\d_]/".  Its complement, the non-alphabetics, is
       then everything in \W along with the digits and the underscore, or

       How can I quote a variable to use in a regex?

       The Perl parser will expand $variable and @variable references in regu
       lar expressions unless the delimiter is a single quote.	Remember, too,
       that the right-hand side of a "s///" substitution is considered a dou
       ble-quoted string (see perlop for more details).  Remember also that
       any regex special characters will be acted on unless you precede the
       substitution with \Q.  Heres an example:

	   $string = "Placido P. Octopus";
	   $regex  = "P.";

	   $string =~ s/$regex/Polyp/;
	   # $string is now "Polypacido P. Octopus"

       Because "." is special in regular expressions, and can match any single
       character, the regex "P." here has matched the  in the original

       To escape the special meaning of ".", we use "\Q":

	   $string = "Placido P. Octopus";
	   $regex  = "P.";

	   $string =~ s/\Q$regex/Polyp/;
	   # $string is now "Placido Polyp Octopus"

       The use of "\Q" causes the <.> in the regex to be treated as a regular
       character, so that "P." matches a "P" followed by a dot.

       What is "/o" really for?

       Using a variable in a regular expression match forces a re-evaluation
       (and perhaps recompilation) each time the regular expression is
       encountered.  The "/o" modifier locks in the regex the first time its
       used.  This always happens in a constant regular expression, and in
       fact, the pattern was compiled into the internal format at the same
       time your entire program was.

       Use of "/o" is irrelevant unless variable interpolation is used in the
       pattern, and if so, the regex engine will neither know nor care whether
       the variables change after the pattern is evaluated the very first

       "/o" is often used to gain an extra measure of efficiency by not per
       forming subsequent evaluations when you know it wont matter (because
       you know the variables wont change), or more rarely, when you dont
       want the regex to notice if they do.

       For example, heres a "paragrep" program:

	   $/ = ;  # paragraph mode
	   $pat = shift;
	   while (<>) {
	       print if /$pat/o;

       How do I use a regular expression to strip C style comments from a

       While this actually can be done, its much harder than youd think.
       For example, this one-liner

	   perl -0777 -pe s{/\*.*?\*/}{}gs foo.c

       will work in many but not all cases.  You see, its too simple-minded
       for certain kinds of C programs, in particular, those with what appear
       to be comments in quoted strings.  For that, youd need something like
       this, created by Jeffrey Friedl and later modified by Fred Curtis.

	   $/ = undef;
	   $_ = <>;
	   s#/\*[^*]*\*+([^/*][^*]*\*+)*/|("(\\.|[^"\\])*"|(\\.|[^\\])*|.[^/"\\]*)#defined $2 ? $2 : ""#gse;

       This could, of course, be more legibly written with the "/x" modifier,
       adding whitespace and comments.	Here it is expanded, courtesy of Fred

	      /\*	  ##  Start of /* ... */ comment
	      [^*]*\*+	  ##  Non-* followed by 1-or-more *s
	      )*	  ##  0-or-more things which dont start with /
			  ##	but do end with *
	      / 	  ##  End of /* ... */ comment

	    |	      ##     OR  various things which arent comments:

		"	    ##	Start of " ... " string
		  \\.		##  Escaped char
		|		##    OR
		  [^"\\]	##  Non "\
		"	    ##	End of " ... " string

	      | 	##     OR

			   ##  Start of  ...  string
		  \\.		##  Escaped char
		|		##    OR
		  [^\\]        ##  Non \
			   ##  End of  ...  string

	      | 	##     OR

		.	    ##	Anything other char
		[^/"\\]*   ##  Chars which doesnt start a comment, string or escape
	    }{defined $2 ? $2 : ""}gxse;

       A slight modification also removes C++ comments:

	   s#/\*[^*]*\*+([^/*][^*]*\*+)*/|//[^\n]*|("(\\.|[^"\\])*"|(\\.|[^\\])*|.[^/"\\]*)#defined $2 ? $2 : ""#gse;

       Can I use Perl regular expressions to match balanced text?

       Historically, Perl regular expressions were not capable of matching
       balanced text.  As of more recent versions of perl including 5.6.1
       experimental features have been added that make it possible to do this.
       Look at the documentation for the (??{ }) construct in recent perlre
       manual pages to see an example of matching balanced parentheses.  Be
       sure to take special notice of the  warnings present in the manual
       before making use of this feature.

       CPAN contains many modules that can be useful for matching text depend
       ing on the context.  Damian Conway provides some useful patterns in
       Regexp::Common.	The module Text::Balanced provides a general solution
       to this problem.

