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Show HN: RegEx for Regular Folk – A visual, example-based introduction (shreyasminocha.me)
502 points by shreyasminocha 62 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 108 comments



I think what regex's need is a really powerful syntax and language aware regex editor.

I've been using regexs for most of my career, and still struggle to get them right on first writing.

The #1 problem I run into is:

what is a literal character and what is a control character?

for example, both these are very common:

- match a parenthesis character or a period character

- use a parenthesis to group a match or use a period to match any one character

You would think I would learn it once, and be good.

but my #2 problem confounds this:

what is a literal character and what is a control character - in the language I am using?

for example I might need to escape a period to make it a literal for a regex.

If I am checking the files filexc and file.c and want to match the second, the regex I want is

  ^.*\.c$
in perl, I could say:

  $rx = "^.*\\.c\$";    ($" is a thing)
  if ($f =~ /$regex/) { ...
better would be:

  if ($f =~ /^.*\.c$/) {...
in python I would write

  m = re.search("^.*\\.c$",f)
better would be:

  m = re.search(r'^.*\.c$', f)
in a shell script, I might say:

  grep "^.*\\.c$"
EDIT: crap, I had to escape my comment because the asterisk in the regex was making my text italic


The biggest problem I've noticed for regex is we use it every once in a while and once it works we move onto other things. And a few weeks/months later, we have forgotten much of it and have to relearn it all over again. Whereas, you generally use your programming language ( C++, C#, Java, etc ) everyday to keep your skills sharp, regex is generally "set it and forget it" situation for most people. And as you noted, different languages/shells/etc implement their own flavor of regex which can trip you up.

It's similar to SQL when you think about it. You set up a query to get the data you need and move on to other things. And every RDBMs implements their own flavor of SQL which can complicate things.


> And a few weeks/months later, we have forgotten much of it and have to relearn it all over again.

This has been exactly my situation. I love regex because it's so powerful but damn do I hate working with it due to the relearning process.


I don't think regex is that specifically hard to learn, but you're fighting the escaping in your favorite language at the same time, so your learning is confounded.


Please do not forget the fact that after a couple of months, you want to make a small change, but you forgot the edge cases when you first created the regex :D


Unit tests will help with this.


I would have to unit-test my command line commands :)


If they are critical: why not? If they aren't: you can live with missing a corner case or two. :-)


I don't see the problem here. The regex itself is exactly the same, it's just that different languages have different string literal syntaxes (and some have dedicated regex syntax, thus solving the problem of double-escaping).

The only regex engine where this is a problem is Vim's, because there are characters that a special unless escaped, and characters that are normal but become special when escaped. And as if that wasn't enough, there are config options to determine which characters those are. My usual practice is to prefix all Vim regexes with \v so that all the special characters are at least consistent.


> I don't see the problem here.

I think the problem is that it's like shooting off a boat in choppy waters. You not only have to decide what you're aiming at (problem #1), you have to anticipate how the motion of the boat will affect it (problem #2).


I use regexbuddy and it does a lot of this. Huge downside is that it's $40 and Windows only.

You can do things like write a more generic regex and then select your language (e.g Python 2 or 3, Java, Perl, so on), And a few common actions, such as "iterate over all matches in a string" and it will auto-generate a code stub for you. Whenever teammates of mine are working on a weird regex they usually email me to double check it for them. (My response is usually that they're trying to do too much with one regex, haha)


Does this help?

https://regex101.com


Or an alternative open source one that you can self-host is https://github.com/gskinner/regexr and https://regexr.com/


pretty good, for problem #1

actually, very good.

doesn't seem to address problem #2 unless I missed something


>what is a literal character and what is a control character?

I read a tip back in the Perl 5 book, that you can just escape any character if you don't remember if it has a special meaning. (You'll still get the literal character even if it didn't need escaping.)

So I basically do that a lot. Never had any issue with control characters.


In my example, if you over-escape the first period or under-escape the second period the regex will undermatch or overmatch.

for me it took a few tries to get filexc to not match and file.c to match in my example in the 3 languages.


My comment was just about what you call "under-escap[ing] the second period."

