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       PCRE - Perl-compatible regular expressions


       The  syntax  and semantics of the regular expressions supported by PCRE
       are described below. Regular expressions are also described in the Perl
       documentation  and  in  a  number  of books, some of which have copious
       examples.  Jeffrey Friedls "Mastering Regular Expressions",  published
       by  OReilly, covers regular expressions in great detail. This descrip
       tion of PCREs regular expressions is intended as reference material.

       The original operation of PCRE was on strings of  one-byte  characters.
       However,  there is now also support for UTF-8 character strings. To use
       this, you must build PCRE to  include  UTF-8  support,  and  then  call
       pcre_compile()  with  the  PCRE_UTF8  option.  How this affects pattern
       matching is mentioned in several places below. There is also a  summary
       of  UTF-8  features  in	the  section on UTF-8 support in the main pcre

       The remainder of this document discusses the  patterns  that  are  sup
       ported  by  PCRE when its main matching function, pcre_exec(), is used.
       From  release  6.0,   PCRE   offers   a	 second   matching   function,
       pcre_dfa_exec(),  which matches using a different algorithm that is not
       Perl-compatible. The advantages and disadvantages  of  the  alternative
       function, and how it differs from the normal function, are discussed in
       the pcrematching page.

       A regular expression is a pattern that is  matched  against  a  subject
       string  from  left  to right. Most characters stand for themselves in a
       pattern, and match the corresponding characters in the  subject.  As  a
       trivial example, the pattern

	 The quick brown fox

       matches a portion of a subject string that is identical to itself. When
       caseless matching is specified (the PCRE_CASELESS option), letters  are
       matched	independently  of case. In UTF-8 mode, PCRE always understands
       the concept of case for characters whose values are less than  128,  so
       caseless  matching  is always possible. For characters with higher val
       ues, the concept of case is supported if PCRE is compiled with  Unicode
       property  support,  but	not  otherwise.   If  you want to use caseless
       matching for characters 128 and above, you must	ensure	that  PCRE  is
       compiled with Unicode property support as well as with UTF-8 support.

       The  power  of  regular	expressions  comes from the ability to include
       alternatives and repetitions in the pattern. These are encoded  in  the
       pattern by the use of metacharacters, which do not stand for themselves
       but instead are interpreted in some special way.

       There are two different sets of metacharacters: those that  are	recog
       nized  anywhere in the pattern except within square brackets, and those
       that are recognized in square brackets. Outside	square	brackets,  the
       metacharacters are as follows:

	 \	general escape character with several uses
	 ^	assert start of string (or line, in multiline mode)
	 $	assert end of string (or line, in multiline mode)
	 .	match any character except newline (by default)
	 [	start character class definition
	 |	start of alternative branch
	 (	start subpattern
	 )	end subpattern
	 ?	extends the meaning of (
		also 0 or 1 quantifier
		also quantifier minimizer
	 *	0 or more quantifier
	 +	1 or more quantifier
		also "possessive quantifier"
	 {	start min/max quantifier

       Part  of  a  pattern  that is in square brackets is called a "character
       class". In a character class the only metacharacters are:

	 \	general escape character
	 ^	negate the class, but only if the first character
	 -	indicates character range
	 [	POSIX character class (only if followed by POSIX
	 ]	terminates the character class

       The following sections describe the use of each of the  metacharacters.


       The backslash character has several uses. Firstly, if it is followed by
       a non-alphanumeric character, it takes away any	special  meaning  that
       character  may  have.  This  use  of  backslash	as an escape character
       applies both inside and outside character classes.

       For example, if you want to match a * character, you write  \*  in  the
       pattern.   This	escaping  action  applies whether or not the following
       character would otherwise be interpreted as a metacharacter, so	it  is
       always  safe  to  precede  a non-alphanumeric with backslash to specify
       that it stands for itself. In particular, if you want to match a  back
       slash, you write \\.

       If  a  pattern is compiled with the PCRE_EXTENDED option, whitespace in
       the pattern (other than in a character class) and characters between  a
       # outside a character class and the next newline are ignored. An escap
       ing backslash can be used to include a whitespace  or  #  character  as
       part of the pattern.

       If  you	want  to remove the special meaning from a sequence of charac
       ters, you can do so by putting them between \Q and \E. This is  differ
       ent  from  Perl	in  that  $  and  @ are handled as literals in \Q...\E
       sequences in PCRE, whereas in Perl, $ and @ cause  variable  interpola
       tion. 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

   Non-printing characters

       A second use of backslash provides a way of encoding non-printing char
       acters  in patterns in a visible manner. There is no restriction on the
       appearance of non-printing characters, apart from the binary zero  that
       terminates  a  pattern,	but  when  a pattern is being prepared by text
       editing, it is usually easier  to  use  one  of	the  following	escape
       sequences than the binary character it represents:

	 \a	   alarm, that is, the BEL character (hex 07)
	 \cx	   "control-x", where x is any character
	 \e	   escape (hex 1B)
	 \f	   formfeed (hex 0C)
	 \n	   newline (hex 0A)
	 \r	   carriage return (hex 0D)
	 \t	   tab (hex 09)
	 \ddd	   character with octal code ddd, or backreference
	 \xhh	   character with hex code hh
	 \x{hhh..} character with hex code hhh..

       The  precise  effect of \cx is as follows: if x is a lower case letter,
       it is converted to upper case. Then bit 6 of the character (hex 40)  is
       inverted.   Thus  \cz becomes hex 1A, but \c{ becomes hex 3B, while \c;
       becomes hex 7B.

       After \x, from zero to two hexadecimal digits are read (letters can  be
       in  upper  or  lower case). Any number of hexadecimal digits may appear
       between \x{ and }, but the value of the character  code	must  be  less
       than 256 in non-UTF-8 mode, and less than 2**31 in UTF-8 mode (that is,
       the maximum hexadecimal value is 7FFFFFFF). If  characters  other  than
       hexadecimal  digits  appear between \x{ and }, or if there is no termi
       nating }, this form of escape is not recognized.  Instead, the  initial
       \x will be interpreted as a basic hexadecimal escape, with no following
       digits, giving a character whose value is zero.

       Characters whose value is less than 256 can be defined by either of the
       two  syntaxes  for  \x. There is no difference in the way they are han
       dled. For example, \xdc is exactly the same as \x{dc}.

       After \0 up to two further octal digits are read. If  there  are  fewer
       than  two  digits,  just  those	that  are  present  are used. Thus the
       sequence \0\x\07 specifies two binary zeros followed by a BEL character
       (code  value 7). Make sure you supply two digits after the initial zero
       if the pattern character that follows is itself an octal digit.

