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— \r ” Return

— \f ” Form feed

— ^ (Shift+6) ” Start of string (also known as caret)
— $ ” End of string

— . (dot) ” Matches any non-newline character

So if you need to match the word jay at the beginning of a string, you can do this:

ereg(“^jay”, $str)

And if you want to make sure nothing exists before or after jay in the string,
you can do the following:

ereg(“^jay$”, $str)

In the preceding listing, notice the meaning of the dot (.). It stands for any non-
newline character. If you want to print whatever four characters follow jay in a
string, you can do the following:

ereg(“jay(....)”, $str, $arr);
echo $arr[1];
Appendix G: Regular Expressions Overview 661

Note that the parentheses here represent a substring. When ereg() is processed
and a match is found, the array in the third argument contains the entire matched
string (including substrings) in $arr[0], and each additional substring indicated by
parentheses in the regular expression is assigned to an additional array element. In
the preceding example, therefore, the four characters following jay are in $arr[1].

Character Classes
Often you need to see if a string contains a group of characters. For instance, you
might need to make sure that a single character or given set of characters is
alphanumeric or consists of a digit or digits. For this you can make use of charac-
ter classes, either the built-in ones or the ones you make yourself. The built-in
character classes are surrounded by two sets of brackets and colons, as seen in the
following section. Character classes of your own making are surrounded by a sin-
gle set of brackets.

Built-in character classes
— [[:alpha:]] ” Any letter, upper or lower case

— [[:digit:]] ” Digits (0“9)

— [[:space:]] ” Matches any whitespace character, including spaces, tabs,
newlines, returns, and form feeds
— [[:upper:]] ” Matches only uppercase letters

— [[:lower:]] ” Matches only lowercase letters

— [[:punct:]] ” Matches any punctuation mark

— [[:xdigit:]] ” Matches possible hexadecimal characters (0“9, A“F)

For example, suppose you want to make sure a letter contains punctuation after
the salutation “Dear Sir or Madam”:

ereg(“Madam[[:punct:]]”, $str);

Note that if you use the caret symbol (^) within a character class it has the effect
of saying “not.” So, ereg(“Madam[^[:punct:]]”, $str) matches only if “Madam”
is not followed by a punctuation mark.
662 Part V: Appendixes

The caret symbol can get confusing because it has two distinct meanings.
At the beginning of a regular expression it indicates the start of a string, and
so the following regular expression matches only a string in which a digit is
the first character:
But if the caret is not in the first position in the regular expression, it means
“not.” The following regular expression matches a string that does not con-
tain any digits:
And to put it all together, the following matches a string that starts with a
digit but has a second character that is not a digit:

Self-made character classes
You can use brackets to construct your own character classes, either by using
ranges of characters or by mixing characters of your choosing. Here are some typ-
ical ranges:

— a“z ” Any lowercase letter

— A“Z ” Any uppercase letter

— 0“9 ” Any digit

Note that though these are the ranges you see most frequently, you can specify a
range of a“m or 0“4 if you wish.

Be aware that the ASCII sequence of characters does not always follow
human logic.Therefore, the expression [A-z] does indeed define a range of
ASCII characters that includes all the upper-and lowercase letters, but also a
lot of other, non-alphabetic characters. Better to define the upper- and low-
ercase ranges separately, or use the predefined character classes.

These ranges must be put within brackets to become character classes. So


is identical to [[:alpha:]].
Appendix G: Regular Expressions Overview 663

Self-made classes don™t have to contain a range; they can contain any characters
you want. For example:


This class matches the letters d, o, or g, or any digit.

if(ereg(“^[dog0-9]”, $str))
echo “true”;
echo “false”;

This code prints true, because the first character in $str is in the class we have
defined. If we replaced the d in drat with a b, this code prints false.

If you need to include a hyphen within a class, the hyphen must be the final
character before the closing bracket of the class. For example, [a-zA-Z-].

Multiple Occurrences
The real fun in regular expressions comes when you deal with multiple occurrences,
which is when the syntax starts getting a little thick. We™ll start by looking at three
commonly used special characters.