       One of the common applications of balanced text matching is working
       with XML and HTML.  There are many modules available that support these
       needs.  Two examples are HTML::Parser and XML::Parser. There are many

       An elaborate subroutine (for 7-bit ASCII only) to pull out balanced and
       possibly nested single chars, like "" and "", "{" and "}", or "(" and
       ")" can be found in
       http://www.cpan.org/authors/id/TOMC/scripts/pull_quotes.gz .

       The C::Scan module from CPAN also contains such subs for internal use,
       but they are undocumented.

       What does it mean that regexes are greedy?  How can I get around it?

       Most people mean that greedy regexes match as much as they can.	Tech
       nically speaking, its actually the quantifiers ("?", "*", "+", "{}")
       that are greedy rather than the whole pattern; Perl prefers local greed
       and immediate gratification to overall greed.  To get non-greedy ver
       sions of the same quantifiers, use ("??", "*?", "+?", "{}?").

       An example:

	       $s1 = $s2 = "I am very very cold";
	       $s1 =~ s/ve.*y //;      # I am cold
	       $s2 =~ s/ve.*?y //;     # I am very cold

       Notice how the second substitution stopped matching as soon as it
       encountered "y ".  The "*?" quantifier effectively tells the regular
       expression engine to find a match as quickly as possible and pass con
       trol on to whatever is next in line, like you would if you were playing
       hot potato.

       How do I process each word on each line?

       Use the split function:

	   while (<>) {
	       foreach $word ( split ) {
		   # do something with $word here

       Note that this isnt really a word in the English sense; its just
       chunks of consecutive non-whitespace characters.

       To work with only alphanumeric sequences (including underscores), you
       might consider

	   while (<>) {
	       foreach $word (m/(\w+)/g) {
		   # do something with $word here

       How can I print out a word-frequency or line-frequency summary?

       To do this, you have to parse out each word in the input stream.  Well
       pretend that by word you mean chunk of alphabetics, hyphens, or apos
       trophes, rather than the non-whitespace chunk idea of a word given in
       the previous question:

	   while (<>) {
	       while ( /(\b[^\W_\d][\w-]+\b)/g ) {   # misses "sheep"
	   while ( ($word, $count) = each %seen ) {
	       print "$count $word\n";

       If you wanted to do the same thing for lines, you wouldnt need a regu
       lar expression:

	   while (<>) {
	   while ( ($line, $count) = each %seen ) {
	       print "$count $line";

       If you want these output in a sorted order, see perlfaq4: "How do I
       sort a hash (optionally by value instead of key)?".

       How can I do approximate matching?

       See the module String::Approx available from CPAN.

       How do I efficiently match many regular expressions at once?

       ( contributed by brian d foy )

       Avoid asking Perl to compile a regular expression every time you want
       to match it.  In this example, perl must recompile the regular expres
       sion for every iteration of the foreach() loop since it has no way to
       know what $pattern will be.

	   @patterns = qw( foo bar baz );

	   LINE: while( <> )
		       foreach $pattern ( @patterns )
		       print if /\b$pattern\b/i;
		       next LINE;

       The qr// operator showed up in perl 5.005.  It compiles a regular
       expression, but doesnt apply it.  When you use the pre-compiled ver
       sion of the regex, perl does less work. In this example, I inserted a
       map() to turn each pattern into its pre-compiled form.  The rest of the
       script is the same, but faster.

	   @patterns = map { qr/\b$_\b/i } qw( foo bar baz );

	   LINE: while( <> )
		       foreach $pattern ( @patterns )
		       print if /\b$pattern\b/i;
		       next LINE;

       In some cases, you may be able to make several patterns into a single
       regular expression.  Beware of situations that require backtracking

	       $regex = join |, qw( foo bar baz );

	   LINE: while( <> )
		       print if /\b(?:$regex)\b/i;

       For more details on regular expression efficiency, see Mastering Regu
       lar Expressions by Jeffrey Freidl.  He explains how regular expressions
       engine work and why some patterns are surprisingly inefficient.	Once
       you understand how perl applies regular expressions, you can tune them
       for individual situations.

       Why dont word-boundary searches with "\b" work for me?

       (contributed by brian d foy)

       Ensure that you know what \b really does: its the boundary between a
       word character, \w, and something that isnt a word character. That
       thing that isnt a word character might be \W, but it can also be the
       start or end of the string.

       Its not (not!) the boundary between whitespace and non-whitespace, and
       its not the stuff between words we use to create sentences.

       In regex speak, a word boundary (\b) is a "zero width assertion", mean
       ing that it doesnt represent a character in the string, but a condi
       tion at a certain position.

       For the regular expression, /\bPerl\b/, there has to be a word boundary
       before the "P" and after the "l".  As long as something other than a
       word character precedes the "P" and succeeds the "l", the pattern will
       match. These strings match /\bPerl\b/.

	       "Perl"	 # no word char before P or after l
	       "Perl "	 # same as previous (space is not a word char)
	       "Perl"  # the  char is not a word char
	       "Perls"	# no word char before P, non-word char after "l"

       These strings do not match /\bPerl\b/.