       The handling of a backslash followed by a digit other than 0 is compli
       cated.  Outside a character class, PCRE reads it and any following dig
       its as a decimal number. If the number is less than  10,  or  if  there
       have been at least that many previous capturing left parentheses in the
       expression, the entire  sequence  is  taken  as	a  back  reference.  A
       description  of how this works is given later, following the discussion
       of parenthesized subpatterns.

       Inside a character class, or if the decimal number is  greater  than  9
       and  there have not been that many capturing subpatterns, PCRE re-reads
       up to three octal digits following the backslash, ane uses them to gen
       erate  a data character. Any subsequent digits stand for themselves. In
       non-UTF-8 mode, the value of a character specified  in  octal  must  be
       less  than  \400.  In  UTF-8 mode, values up to \777 are permitted. For

	 \040	is another way of writing a space
	 \40	is the same, provided there are fewer than 40
		   previous capturing subpatterns
	 \7	is always a back reference
	 \11	might be a back reference, or another way of
		   writing a tab
	 \011	is always a tab
	 \0113	is a tab followed by the character "3"
	 \113	might be a back reference, otherwise the
		   character with octal code 113
	 \377	might be a back reference, otherwise
		   the byte consisting entirely of 1 bits
	 \81	is either a back reference, or a binary zero
		   followed by the two characters "8" and "1"

       Note that octal values of 100 or greater must not be  introduced  by  a
       leading zero, because no more than three octal digits are ever read.

       All the sequences that define a single character value can be used both
       inside and outside character classes. In addition, inside  a  character
       class,  the  sequence \b is interpreted as the backspace character (hex
       08), and the sequence \X is interpreted as the character "X". Outside a
       character class, these sequences have different meanings (see below).

   Generic character types

       The  third  use of backslash is for specifying generic character types.
       The following are always recognized:

	 \d	any decimal digit
	 \D	any character that is not a decimal digit
	 \s	any whitespace character
	 \S	any character that is not a whitespace character
	 \w	any "word" character
	 \W	any "non-word" character

       Each pair of escape sequences partitions the complete set of characters
       into  two disjoint sets. Any given character matches one, and only one,
       of each pair.

       These character type sequences can appear both inside and outside char
       acter  classes.	They each match one character of the appropriate type.
       If the current matching point is at the end of the subject string,  all
       of them fail, since there is no character to match.

       For  compatibility  with Perl, \s does not match the VT character (code
       11).  This makes it different from the the POSIX "space" class. The  \s
       characters  are	HT (9), LF (10), FF (12), CR (13), and space (32). (If
       "use locale;" is included in a Perl script, \s may match the VT charac
       ter. In PCRE, it never does.)

       A "word" character is an underscore or any character less than 256 that
       is a letter or digit. The definition of	letters  and  digits  is  con
       trolled	by PCREs low-valued character tables, and may vary if locale-
       specific matching is taking place (see "Locale support" in the  pcreapi
       page).  For  example,  in  the  "fr_FR" (French) locale, some character
       codes greater than 128 are used for accented  letters,  and  these  are
       matched by \w.

       In  UTF-8 mode, characters with values greater than 128 never match \d,
       \s, or \w, and always match \D, \S, and \W. This is true even when Uni
       code  character	property support is available. The use of locales with
       Unicode is discouraged.

   Unicode character properties

       When PCRE is built with Unicode character property support, three addi
       tional  escape  sequences  to  match character properties are available
       when UTF-8 mode is selected. They are:

	 \p{xx}   a character with the xx property
	 \P{xx}   a character without the xx property
	 \X	  an extended Unicode sequence

       The property names represented by xx above are limited to  the  Unicode
       script names, the general category properties, and "Any", which matches
       any character (including newline). Other properties such as "InMusical
       Symbols"  are  not  currently supported by PCRE. Note that \P{Any} does
       not match any characters, so always causes a match failure.

       Sets of Unicode characters are defined as belonging to certain scripts.
       A  character from one of these sets can be matched using a script name.
       For example:


       Those that are not part of an identified script are lumped together  as
       "Common". The current list of scripts is:

       Arabic,	Armenian,  Bengali,  Bopomofo, Braille, Buginese, Buhid, Cana
       dian_Aboriginal, Cherokee, Common, Coptic, Cypriot, Cyrillic,  Deseret,
       Devanagari,  Ethiopic,  Georgian,  Glagolitic, Gothic, Greek, Gujarati,
       Gurmukhi, Han, Hangul, Hanunoo, Hebrew, Hiragana,  Inherited,  Kannada,
       Katakana,  Kharoshthi,  Khmer,  Lao, Latin, Limbu, Linear_B, Malayalam,
       Mongolian, Myanmar, New_Tai_Lue, Ogham, Old_Italic, Old_Persian, Oriya,
       Osmanya,  Runic,  Shavian, Sinhala, Syloti_Nagri, Syriac, Tagalog, Tag
       banwa,  Tai_Le,	Tamil,	Telugu,  Thaana,  Thai,   Tibetan,   Tifinagh,
       Ugaritic, Yi.

       Each  character has exactly one general category property, specified by
       a two-letter abbreviation. For compatibility with Perl, negation can be
       specified  by  including a circumflex between the opening brace and the
       property name. For example, \p{^Lu} is the same as \P{Lu}.

       If only one letter is specified with \p or \P, it includes all the gen
       eral  category properties that start with that letter. In this case, in
       the absence of negation, the curly brackets in the escape sequence  are
       optional; these two examples have the same effect:


       The following general category property codes are supported:

	 C     Other
	 Cc    Control
	 Cf    Format
	 Cn    Unassigned
	 Co    Private use
	 Cs    Surrogate

	 L     Letter
	 Ll    Lower case letter
	 Lm    Modifier letter
	 Lo    Other letter
	 Lt    Title case letter
	 Lu    Upper case letter

	 M     Mark
	 Mc    Spacing mark
	 Me    Enclosing mark
	 Mn    Non-spacing mark

	 N     Number
	 Nd    Decimal number
	 Nl    Letter number
	 No    Other number

	 P     Punctuation
	 Pc    Connector punctuation
	 Pd    Dash punctuation
	 Pe    Close punctuation
	 Pf    Final punctuation
	 Pi    Initial punctuation
	 Po    Other punctuation
	 Ps    Open punctuation

	 S     Symbol
	 Sc    Currency symbol
	 Sk    Modifier symbol
	 Sm    Mathematical symbol
	 So    Other symbol

	 Z     Separator
	 Zl    Line separator
	 Zp    Paragraph separator
	 Zs    Space separator

       The  special property L& is also supported: it matches a character that
       has the Lu, Ll, or Lt property, in other words, a letter  that  is  not
       classified as a modifier or "other".

       The  long  synonyms  for  these	properties that Perl supports (such as
       \p{Letter}) are not supported by PCRE, nor is it  permitted  to	prefix
       any of these properties with "Is".