I mean if you don't know if a ,;:"%$$@!_€|~ or any other character means something you can just write \ before that character. In other words, without thinking of whether it means something in your regex language. I don't think = means anything, but I would write \= to match an equals sign, so I don't even have to think about it. So my comment was about matching literal characters of any kind. I would have used a \ for the literal period out of habit, just because it wasn't [A-Za-z]. So my version would have been right the first time.


Do you think an extension for vscode might be worth it?


RegExBuddy comes to mind.


Hi, very nice RegEx educational site/book.

Feedback:

- In the chapter https://refrf.shreyasminocha.me/chapters/character-classes an example is given which uses:

  o ^ character outside brackets

  o $ end of line

  o +
But the explanation above does not introduce these yet, so a real beginner user (like me) is lost. The ambigious characters example is fine, since it uses all the concepts already explained.


Thanks. Yeah, others pointed this out too. I'll get to it soon!


Just wanted to chime in and also say that this is extremely confusing for a RegEx beginner, but thanks for your work, it looks really nice.


I like the example based approach. I learn from examples far quicker than I learn from “explanations”. If I attempt to learn from an example and my brain hits an exception, only then do I start reading the supporting text.

Nice approach. You’ve made a valuable thing and implemented a powerful idea.


I honestly wish a lot more documentations started like that with a bunch of examples. I think one I really enjoyed recently was attrs [0].

[0] https://www.attrs.org/en/stable/examples.html


I've been using tldr [1] instead of man pages lately to get started with a command (or to remind myself how to use one). I've learned a lot just by reading the examples shown, and then read the man pages if I am missing something.

[1] https://github.com/tldr-pages/tldr


Examples being greater than explanations is one of the main reasons I emphasize explanative error messaging, clear simple typings, and verbose function/variable names over documentation.

Docs are really good for discovery and should cover many topics shallowly so you can glean a big picture quickly. I generally don't like going to them for specs that could have just been an error message, a type, or a better naming convention.


I personally had the most trouble with regexes because I didn't have a good mental model of how they worked. The hard part wasn't finding the correct symbol/character class I was trying to match, but coming to grips with repetition, greedy/nongreedy, etc.

I took a compilers class in college where one of the projects was to implement a simple regex matcher using NFAs. Bashing my head against this for a week really helped with being able to "read" a regex. Not sure if this was due to finally understanding the algorithm, or the fact that I was just constantly staring at broken regex matches all day.

IMO it was a fairly small time investment for something that is so widely used.

I'll recommend this post that's been on HN many times: https://swtch.com/~rsc/regexp/regexp1.html


I'm not sure how to explain it but the most important thing I've learned in over a decade of programming experience is to not use regular expressions for many things they may seem like a regular expression problem.

For example, even something as simple a phone number can have all sorts of weird but valid variants. Be sure you really need to even validate it's format and not just that it's present.

Trying to handle all of those variants via regex expression is doable but a pain. And in practice you as the programmer should not be defining those variants that are valid as it's up to the business itself to define what type of data it considers to be valid for the field.

That said I've also worked for companies with small engineering teams where the goal has always been to be as efficient with development time as possible, as opposed to making a near ideal system. Software has different needs when it's used by a thousand people than when it's used by millions.


I think it is understanding the algorithm that does it.

I also recommend that people learn how to read a regex by writing a small recursive program to match specific regexes. After you look at a regex and think about how it might work, intuition follows.

Actually writing the bit that turns the regex expression into said program isn't as important though. Doing that by hand 5 times is enough IMO.


One thing not mentioned here which I think is good to be aware of as you write intermediate to advanced regexes is understanding "catastrophic backtracking" and how to mitigate it: https://www.regular-expressions.info/catastrophic.html

For some reason I enjoy figuring regexes out. What I usually do is TDD them, I have a mini test suite of examples of strings I want to match and strings I don't want to match and I write some code to apply a candidate regex to them all and validate, and then I iterate until it passes. Then I rewrite the regex in extended regex format and add comments so that other people or future me understand what's going on.

Doing what a good regex can do with regular code instead (which you might do with the goal of readability or maintainability) is usually much much MUCH slower, FYI


This looks really nice but I think it suffers from the same issue a lot of regex tutorials suffer from. It's focusing solely on the regex and not at all on how to actually execute them. This site in particular says it's going to use javascript but at least the first few pages don't show anything except raw regular expressions.