	       "Perl_"	 # _ is a word char!
	       "Perler"  # no word char before P, but one after l

       You dont have to use \b to match words though.  You can look for non-
       word characters surrounded by word characters.  These strings match the
       pattern /\b\b/.

	       "dont"	# the  char is surrounded by "n" and "t"
	       "qepa"  # the  char is surrounded by "p" and "a"

       These strings do not match /\b\b/.

	       "foo"	# there is no word char after non-word

       You can also use the complement of \b, \B, to specify that there should
       not be a word boundary.

       In the pattern /\Bam\B/, there must be a word character before the "a"
       and after the "m". These patterns match /\Bam\B/:

	       "llama"	 # "am" surrounded by word chars
	       "Samuel"  # same

       These strings do not match /\Bam\B/

	       "Sam"	  # no word boundary before "a", but one after "m"
	       "I am Sam" # "am" surrounded by non-word chars

       Why does using $&, $, or $ slow my program down?

       (contributed by Anno Siegel)

       Once Perl sees that you need one of these variables anywhere in the
       program, it provides them on each and every pattern match. That means
       that on every pattern match the entire string will be copied, part of
       it to $, part to $&, and part to $. Thus the penalty is most severe
       with long strings and patterns that match often. Avoid $&, $, and $
       if you can, but if you cant, once youve used them at all, use them at
       will because youve already paid the price. Remember that some algo
       rithms really appreciate them. As of the 5.005 release, the $& variable
       is no longer "expensive" the way the other two are.

       Since Perl 5.6.1 the special variables @- and @+ can functionally
       replace $, $& and $.  These arrays contain pointers to the beginning
       and end of each match (see perlvar for the full story), so they give
       you essentially the same information, but without the risk of excessive
       string copying.

       What good is "\G" in a regular expression?

       You use the "\G" anchor to start the next match on the same string
       where the last match left off.  The regular expression engine cannot
       skip over any characters to find the next match with this anchor, so
       "\G" is similar to the beginning of string anchor, "^".	The "\G"
       anchor is typically used with the "g" flag.  It uses the value of pos()
       as the position to start the next match.  As the match operator makes
       successive matches, it updates pos() with the position of the next
       character past the last match (or the first character of the next
       match, depending on how you like to look at it). Each string has its
       own pos() value.

       Suppose you want to match all of consective pairs of digits in a string
       like "1122a44" and stop matching when you encounter non-digits.	You
       want to match 11 and 22 but the letter  shows up between 22 and 44
       and you want to stop at "a". Simply matching pairs of digits skips over
       the "a" and still matches 44.

	       $_ = "1122a44";
	       my @pairs = m/(\d\d)/g;	 # qw( 11 22 44 )

       If you use the \G anchor, you force the match after 22 to start with
       the "a".  The regular expression cannot match there since it does not
       find a digit, so the next match fails and the match operator returns
       the pairs it already found.

	       $_ = "1122a44";
	       my @pairs = m/\G(\d\d)/g; # qw( 11 22 )

       You can also use the "\G" anchor in scalar context. You still need the
       "g" flag.

	       $_ = "1122a44";
	       while( m/\G(\d\d)/g )
		       print "Found $1\n";

       After the match fails at the letter "a", perl resets pos() and the next
       match on the same string starts at the beginning.

	       $_ = "1122a44";
	       while( m/\G(\d\d)/g )
		       print "Found $1\n";

	       print "Found $1 after while" if m/(\d\d)/g; # finds "11"

       You can disable pos() resets on fail with the "c" flag.	Subsequent
       matches start where the last successful match ended (the value of
       pos()) even if a match on the same string as failed in the meantime. In
       this case, the match after the while() loop starts at the "a" (where
       the last match stopped), and since it does not use any anchor it can
       skip over the "a" to find "44".

	       $_ = "1122a44";
	       while( m/\G(\d\d)/gc )
		       print "Found $1\n";

	       print "Found $1 after while" if m/(\d\d)/g; # finds "44"

       Typically you use the "\G" anchor with the "c" flag when you want to
       try a different match if one fails, such as in a tokenizer. Jeffrey
       Friedl offers this example which works in 5.004 or later.

	   while (<>) {
	     PARSER: {
		  m/ \G( \d+\b	  )/gcx   && do { print "number: $1\n";  redo; };
		  m/ \G( \w+	  )/gcx   && do { print "word:	 $1\n";  redo; };
		  m/ \G( \s+	  )/gcx   && do { print "space:  $1\n";  redo; };
		  m/ \G( [^\w\d]+ )/gcx   && do { print "other:  $1\n";  redo; };

       For each line, the PARSER loop first tries to match a series of digits
       followed by a word boundary.  This match has to start at the place the
       last match left off (or the beginning of the string on the first
       match). Since "m/ \G( \d+\b )/gcx" uses the "c" flag, if the string
       does not match that regular expression, perl does not reset pos() and
       the next match starts at the same position to try a different pattern.