       No character that is in the Unicode table has the Cn (unassigned) prop
       erty.  Instead, this property is assumed for any code point that is not
       in the Unicode table.

       Specifying  caseless  matching  does not affect these escape sequences.
       For example, \p{Lu} always matches only upper case letters.

       The \X escape matches any number of Unicode  characters	that  form  an
       extended Unicode sequence. \X is equivalent to


       That  is,  it matches a character without the "mark" property, followed
       by zero or more characters with the "mark"  property,  and  treats  the
       sequence  as  an  atomic group (see below).  Characters with the "mark"
       property are typically accents that affect the preceding character.

       Matching characters by Unicode property is not fast, because  PCRE  has
       to  search  a  structure  that  contains data for over fifteen thousand
       characters. That is why the traditional escape sequences such as \d and
       \w do not use Unicode properties in PCRE.

   Simple assertions

       The fourth use of backslash is for certain simple assertions. An asser
       tion specifies a condition that has to be met at a particular point  in
       a  match, without consuming any characters from the subject string. The
       use of subpatterns for more complicated assertions is described	below.
       The backslashed assertions are:

	 \b	matches at a word boundary
	 \B	matches when not at a word boundary
	 \A	matches at start of subject
	 \Z	matches at end of subject or before newline at end
	 \z	matches at end of subject
	 \G	matches at first matching position in subject

       These  assertions may not appear in character classes (but note that \b
       has a different meaning, namely the backspace character, inside a char
       acter class).

       A  word	boundary is a position in the subject string where the current
       character and the previous character do not both match \w or  \W  (i.e.
       one  matches  \w  and the other matches \W), or the start or end of the
       string if the first or last character matches \w, respectively.

       The \A, \Z, and \z assertions differ from  the  traditional  circumflex
       and dollar (described in the next section) in that they only ever match
       at the very start and end of the subject string, whatever  options  are
       set.  Thus,  they are independent of multiline mode. These three asser
       tions are not affected by the PCRE_NOTBOL or PCRE_NOTEOL options, which
       affect  only the behaviour of the circumflex and dollar metacharacters.
       However, if the startoffset argument of pcre_exec() is non-zero,  indi
       cating that matching is to start at a point other than the beginning of
       the subject, \A can never match. The difference between \Z  and	\z  is
       that \Z matches before a newline at the end of the string as well as at
       the very end, whereas \z matches only at the end.

       The \G assertion is true only when the current matching position is  at
       the  start point of the match, as specified by the startoffset argument
       of pcre_exec(). It differs from \A when the  value  of  startoffset  is
       non-zero.  By calling pcre_exec() multiple times with appropriate argu
       ments, you can mimic Perls /g option, and it is in this kind of imple
       mentation where \G can be useful.

       Note,  however,	that  PCREs interpretation of \G, as the start of the
       current match, is subtly different from Perls, which defines it as the
       end  of	the  previous  match. In Perl, these can be different when the
       previously matched string was empty. Because PCRE does just  one  match
       at a time, it cannot reproduce this behaviour.

       If  all	the alternatives of a pattern begin with \G, the expression is
       anchored to the starting match position, and the "anchored" flag is set
       in the compiled regular expression.


       Outside a character class, in the default matching mode, the circumflex
       character is an assertion that is true only  if	the  current  matching
       point  is  at the start of the subject string. If the startoffset argu
       ment of pcre_exec() is non-zero, circumflex  can  never	match  if  the
       PCRE_MULTILINE  option  is  unset. Inside a character class, circumflex
       has an entirely different meaning (see below).

       Circumflex need not be the first character of the pattern if  a	number
       of  alternatives are involved, but it should be the first thing in each
       alternative in which it appears if the pattern is ever  to  match  that
       branch.	If all possible alternatives start with a circumflex, that is,
       if the pattern is constrained to match only at the start  of  the  sub
       ject,  it  is  said  to be an "anchored" pattern. (There are also other
       constructs that can cause a pattern to be anchored.)

       A dollar character is an assertion that is true	only  if  the  current
       matching  point	is  at	the  end of the subject string, or immediately
       before a newline at the end of the string (by default). Dollar need not
       be  the	last  character of the pattern if a number of alternatives are
       involved, but it should be the last item in  any  branch  in  which  it
       appears. Dollar has no special meaning in a character class.

       The  meaning  of  dollar  can be changed so that it matches only at the
       very end of the string, by setting the  PCRE_DOLLAR_ENDONLY  option  at
       compile time. This does not affect the \Z assertion.

       The meanings of the circumflex and dollar characters are changed if the
       PCRE_MULTILINE option is set. When  this  is  the  case,  a  circumflex
       matches	immediately after internal newlines as well as at the start of
       the subject string. It does not match after a  newline  that  ends  the
       string.	A dollar matches before any newlines in the string, as well as
       at the very end, when PCRE_MULTILINE is set. When newline is  specified
       as  the	two-character  sequence CRLF, isolated CR and LF characters do
       not indicate newlines.

       For example, the pattern /^abc$/ matches the subject string  "def\nabc"
       (where  \n  represents a newline) in multiline mode, but not otherwise.
       Consequently, patterns that are anchored in single  line  mode  because
       all  branches  start  with  ^ are not anchored in multiline mode, and a
       match for circumflex is	possible  when	the  startoffset  argument  of
       pcre_exec()  is	non-zero. The PCRE_DOLLAR_ENDONLY option is ignored if
       PCRE_MULTILINE is set.

       Note that the sequences \A, \Z, and \z can be used to match  the  start
       and  end of the subject in both modes, and if all branches of a pattern
       start with \A it is always anchored, whether or not  PCRE_MULTILINE  is


       Outside a character class, a dot in the pattern matches any one charac
       ter in the subject string except (by default) a character  that	signi
       fies  the  end  of  a line. In UTF-8 mode, the matched character may be
       more than one byte long. When a line ending  is	defined  as  a	single
       character  (CR  or LF), dot never matches that character; when the two-
       character sequence CRLF is used, dot does not match CR if it is immedi
       ately  followed by LF, but otherwise it matches all characters (includ
       ing isolated CRs and LFs).

       The behaviour of dot with regard to newlines can  be  changed.  If  the
       PCRE_DOTALL  option  is	set,  a dot matches any one character, without
       exception. If newline is defined as the two-character sequence CRLF, it
       takes two dots to match it.

       The  handling of dot is entirely independent of the handling of circum
       flex and dollar, the only relationship being  that  they  both  involve
       newlines. Dot has no special meaning in a character class.


       Outside a character class, the escape sequence \C matches any one byte,
       both in and out of UTF-8 mode. Unlike a dot, it always matches  CR  and
       LF.  The feature is provided in Perl in order to match individual bytes
       in UTF-8 mode.  Because it breaks up UTF-8 characters  into  individual
       bytes,  what remains in the string may be a malformed UTF-8 string. For
       this reason, the \C escape sequence is best avoided.