For any tutorial about regular expressions I think the second thing (beyond a very simple example regex) to show should be how to actually execute one in code. Is it that all the tutorials want to be language-agnostic? Maybe just show a javascript example and point out which part is the js function/method call and which part is the actual regex.

It's nice to be told what /[aeiou]/ means but without actually typing it in and executing it (against various inputs, not just one) it wouldn't really sink in for me.


I agree that it would be nice if the learner was given some instruction on how to experiment right away. I'd recommend https://regex101.com/ as a tool to complement this (or any) regex tutorial, as well as when you're crafting/debugging regex. It's language-agnostic in that you don't need to write any code, just the regex and input -- but you can still pick different regex flavors like PCRE vs JavaScript.


Good. Unless you’re trying to write a one off script, you shouldn’t manually use them in real world projects. They’re a big source of bugs


Every compiler and interpreter as well as all text formats like HTML, XML, JSON, etc. have a lexing pass that uses manually crafted regular expressions. Those are real world projects.

The defensible form of this argument is that one should prefer a serialization library or a properly normalized database rather than trying to "stringly type" data and then pull it out via regexes.


I've read this a lot but I've yet to encounter bugs in regexes that wouldn't be otherwise encountered in a parser or validator that uses other techniques. Code is just code.


“Unless you’re trying to write a one off script, you shouldn’t manually use them in real world projects.”

What should one use instead of manual use?


Neatly presented.

However, I'd suggest to reorganize the chapters so that features not yet introduced aren't shown in examples without explanations. For example, you explain anchors and quantifiers many chapters later but use them liberally in earlier chapters without explaining them.


Yep, thanks for pointing that out. I was finding it tricky to present features in isolation without making the examples trivial.

I'll work on making things clearer.


I wouldn't worry too much about making the examples trivial. That just makes it easy to learn! There are probably lot's of good orders, but I'd probably go something like:

- Literal strings - Optional characters - Optional strings of characters (using groups) - Alternations (using groups) - Repetitions (using groups)

Then move onto to things like character classes.

IMO character classes are quite an advanced feature (or at least confusing for beginners) because of being character orientated. They also don't tend to very useful unless you've already covered repetition.


Yes - in the Character classes chapter you had just introduced the negate operator, then in the next example use the beginning operator, which happens to be the same character in a different context. That might be a leap too far. Great resource!


This looks like a great resource! Like others, I vastly prefer an example-based style, and the examples are really well chosen and very illustrative. I generally think I know my regexes, but I've already learned a few tricks. (Backreferences to match different delimiter options but not mixed delimiters is very cool!)

Feedback:

The highlighting of matches is slightly shifted to the left for me in Firefox 75 but not in Chrome (both on Ubuntu 16.04). The shift is subtle but enough to make me have to look two or three times at most examples, as the highlight covers half of the character before the match and only half of the last character in the match. Can I suggest adding Firefox to your test regimen, if you haven't already? :)

Also, on the Anchors page, I believe "carat" should be spelled "caret."

Thanks for this once again! I will definitely be revisiting this site to brush up and learn new tricks. Especially lookaround, which I have never quite wrapped my head around!


> The highlighting of matches is slightly shifted to the left … Can I suggest adding Firefox to your test regimen, if you haven't already? :)

Oh, I thought I had fixed that. I primarily test with Firefox, so this is a bit of a surprise. I'll check it out—I think it's something to do with CSS's `letter-spacing`.

I've fixed the typo, thanks for pointing it out.

Thanks for the comments!


Your examples use * and $ and + before they are explained. Inductive learning goes smoother if new concepts have context.

You explain [^ ...] So the use of these examples without explanation is .. unexpected. If you use examples which don't depend on * or + or $ I agree it's 'boring' but for a class of learner these surprise moments interfere with learning.

You only casually mention capitalised \thing is inversion of \thing \d and \D I think you would want to repeat that \w and \W and \s and \S and after three.. it's established.

I see this a lot in e.g. Haskell tutorials: simple inductive constructive learning examples littered with 'oh I explain that later just ignore it for now' syntactic constructs.

\( and \) are dangerous in substitution. Their meaning shifts from regex to variable-marker. Surely this needs to be noted in passing?



