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Regular Expressions and RegExp Object


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A regular expression is an object that describes a pattern of characters.

The JavaScript RegExp class represents regular expressions, and both String and RegExp define methods that use regular expressions to perform powerful pattern-matching and search-and-replace functions on text.

Syntax:

A regular expression could be defined with the RegExp( ) constructor like this:

var pattern = new RegExp(pattern, attributes);

or simply

var pattern = /pattern/attributes;

Here is the description of the parameters:

  • pattern: A string that specifies the pattern of the regular expression or another regular expression.

  • attributes: An optional string containing any of the "g", "i", and "m" attributes that specify global, case-insensitive, and multiline matches, respectively.

Brackets:

Brackets ([]) have a special meaning when used in the context of regular expressions. They are used to find a range of characters.

ExpressionDescription
[...] Any one character between the brackets.
[^...] Any one character not between the brackets.
[0-9] It matches any decimal digit from 0 through 9.
[a-z] It matches any character from lowercase a through lowercase z.
[A-Z] It matches any character from uppercase A through uppercase Z.
[a-Z] It matches any character from lowercase a through uppercase Z.

The ranges shown above are general; you could also use the range [0-3] to match any decimal digit ranging from 0 through 3, or the range [b-v] to match any lowercase character ranging from b through v.

Quantifiers:

The frequency or position of bracketed character sequences and single characters can be denoted by a special character. Each pecial character having a specific connotation. The +, *, ?, and $ flags all follow a character sequence.

ExpressionDescription
p+ It matches any string containing at least one p.
p* It matches any string containing zero or more p's.
p? It matches any string containing one or more p's.
p{N} It matches any string containing a sequence of N p's
p{2,3} It matches any string containing a sequence of two or three p's.
p{2, } It matches any string containing a sequence of at least two p's.
p$ It matches any string with p at the end of it.
^p It matches any string with p at the beginning of it.

Examples:

Following examples will clear your concepts about matching chracters.

ExpressionDescription
[^a-zA-Z] It matches any string not containing any of the characters ranging from a through z and A through Z.
p.p It matches any string containing p, followed by any character, in turn followed by another p.
^.{2}$ It matches any string containing exactly two characters.
<b>(.*)</b> It matches any string enclosed within <b> and </b>.
p(hp)* It matches any string containing a p followed by zero or more instances of the sequence hp.

Literal characters:

CharacterDescription
AlphanumericItself
\0The NUL character (\u0000)
\t Tab (\u0009)
\nNewline (\u000A)
\v Vertical tab (\u000B)
\fForm feed (\u000C)
\r Carriage return (\u000D)
\xnnThe Latin character specified by the hexadecimal number nn; for example, \x0A is the same as \n
\uxxxxThe Unicode character specified by the hexadecimal number xxxx; for example, \u0009 is the same as \t
\cX The control character ^X; for example, \cJ is equivalent to the newline character \n

Metacharacters

A metacharacter is simply an alphabetical character preceded by a backslash that acts to give the combination a special meaning.

For instance, you can search for large money sums using the '\d' metacharacter: /([\d]+)000/, Here \d will search for any string of numerical character.

Following is the list of metacharacters which can be used in PERL Style Regular Expressions.

Character		Description
.              a single character
\s             a whitespace character (space, tab, newline)
\S             non-whitespace character
\d             a digit (0-9)
\D             a non-digit
\w             a word character (a-z, A-Z, 0-9, _)
\W             a non-word character
[\b]           a literal backspace (special case).
[aeiou]        matches a single character in the given set
[^aeiou]       matches a single character outside the given set
(foo|bar|baz)  matches any of the alternatives specified

Modifiers

Several modifiers are available that can make your work with regexps much easier, like case sensitivity, searching in multiple lines etc.

ModifierDescription
iPerform case-insensitive matching.
m Specifies that if the string has newline or carriage return characters, the ^ and $ operators will now match against a newline boundary, instead of a string boundary
g Perform a global matchthat is, find all matches rather than stopping after the first match.

RegExp Properties:

Here is a list of each property and their description.

PropertyDescription
constructorSpecifies the function that creates an object's prototype.
globalSpecifies if the "g" modifier is set.
ignoreCaseSpecifies if the "i" modifier is set.
lastIndexThe index at which to start the next match.
multilineSpecifies if the "m" modifier is set.
sourceThe text of the pattern.

RegExp Methods:

Here is a list of each method and its description.

MethodDescription
exec()Executes a search for a match in its string parameter.
test()Tests for a match in its string parameter.
toSource()Returns an object literal representing the specified object; you can use this value to create a new object.
toString()Returns a string representing the specified object.


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