       PCRE does not allow \C to appear in  lookbehind	assertions  (described
       below),	because  in UTF-8 mode this would make it impossible to calcu
       late the length of the lookbehind.


       An opening square bracket introduces a character class, terminated by a
       closing square bracket. A closing square bracket on its own is not spe
       cial. If a closing square bracket is required as a member of the class,
       it  should  be  the first data character in the class (after an initial
       circumflex, if present) or escaped with a backslash.

       A character class matches a single character in the subject.  In  UTF-8
       mode,  the character may occupy more than one byte. A matched character
       must be in the set of characters defined by the class, unless the first
       character  in  the  class definition is a circumflex, in which case the
       subject character must not be in the set defined by  the  class.  If  a
       circumflex  is actually required as a member of the class, ensure it is
       not the first character, or escape it with a backslash.

       For example, the character class [aeiou] matches any lower case	vowel,
       while  [^aeiou]	matches  any character that is not a lower case vowel.
       Note that a circumflex is just a convenient notation for specifying the
       characters  that  are in the class by enumerating those that are not. A
       class that starts with a circumflex is not an assertion: it still  con
       sumes  a  character  from the subject string, and therefore it fails if
       the current pointer is at the end of the string.

       In UTF-8 mode, characters with values greater than 255 can be  included
       in  a  class as a literal string of bytes, or by using the \x{ escaping

       When caseless matching is set, any letters in a	class  represent  both
       their  upper  case  and lower case versions, so for example, a caseless
       [aeiou] matches "A" as well as "a", and a caseless  [^aeiou]  does  not
       match  "A", whereas a caseful version would. In UTF-8 mode, PCRE always
       understands the concept of case for characters whose  values  are  less
       than  128, so caseless matching is always possible. For characters with
       higher values, the concept of case is supported	if  PCRE  is  compiled
       with  Unicode  property support, but not otherwise.  If you want to use
       caseless matching for characters 128 and above, you  must  ensure  that
       PCRE  is  compiled  with Unicode property support as well as with UTF-8

       Characters that might indicate  line  breaks  (CR  and  LF)  are  never
       treated	in  any  special way when matching character classes, whatever
       line-ending sequence is in use, and whatever setting of the PCRE_DOTALL
       and PCRE_MULTILINE options is used. A class such as [^a] always matches
       one of these characters.

       The minus (hyphen) character can be used to specify a range of  charac
       ters  in  a  character  class.  For  example,  [d-m] matches any letter
       between d and m, inclusive. If a  minus	character  is  required  in  a
       class,  it  must  be  escaped  with a backslash or appear in a position
       where it cannot be interpreted as indicating a range, typically as  the
       first or last character in the class.

       It is not possible to have the literal character "]" as the end charac
       ter of a range. A pattern such as [W-]46] is interpreted as a class  of
       two  characters ("W" and "-") followed by a literal string "46]", so it
       would match "W46]" or "-46]". However, if the "]"  is  escaped  with  a
       backslash  it is interpreted as the end of range, so [W-\]46] is inter
       preted as a class containing a range followed by two other  characters.
       The  octal or hexadecimal representation of "]" can also be used to end
       a range.

       Ranges operate in the collating sequence of character values. They  can
       also   be  used	for  characters  specified  numerically,  for  example
       [\000-\037]. In UTF-8 mode, ranges can include characters whose	values
       are greater than 255, for example [\x{100}-\x{2ff}].

       If a range that includes letters is used when caseless matching is set,
       it matches the letters in either case. For example, [W-c] is equivalent
       to  [][\\^_wxyzabc],  matched  caselessly,  and	in non-UTF-8 mode, if
       character tables for the "fr_FR" locale are in use, [\xc8-\xcb] matches
       accented  E  characters in both cases. In UTF-8 mode, PCRE supports the
       concept of case for characters with values greater than 128  only  when
       it is compiled with Unicode property support.

       The  character types \d, \D, \p, \P, \s, \S, \w, and \W may also appear
       in a character class, and add the characters that  they	match  to  the
       class. For example, [\dABCDEF] matches any hexadecimal digit. A circum
       flex can conveniently be used with the upper case  character  types  to
       specify	a  more  restricted  set of characters than the matching lower
       case type. For example, the class [^\W_] matches any letter  or	digit,
       but not underscore.

       The  only  metacharacters  that are recognized in character classes are
       backslash, hyphen (only where it can be	interpreted  as  specifying  a
       range),	circumflex  (only  at the start), opening square bracket (only
       when it can be interpreted as introducing a POSIX class name - see  the
       next  section),	and  the  terminating closing square bracket. However,
       escaping other non-alphanumeric characters does no harm.


       Perl supports the POSIX notation for character classes. This uses names
       enclosed  by  [: and :] within the enclosing square brackets. PCRE also
       supports this notation. For example,


       matches "0", "1", any alphabetic character, or "%". The supported class
       names are

	 alnum	  letters and digits
	 alpha	  letters
	 ascii	  character codes 0 - 127
	 blank	  space or tab only
	 cntrl	  control characters
	 digit	  decimal digits (same as \d)
	 graph	  printing characters, excluding space
	 lower	  lower case letters
	 print	  printing characters, including space
	 punct	  printing characters, excluding letters and digits
	 space	  white space (not quite the same as \s)
	 upper	  upper case letters
	 word	  "word" characters (same as \w)
	 xdigit   hexadecimal digits

       The  "space" characters are HT (9), LF (10), VT (11), FF (12), CR (13),
       and space (32). Notice that this list includes the VT  character  (code
       11). This makes "space" different to \s, which does not include VT (for
       Perl compatibility).

       The name "word" is a Perl extension, and "blank"  is  a	GNU  extension
       from  Perl  5.8. Another Perl extension is negation, which is indicated
       by a ^ character after the colon. For example,


       matches "1", "2", or any non-digit. PCRE (and Perl) also recognize  the
       POSIX syntax [.ch.] and [=ch=] where "ch" is a "collating element", but
       these are not supported, and an error is given if they are encountered.

       In UTF-8 mode, characters with values greater than 128 do not match any
       of the POSIX character classes.


       Vertical bar characters are used to separate alternative patterns.  For
       example, the pattern


       matches	either "gilbert" or "sullivan". Any number of alternatives may
       appear, and an empty  alternative  is  permitted  (matching  the  empty
       string). The matching process tries each alternative in turn, from left
       to right, and the first one that succeeds is used. If the  alternatives
       are  within a subpattern (defined below), "succeeds" means matching the
       rest of the main pattern as well as the alternative in the  subpattern.