       Are Perl regexes DFAs or NFAs?  Are they POSIX compliant?

       While its true that Perls regular expressions resemble the DFAs
       (deterministic finite automata) of the egrep(1) program, they are in
       fact implemented as NFAs (non-deterministic finite automata) to allow
       backtracking and backreferencing.  And they arent POSIX-style either,
       because those guarantee worst-case behavior for all cases.  (It seems
       that some people prefer guarantees of consistency, even when whats
       guaranteed is slowness.)  See the book "Mastering Regular Expressions"
       (from OReilly) by Jeffrey Friedl for all the details you could ever
       hope to know on these matters (a full citation appears in perlfaq2).

       Whats wrong with using grep in a void context?

       The problem is that grep builds a return list, regardless of the con
       text.  This means youre making Perl go to the trouble of building a
       list that you then just throw away. If the list is large, you waste
       both time and space.  If your intent is to iterate over the list, then
       use a for loop for this purpose.

       In perls older than 5.8.1, map suffers from this problem as well.  But
       since 5.8.1, this has been fixed, and map is context aware - in void
       context, no lists are constructed.

       How can I match strings with multibyte characters?

       Starting from Perl 5.6 Perl has had some level of multibyte character
       support.  Perl 5.8 or later is recommended.  Supported multibyte char
       acter repertoires include Unicode, and legacy encodings through the
       Encode module.  See perluniintro, perlunicode, and Encode.

       If you are stuck with older Perls, you can do Unicode with the "Uni
       code::String" module, and character conversions using the "Uni
       code::Map8" and "Unicode::Map" modules.	If you are using Japanese
       encodings, you might try using the jperl 5.005_03.

       Finally, the following set of approaches was offered by Jeffrey Friedl,
       whose article in issue #5 of The Perl Journal talks about this very

       Lets suppose you have some weird Martian encoding where pairs of ASCII
       uppercase letters encode single Martian letters (i.e. the two bytes
       "CV" make a single Martian letter, as do the two bytes "SG", "VS",
       "XX", etc.). Other bytes represent single characters, just like ASCII.

       So, the string of Martian "I am CVSGXX!" uses 12 bytes to encode the
       nine characters I,  , a, m,  , CV, SG, XX, !.

       Now, say you want to search for the single character "/GX/". Perl
       doesnt know about Martian, so itll find the two bytes "GX" in the "I
       am CVSGXX!"  string, even though that character isnt there: it just
       looks like it is because "SG" is next to "XX", but theres no real
       "GX".  This is a big problem.

       Here are a few ways, all painful, to deal with it:

	  $martian =~ s/([A-Z][A-Z])/ $1 /g; # Make sure adjacent "martian"
					     # bytes are no longer adjacent.
	  print "found GX!\n" if $martian =~ /GX/;

       Or like this:

	  @chars = $martian =~ m/([A-Z][A-Z]|[^A-Z])/g;
	  # above is conceptually similar to:	  @chars = $text =~ m/(.)/g;
	  foreach $char (@chars) {
	      print "found GX!\n", last if $char eq GX;

       Or like this:

	  while ($martian =~ m/\G([A-Z][A-Z]|.)/gs) {  # \G probably unneeded
	      print "found GX!\n", last if $1 eq GX;

       Heres another, slightly less painful, way to do it from Benjamin Gold
       berg, who uses a zero-width negative look-behind assertion.

	       print "found GX!\n" if  $martian =~ m/
	   if ($line =~ /$pattern/) { }

       Alternatively, since you have no guarantee that your user entered a
       valid regular expression, trap the exception this way:

	   if (eval { $line =~ /$pattern/ }) { }

       If all you really want is to search for a string, not a pattern, then
       you should either use the index() function, which is made for string
       searching, or, if you cant be disabused of using a pattern match on a
       non-pattern, then be sure to use "\Q"..."\E", documented in perlre.

	   $pattern = ;

	   open (FILE, $input) or die "Couldnt open input $input: $!; aborting";
	   while () {
	       print if /\Q$pattern\E/;
	   close FILE;

       Copyright (c) 1997-2006 Tom Christiansen, Nathan Torkington, and other
       authors as noted. All rights reserved.

       This documentation is free; you can redistribute it and/or modify it
       under the same terms as Perl itself.

       Irrespective of its distribution, all code examples in this file are
       hereby placed into the public domain.  You are permitted and encouraged
       to use this code in your own programs for fun or for profit as you see
       fit.  A simple comment in the code giving credit would be courteous but
       is not required.

perl v5.8.8			  2008-04-25			   PERLFAQ6(1)

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