— * (asterisk) ” Zero or more of the previous character

— + ” One or more of the previous character

— ? ” Zero or one of the previous character

Note that if you want to match any of these characters literally you need to
escape them with a backslash. So, for example, if you want to match the querystring
of a URL http://www.mysqlphpapps.com/index.php?foo=mystring, you can do
the following:

664 Part V: Appendixes

The first two characters (\?) match the question mark character (?). Note that the
query matches the literal question mark because the question mark is escaped with
a backslash. If the question mark were not escaped, its meaning would be as given
in the previous listing.
Then, the dot matches any non-newline character. The asterisk matches zero or
more of the previous character. So the combination (.*) matches any number of
characters until a new line. The .* combination is a common one. The dollar sign
is the end-of-string character. So .*$ matches every non-newline character to the
end of the string.
You probably want to use a regular expression like the previous one if you need
to make use of the querystring in some other context.
The following is code that retrieves a string from a URL and then picks out the
relevant portion with a regular expression. It then pops that matched portion into
an array and echoes it to output:

//see the use of the parenthesized substring
//this will assign the matched portion to $array[1]
if (ereg(“\?(.*)$”, $str, $array) )
echo “The querystring is “, $array[1];


Now that you have the querystring in the variable $array[1], you can do further
processing on it.
Before you incorporate this code into your script, note that you don™t have to.
You can use the PHP variables $_SERVER[˜QUERY_STRING™] or the $_GET array.
Because the plus sign means one or more of the previous character, the follow-
ing code matches a single digit or multiple digits:


Consider the following statement:

if (ereg(“jay[0-9]+”, $str) )

jay1 tests true, but jayg tests false. jay2283092002909303 tests true because
it™s still jay followed by one or more numbers. Even jay8393029jay tests true.
If you need to get more specific about the number of characters you need to
match, you can make use of curly braces.

— {3} ” If a single digit is surrounded by brackets, it indicates that you want
to match exactly that number of the previous character. j{3} matches
only jjj.
Appendix G: Regular Expressions Overview 665

— {3,5} ” If two digits are surrounded by brackets, it indicates an upper and
lower limit to the matches of the previous character. j{3,5} matches jjj,
jjjj, and jjjjj only.

— {3, } ” If an integer followed by a comma and no second integer are sur-
rounded by brackets, it matches as many times or more of the previous
character. So j{3, } matches jjj, jjjj, jjjjjjj, and so on.

Specifying “Or”
If you want to specify one combination of characters or another, you need to make
use of the pipe character (|). Most often the pipe is used with parentheses, which
group portions of strings. If you want to match either jay or brad within a string,
you can use the following:


Or you might want to check that URLs have a suffix you were familiar with:


Example Regular Expressions
This has been a pretty quick review of regular expressions. If you™re interested,
entire books have been written on the subject. To get more comfortable with regu-
lar expressions, you can take a look at the following practical example.
Suppose you want to write a regular expression that matches the contents of an
href attribute of an anchor tag. An anchor looks something like this:

<a href=”../my_link.php”>this is my link text</a>

At first, you might be tempted to look at this link and think all you need to do is
match everything between the href=” and the closing quotation mark. Something
like this:

if (eregi(˜<a href=”(.*)”™, $anchor, $array))
echo $array[1];

However, you really can™t be sure that the href immediately follows the <a;
another attribute or perhaps a JavaScript event might precede the href. So you
need to account for that possibility in your regular expression.
666 Part V: Appendixes

if (eregi(˜<a.*href=”(.*)”™, $anchor, $array))
echo $array[1];

Be aware that because of the greedy nature of POSIX regular expressions (such as
those in MySQL) regular expression could grab several anchors. You might want to
alter your code to check for that possibility, and break it up if that™s what happens.
You™ve seen anchor tags with a space before the equals sign and anchor tags
with a space after the equals sign, so you need to account for both possibilities:

if (eregi(˜<a.*href[[:space:]]?=[[:space:]]?”(.*)”™,
$anchor, $array))


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