       The  settings  of  the  PCRE_CASELESS, PCRE_MULTILINE, PCRE_DOTALL, and
       PCRE_EXTENDED options can be changed  from  within  the	pattern  by  a
       sequence  of  Perl  option  letters  enclosed between "(?" and ")". The
       option letters are

	 s  for PCRE_DOTALL

       For example, (?im) sets caseless, multiline matching. It is also possi
       ble to unset these options by preceding the letter with a hyphen, and a
       combined setting and unsetting such as (?im-sx), which sets  PCRE_CASE
       LESS  and PCRE_MULTILINE while unsetting PCRE_DOTALL and PCRE_EXTENDED,
       is also permitted. If a	letter	appears  both  before  and  after  the
       hyphen, the option is unset.

       When  an option change occurs at top level (that is, not inside subpat
       tern parentheses), the change applies to the remainder of  the  pattern
       that follows.  If the change is placed right at the start of a pattern,
       PCRE extracts it into the global options (and it will therefore show up
       in data extracted by the pcre_fullinfo() function).

       An option change within a subpattern affects only that part of the cur
       rent pattern that follows it, so


       matches abc and aBc and no other strings (assuming PCRE_CASELESS is not
       used).	By  this means, options can be made to have different settings
       in different parts of the pattern. Any changes made in one  alternative
       do  carry  on  into subsequent branches within the same subpattern. For


       matches "ab", "aB", "c", and "C", even though  when  matching  "C"  the
       first  branch  is  abandoned before the option setting. This is because
       the effects of option settings happen at compile time. There  would  be
       some very weird behaviour otherwise.

       The  PCRE-specific options PCRE_DUPNAMES, PCRE_UNGREEDY, and PCRE_EXTRA
       can be changed in the same way as the Perl-compatible options by  using
       the characters J, U and X respectively.


       Subpatterns are delimited by parentheses (round brackets), which can be
       nested.	Turning part of a pattern into a subpattern does two things:

       1. It localizes a set of alternatives. For example, the pattern


       matches one of the words "cat", "cataract", or  "caterpillar".  Without
       the  parentheses,  it  would  match "cataract", "erpillar" or the empty

       2. It sets up the subpattern as	a  capturing  subpattern.  This  means
       that,  when  the  whole	pattern  matches,  that portion of the subject
       string that matched the subpattern is passed back to the caller via the
       ovector	argument  of pcre_exec(). Opening parentheses are counted from
       left to right (starting from 1) to obtain  numbers  for	the  capturing

       For  example,  if the string "the red king" is matched against the pat

	 the ((red|white) (king|queen))

       the captured substrings are "red king", "red", and "king", and are num
       bered 1, 2, and 3, respectively.

       The  fact  that	plain  parentheses  fulfil two functions is not always
       helpful.  There are often times when a grouping subpattern is  required
       without	a capturing requirement. If an opening parenthesis is followed
       by a question mark and a colon, the subpattern does not do any  captur
       ing,  and  is  not  counted when computing the number of any subsequent
       capturing subpatterns. For example, if the string "the white queen"  is
       matched against the pattern

	 the ((?:red|white) (king|queen))

       the captured substrings are "white queen" and "queen", and are numbered
       1 and 2. The maximum number of capturing subpatterns is 65535, and  the
       maximum	depth  of  nesting of all subpatterns, both capturing and non-
       capturing, is 200.

       As a convenient shorthand, if any option settings are required  at  the
       start  of  a  non-capturing  subpattern,  the option letters may appear
       between the "?" and the ":". Thus the two patterns


       match exactly the same set of strings. Because alternative branches are
       tried  from  left  to right, and options are not reset until the end of
       the subpattern is reached, an option setting in one branch does	affect
       subsequent  branches,  so  the above patterns match "SUNDAY" as well as


       Identifying capturing parentheses by number is simple, but  it  can  be
       very  hard  to keep track of the numbers in complicated regular expres
       sions. Furthermore, if an  expression  is  modified,  the  numbers  may
       change.	To help with this difficulty, PCRE supports the naming of sub
       patterns, something that Perl  does  not  provide.  The	Python	syntax
       (?P...)  is  used. References to capturing parentheses from other
       parts of the pattern, such as  backreferences,  recursion,  and	condi
       tions, can be made by name as well as by number.

       Names  consist  of  up  to  32 alphanumeric characters and underscores.
       Named capturing parentheses are still  allocated  numbers  as  well  as
       names. The PCRE API provides function calls for extracting the name-to-
       number translation table from a compiled pattern. There is also a  con
       venience function for extracting a captured substring by name.

       By  default, a name must be unique within a pattern, but it is possible
       to relax this constraint by setting the PCRE_DUPNAMES option at compile
       time.  This  can  be useful for patterns where only one instance of the
       named parentheses can match. Suppose you want to match the  name  of  a
       weekday,  either as a 3-letter abbreviation or as the full name, and in
       both cases you want to extract the abbreviation. This pattern (ignoring
       the line breaks) does the job:


       There  are  five capturing substrings, but only one is ever set after a
       match.  The convenience	function  for  extracting  the	data  by  name
       returns	the  substring	for  the first, and in this example, the only,
       subpattern of that name that matched.  This  saves  searching  to  find
       which  numbered	subpattern  it	was. If you make a reference to a non-
       unique named subpattern from elsewhere in the  pattern,	the  one  that
       corresponds  to	the  lowest number is used. For further details of the
       interfaces for handling named subpatterns, see the  pcreapi  documenta


       Repetition  is  specified  by  quantifiers, which can follow any of the
       following items:

	 a literal data character
	 the . metacharacter
	 the \C escape sequence
	 the \X escape sequence (in UTF-8 mode with Unicode properties)
	 an escape such as \d that matches a single character
	 a character class
	 a back reference (see next section)
	 a parenthesized subpattern (unless it is an assertion)

       The general repetition quantifier specifies a minimum and maximum  num
       ber  of	permitted matches, by giving the two numbers in curly brackets
       (braces), separated by a comma. The numbers must be  less  than	65536,
       and the first must be less than or equal to the second. For example:


       matches	"zz",  "zzz",  or  "zzzz". A closing brace on its own is not a
       special character. If the second number is omitted, but	the  comma  is
       present,  there	is  no upper limit; if the second number and the comma
       are both omitted, the quantifier specifies an exact number of  required
       matches. Thus


       matches at least 3 successive vowels, but may match many more, while


       matches	exactly  8  digits. An opening curly bracket that appears in a
       position where a quantifier is not allowed, or one that does not  match
       the  syntax of a quantifier, is taken as a literal character. For exam
       ple, {,6} is not a quantifier, but a literal string of four characters.

       In  UTF-8  mode,  quantifiers  apply to UTF-8 characters rather than to
       individual bytes. Thus, for example, \x{100}{2} matches two UTF-8 char
       acters, each of which is represented by a two-byte sequence. Similarly,
       when Unicode property support is available, \X{3} matches three Unicode
       extended  sequences,  each of which may be several bytes long (and they
       may be of different lengths).

       The quantifier {0} is permitted, causing the expression to behave as if
       the previous item and the quantifier were not present.

       For  convenience  (and  historical compatibility) the three most common
       quantifiers have single-character abbreviations:

	 *    is equivalent to {0,}
	 +    is equivalent to {1,}
	 ?    is equivalent to {0,1}

       It is possible to construct infinite loops by  following  a  subpattern
       that can match no characters with a quantifier that has no upper limit,
       for example:


       Earlier versions of Perl and PCRE used to give an error at compile time
       for  such  patterns. However, because there are cases where this can be
       useful, such patterns are now accepted, but if any  repetition  of  the
       subpattern  does in fact match no characters, the loop is forcibly bro

       By default, the quantifiers are "greedy", that is, they match  as  much
       as  possible  (up  to  the  maximum number of permitted times), without
       causing the rest of the pattern to fail. The classic example  of  where
       this gives problems is in trying to match comments in C programs. These
       appear between /* and */ and within the comment,  individual  *	and  /
       characters  may	appear. An attempt to match C comments by applying the


       to the string

	 /* first comment */  not comment  /* second comment */

       fails, because it matches the entire string owing to the greediness  of
       the .*  item.

       However,  if  a quantifier is followed by a question mark, it ceases to
       be greedy, and instead matches the minimum number of times possible, so
       the pattern


       does  the  right  thing with the C comments. The meaning of the various
       quantifiers is not otherwise changed,  just  the  preferred  number  of
       matches.   Do  not  confuse this use of question mark with its use as a
       quantifier in its own right. Because it has two uses, it can  sometimes
       appear doubled, as in


       which matches one digit by preference, but can match two if that is the
       only way the rest of the pattern matches.

       If the PCRE_UNGREEDY option is set (an option which is not available in
       Perl),  the  quantifiers are not greedy by default, but individual ones
       can be made greedy by following them with a  question  mark.  In  other
       words, it inverts the default behaviour.

       When  a	parenthesized  subpattern  is quantified with a minimum repeat
       count that is greater than 1 or with a limited maximum, more memory  is
       required  for  the  compiled  pattern, in proportion to the size of the
       minimum or maximum.

       If a pattern starts with .* or .{0,} and the PCRE_DOTALL option (equiv
       alent  to Perls /s) is set, thus allowing the . to match newlines, the
       pattern is implicitly anchored, because whatever follows will be  tried
       against	every character position in the subject string, so there is no
       point in retrying the overall match at any position  after  the	first.
       PCRE normally treats such a pattern as though it were preceded by \A.

       In  cases  where  it  is known that the subject string contains no new
       lines, it is worth setting PCRE_DOTALL in order to  obtain  this  opti
       mization, or alternatively using ^ to indicate anchoring explicitly.

       However,  there is one situation where the optimization cannot be used.
       When .*	is inside capturing parentheses that  are  the	subject  of  a
       backreference  elsewhere in the pattern, a match at the start may fail,
       and a later one succeed. Consider, for example:


       If the subject is "xyz123abc123" the match point is the fourth  charac
       ter. For this reason, such a pattern is not implicitly anchored.

       When a capturing subpattern is repeated, the value captured is the sub
       string that matched the final iteration. For example, after


       has matched "tweedledum tweedledee" the value of the captured substring
       is  "tweedledee".  However,  if there are nested capturing subpatterns,
       the corresponding captured values may have been set in previous	itera
       tions. For example, after


       matches "aba" the value of the second captured substring is "b".


       With both maximizing and minimizing repetition, failure of what follows
       normally causes the repeated item to be re-evaluated to see if  a  dif
       ferent number of repeats allows the rest of the pattern to match. Some
       times it is useful to prevent this, either to change the nature of  the
       match,  or  to  cause it fail earlier than it otherwise might, when the
       author of the pattern knows there is no point in carrying on.

       Consider, for example, the pattern \d+foo when applied to  the  subject


       After matching all 6 digits and then failing to match "foo", the normal
       action of the matcher is to try again with only 5 digits  matching  the
       \d+  item,  and	then  with  4,	and  so on, before ultimately failing.
       "Atomic grouping" (a term taken from Jeffrey  Friedls  book)  provides
       the  means for specifying that once a subpattern has matched, it is not
       to be re-evaluated in this way.

       If we use atomic grouping for the previous example, the	matcher  would
       give up immediately on failing to match "foo" the first time. The nota
       tion is a kind of special parenthesis, starting with  (?>  as  in  this


       This  kind  of  parenthesis "locks up" the  part of the pattern it con
       tains once it has matched, and a failure further into  the  pattern  is
       prevented  from	backtracking into it. Backtracking past it to previous
       items, however, works as normal.

       An alternative description is that a subpattern of  this  type  matches
       the  string  of	characters  that an identical standalone pattern would
       match, if anchored at the current point in the subject string.

       Atomic grouping subpatterns are not capturing subpatterns. Simple cases
       such as the above example can be thought of as a maximizing repeat that
       must swallow everything it can. So, while both \d+ and  \d+?  are  pre
       pared  to  adjust  the number of digits they match in order to make the
       rest of the pattern match, (?>\d+) can only match an entire sequence of

       Atomic  groups in general can of course contain arbitrarily complicated
       subpatterns, and can be nested. However, when  the  subpattern  for  an
       atomic group is just a single repeated item, as in the example above, a
       simpler notation, called a "possessive quantifier" can  be  used.  This
       consists  of  an  additional  + character following a quantifier. Using
       this notation, the previous example can be rewritten as


       Possessive  quantifiers	are  always  greedy;  the   setting   of   the
       PCRE_UNGREEDY option is ignored. They are a convenient notation for the
       simpler forms of atomic group. However, there is no difference  in  the
       meaning	or  processing	of  a possessive quantifier and the equivalent
       atomic group.

       The possessive quantifier syntax is an extension to  the  Perl  syntax.
       Jeffrey	Friedl originated the idea (and the name) in the first edition
       of his book.  Mike McCloskey liked it, so implemented it when he  built
       Suns Java package, and PCRE copied it from there.

       When  a	pattern  contains an unlimited repeat inside a subpattern that
       can itself be repeated an unlimited number of  times,  the  use	of  an
       atomic  group  is  the  only way to avoid some failing matches taking a
       very long time indeed. The pattern


       matches an unlimited number of substrings that either consist  of  non-
       digits,	or  digits  enclosed in <>, followed by either ! or ?. When it
       matches, it runs quickly. However, if it is applied to


       it takes a long time before reporting  failure.	This  is  because  the
       string  can be divided between the internal \D+ repeat and the external
       * repeat in a large number of ways, and all  have  to  be  tried.  (The
       example	uses  [!?]  rather than a single character at the end, because
       both PCRE and Perl have an optimization that allows  for  fast  failure
       when  a single character is used. They remember the last single charac
       ter that is required for a match, and fail early if it is  not  present
       in  the	string.)  If  the pattern is changed so that it uses an atomic
       group, like this:


       sequences of non-digits cannot be broken, and failure happens  quickly.


       Outside a character class, a backslash followed by a digit greater than
       0 (and possibly further digits) is a back reference to a capturing sub
       pattern	earlier  (that is, to its left) in the pattern, provided there
       have been that many previous capturing left parentheses.

       However, if the decimal number following the backslash is less than 10,
       it  is  always  taken  as a back reference, and causes an error only if
       there are not that many capturing left parentheses in the  entire  pat
       tern.  In  other words, the parentheses that are referenced need not be
       to the left of the reference for numbers less than 10. A "forward  back
       reference"  of  this  type can make sense when a repetition is involved
       and the subpattern to the right has participated in an  earlier	itera

       It is not possible to have a numerical "forward back reference" to sub
       pattern whose number is 10 or more. However, a back  reference  to  any
       subpattern  is  possible  using named parentheses (see below). See also
       the subsection entitled "Non-printing  characters"  above  for  further
       details of the handling of digits following a backslash.

       A  back	reference matches whatever actually matched the capturing sub
       pattern in the current subject string, rather  than  anything  matching
       the subpattern itself (see "Subpatterns as subroutines" below for a way
       of doing that). So the pattern

	 (sens|respons)e and \1ibility

       matches "sense and sensibility" and "response and responsibility",  but
       not  "sense and responsibility". If caseful matching is in force at the
       time of the back reference, the case of letters is relevant. For  exam


       matches	"rah  rah"  and  "RAH RAH", but not "RAH rah", even though the
       original capturing subpattern is matched caselessly.

       Back references to named subpatterns use the Python  syntax  (?P=name).
       We could rewrite the above example as follows:


       A  subpattern  that  is	referenced  by	name may appear in the pattern
       before or after the reference.

       There may be more than one back reference to the same subpattern. If  a
       subpattern  has	not actually been used in a particular match, any back
       references to it always fail. For example, the pattern


       always fails if it starts to match "a" rather than "bc". Because  there
       may  be	many  capturing parentheses in a pattern, all digits following
       the backslash are taken as part of a potential back  reference  number.
       If the pattern continues with a digit character, some delimiter must be
       used to terminate the back reference. If the  PCRE_EXTENDED  option  is
       set,  this  can	be  whitespace.  Otherwise an empty comment (see "Com
       ments" below) can be used.

       A back reference that occurs inside the parentheses to which it	refers
       fails  when  the subpattern is first used, so, for example, (a\1) never
       matches.  However, such references can be useful inside	repeated  sub
       patterns. For example, the pattern


       matches any number of "a"s and also "aba", "ababbaa" etc. At each iter
       ation of the subpattern,  the  back  reference  matches	the  character
       string  corresponding  to  the previous iteration. In order for this to
       work, the pattern must be such that the first iteration does  not  need
       to  match the back reference. This can be done using alternation, as in
       the example above, or by a quantifier with a minimum of zero.


       An assertion is a test on the characters  following  or	preceding  the
       current	matching  point that does not actually consume any characters.
       The simple assertions coded as \b, \B, \A, \G, \Z,  \z,	^  and	$  are
       described above.

       More  complicated  assertions  are  coded as subpatterns. There are two
       kinds: those that look ahead of the current  position  in  the  subject
       string,	and  those  that  look	behind	it. An assertion subpattern is
       matched in the normal way, except that it does not  cause  the  current
       matching position to be changed.

       Assertion  subpatterns  are  not  capturing subpatterns, and may not be
       repeated, because it makes no sense to assert the  same	thing  several
       times.  If  any kind of assertion contains capturing subpatterns within
       it, these are counted for the purposes of numbering the capturing  sub
       patterns in the whole pattern.  However, substring capturing is carried
       out only for positive assertions, because it does not  make  sense  for
       negative assertions.

   Lookahead assertions

       Lookahead assertions start with (?= for positive assertions and (?! for
       negative assertions. For example,


       matches a word followed by a semicolon, but does not include the  semi
       colon in the match, and


       matches	any  occurrence  of  "foo" that is not followed by "bar". Note
       that the apparently similar pattern


       does not find an occurrence of "bar"  that  is  preceded  by  something
       other  than "foo"; it finds any occurrence of "bar" whatsoever, because
       the assertion (?!foo) is always true when the next three characters are
       "bar". A lookbehind assertion is needed to achieve the other effect.

       If you want to force a matching failure at some point in a pattern, the
       most convenient way to do it is	with  (?!)  because  an  empty	string
       always  matches, so an assertion that requires there not to be an empty
       string must always fail.

   Lookbehind assertions

       Lookbehind assertions start with (?<= for positive assertions and  (?.*)(?<=abcd)

       or, equivalently, using the possessive quantifier syntax,


       there can be no backtracking for the .* item; it  can  match  only  the
       entire  string.	The subsequent lookbehind assertion does a single test
       on the last four characters. If it fails, the match fails  immediately.
       For  long  strings, this approach makes a significant difference to the
       processing time.

   Using multiple assertions

       Several assertions (of any sort) may occur in succession. For example,

	 (?<=\d{3})(? \( )?    [^()]+    (?(OPEN) \) )

       If the condition is the string (R), and there is no subpattern with the
       name R, the condition is satisfied if a recursive call to  the  pattern
       or  subpattern  has  been made. At "top level", the condition is false.
       This is a PCRE extension.  Recursive patterns are described in the next

       If  the	condition  is  not  a sequence of digits or (R), it must be an
       assertion.  This may be a positive or negative lookahead or  lookbehind
       assertion.  Consider  this  pattern,  again  containing non-significant
       white space, and with the two alternatives on the second line:

	 \d{2}-[a-z]{3}-\d{2}  |  \d{2}-\d{2}-\d{2} )

       The condition  is  a  positive  lookahead  assertion  that  matches  an
       optional  sequence of non-letters followed by a letter. In other words,
       it tests for the presence of at least one letter in the subject.  If  a
       letter  is found, the subject is matched against the first alternative;
       otherwise it is	matched  against  the  second.	This  pattern  matches
       strings	in  one  of the two forms dd-aaa-dd or dd-dd-dd, where aaa are
       letters and dd are digits.


       The sequence (?# marks the start of a comment that continues up to  the
       next  closing  parenthesis.  Nested  parentheses are not permitted. The
       characters that make up a comment play no part in the pattern  matching
       at all.

       If  the PCRE_EXTENDED option is set, an unescaped # character outside a
       character class introduces a  comment  that  continues  to  immediately
       after the next newline in the pattern.


       Consider  the problem of matching a string in parentheses, allowing for
       unlimited nested parentheses. Without the use of  recursion,  the  best
       that  can  be  done  is	to use a pattern that matches up to some fixed
       depth of nesting. It is not possible to	handle	an  arbitrary  nesting
       depth.  Perl  provides  a  facility  that allows regular expressions to
       recurse (amongst other things). It does this by interpolating Perl code
       in the expression at run time, and the code can refer to the expression
       itself. A Perl pattern to solve the parentheses problem can be  created
       like this:

	 $re = qr{\( (?: (?>[^()]+) | (?p{$re}) )* \)}x;

       The (?p{...}) item interpolates Perl code at run time, and in this case
       refers recursively to the pattern in which it appears. Obviously,  PCRE
       cannot  support	the  interpolation  of Perl code. Instead, it supports
       some special syntax for recursion of the entire pattern, and  also  for
       individual subpattern recursion.

       The  special item that consists of (? followed by a number greater than
       zero and a closing parenthesis is a recursive call of the subpattern of
       the  given  number, provided that it occurs inside that subpattern. (If
       not, it is a "subroutine" call, which is described  in  the  next  sec
       tion.)  The special item (?R) is a recursive call of the entire regular

       A recursive subpattern call is always treated as an atomic group.  That
       is,  once  it  has  matched some of the subject string, it is never re-
       entered, even if it contains untried alternatives and there is a subse
       quent matching failure.

       This  PCRE  pattern  solves  the nested parentheses problem (assume the
       PCRE_EXTENDED option is set so that white space is ignored):

	 \( ( (?>[^()]+) | (?R) )* \)

       First it matches an opening parenthesis. Then it matches any number  of
       substrings  which  can  either  be  a sequence of non-parentheses, or a
       recursive  match  of  the  pattern  itself  (that   is,	 a   correctly
       parenthesized substring).  Finally there is a closing parenthesis.

       If  this  were  part of a larger pattern, you would not want to recurse
       the entire pattern, so instead you could use this:

	 ( \( ( (?>[^()]+) | (?1) )* \) )

       We have put the pattern into parentheses, and caused the  recursion  to
       refer  to them instead of the whole pattern. In a larger pattern, keep
       ing track of parenthesis numbers can be tricky. It may be  more	conve
       nient  to use named parentheses instead. For this, PCRE uses (?P>name),
       which is an extension to the Python syntax that	PCRE  uses  for  named
       parentheses (Perl does not provide named parentheses). We could rewrite
       the above example as follows:

	 (?P \( ( (?>[^()]+) | (?P>pn) )* \) )

       This particular example pattern contains nested unlimited repeats,  and
       so  the	use of atomic grouping for matching strings of non-parentheses
       is important when applying the pattern to strings that  do  not	match.
       For example, when this pattern is applied to


       it  yields "no match" quickly. However, if atomic grouping is not used,
       the match runs for a very long time indeed because there  are  so  many
       different  ways	the  + and * repeats can carve up the subject, and all
       have to be tested before failure can be reported.

       At the end of a match, the values set for any capturing subpatterns are
       those from the outermost level of the recursion at which the subpattern
       value is set.  If you want to obtain  intermediate  values,  a  callout
       function can be used (see the next section and the pcrecallout documen
       tation). If the pattern above is matched against


       the value for the capturing parentheses is  "ef",  which  is  the  last
       value  taken  on at the top level. If additional parentheses are added,

	 \( ( ( (?>[^()]+) | (?R) )* ) \)
	    ^			     ^
	    ^			     ^

       the string they capture is "ab(cd)ef", the contents of  the  top  level
       parentheses.  If there are more than 15 capturing parentheses in a pat
       tern, PCRE has to obtain extra memory to store data during a recursion,
       which  it  does	by  using pcre_malloc, freeing it via pcre_free after
       wards. If  no  memory  can  be  obtained,  the  match  fails  with  the

       Do  not	confuse  the (?R) item with the condition (R), which tests for
       recursion.  Consider this pattern, which matches text in  angle	brack
       ets,  allowing for arbitrary nesting. Only digits are allowed in nested
       brackets (that is, when recursing), whereas any characters are  permit
       ted at the outer level.

	 < (?: (?(R) \d++  | [^<>]*+) | (?R)) * >

       In  this  pattern, (?(R) is the start of a conditional subpattern, with
       two different alternatives for the recursive and  non-recursive	cases.
       The (?R) item is the actual recursive call.


       If the syntax for a recursive subpattern reference (either by number or
       by name) is used outside the parentheses to which it refers,  it  oper
       ates  like  a  subroutine in a programming language. An earlier example
       pointed out that the pattern

	 (sens|respons)e and \1ibility

       matches "sense and sensibility" and "response and responsibility",  but
       not "sense and responsibility". If instead the pattern

	 (sens|respons)e and (?1)ibility

       is  used, it does match "sense and responsibility" as well as the other
       two strings. Such references, if given  numerically,  must  follow  the
       subpattern  to which they refer. However, named references can refer to
       later subpatterns.

       Like recursive subpatterns, a "subroutine" call is always treated as an
       atomic  group. That is, once it has matched some of the subject string,
       it is never re-entered, even if it contains  untried  alternatives  and
       there is a subsequent matching failure.


       Perl has a feature whereby using the sequence (?{...}) causes arbitrary
       Perl code to be obeyed in the middle of matching a regular  expression.
       This makes it possible, amongst other things, to extract different sub
       strings that match the same pair of parentheses when there is a repeti

       PCRE provides a similar feature, but of course it cannot obey arbitrary
       Perl code. The feature is called "callout". The caller of PCRE provides
       an  external function by putting its entry point in the global variable
       pcre_callout.  By default, this variable contains NULL, which  disables
       all calling out.

       Within  a  regular  expression,	(?C) indicates the points at which the
       external function is to be called. If you want  to  identify  different
       callout	points, you can put a number less than 256 after the letter C.
       The default value is zero.  For example, this pattern has  two  callout


       If the PCRE_AUTO_CALLOUT flag is passed to pcre_compile(), callouts are
       automatically installed before each item in the pattern. They  are  all
       numbered 255.

       During matching, when PCRE reaches a callout point (and pcre_callout is
       set), the external function is called. It is provided with  the	number
       of  the callout, the position in the pattern, and, optionally, one item
       of data originally supplied by the caller of pcre_exec().  The  callout
       function  may cause matching to proceed, to backtrack, or to fail alto
       gether. A complete description of the interface to the callout function
       is given in the pcrecallout documentation.

Last updated: 06 June 2006
Copyright (c) 1997-2006 University of Cambridge.


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