On the implementation's side, Russ Cox's articles are pretty indispensable:

https://swtch.com/~rsc/regexp/regexp1.html

https://swtch.com/~rsc/regexp/regexp2.html

And actual implementations based on these articles: https://github.com/google/re2 and https://github.com/rust-lang/regex


More articles and notes from Russ Cox: https://swtch.com/~rsc/regexp/


RegExr [0] does a great job of showing individual highlights even when they are in a sequential string. You can try to implement this if you want instead of showing a callout with a note to let the reader know that they highlights should be on individual characters.

[0] https://regexr.com/


Constructive criticism: I was about to send this to a friend who is new to programming, but the introduction is just too short. It would be great if the introduction included one or two motivational examples for the types of trouble you run into when you don't know regular expressions.


Makes sense—thank you! I'll add that in.




Yep! I included it on the next steps page — https://refrf.shreyasminocha.me/chapters/next-steps. Great fun.


This is truly wonderful haha Thank you for sharing


https://regex101.com/

This site is my goto whenever I need to write a complex regex. It's got syntax highlighting, explanations and a tested all rolled into one!


Just some 2cent feedback - don't assume anything is known.

The BASIC lesson doesn't mention anything about /g. Having not touched regex in years I had no idea what that was and kept thinking 'why isn't he showing it matching a g if he has that in the example'.


Point. I've made the temporary omission of an explanation for /g explicit. I've also included a link to the relevant section of Flags in the note.


Decent guide. It's great that all the examples are linked to https://regex101.com/ so people can play/explore!

More regex resources I rely on:

http://www.regexr.com/

https://gchq.github.io/CyberChef

https://regexper.com/#.%3F%5Bv%2Ci%5D.*

https://cheatography.com/davechild/cheat-sheets/regular-expr...


The examples are linked to RegExr! There's a link titled `[RegExr]` in blue next to each example.

Also, those are some amazing resources, especially CyberChef.


Corrected! (Covid brain) Thanks.


This is nicely done. It could benefit from some non /g examples on the basics page, especially since flags are not covered until chapter 8.

One visual enhancement that could be really helpful would be to hover over the regex or the match and see the reciprocal highlighted.


I love this! I love RegEx but have struggled trying to “teach” others over the years. In addition to books like this, I often find writing RegEx with something like Expressions[1] (and I know there are many great website solutions, Expressions is just a great app that I find very approachable to newcomers) is a great way to learn. When you can see what you’re writing select what you want, you get a great grasp of how it works. This, alongside a good book with good examples, is pretty much how I learned RegEx ~12 years ago.

[1]: https://www.apptorium.com/expressions


Nice intro. Tangential question. Is there a regex tool that shows where the expression failed ? Not in syntax, but the logical failure point? Would be useful for when an expression gets a little long and nested and modifications need to be made.

Edit: I mean like:

Target text is abcde

Regex is /abe/

Is there a tool that will tell me it matched a and b and then failed trying to match e ?

Those sites are great resources but they are showing pass/fail and do show an excellent breakdown when something satisfies the expression, but I’m just wondering if there is something that shows partial matching until the failure point?



Wow, where have I been. That’s awesome. Exactly what I was looking for . Thanks. My Google fu obviously is lacking.


https://regexr.com/

https://regex101.com/

These websites have saved me hours of time at this point.


It might be nice to touch on composition as a good way to get started is to test out individual pieces and be confident they work when you're putting them together.

If you're building a complex regular expression, setting smaller parts in variables and dropping them in with (?:${part}) makes things a bit more readable.

It also exposes a real weakness of most regex engines. In particular, alternation is a first-class operation, but complement and intersection, while theoretically possible[1] are typically not.

A person might guess that to match three keywords is /.keyword1.&.keyword2.&.keyword3./

Or maybe /.keyword1.&(.keyword2.)!/ to match keyword1 and not keyword2.

But those won't work, so it's a good idea to explain some options, an obvious one being /keyword1/.test() && !/keyword2/.test()

In the section on lookaround assertions, it's probably useful to note that (?=thing1)(?=thing2) can match both, and it's a good mental model for it, but that it comes with a few gotchas.

[1]: https://www.researchgate.net/publication/220994310_Succinctn...


I sometimes wonder what a syntactically clarified regex could look like. There are two things that often confuse newcomers:

- What are escapes are and what needs to be escaped?

- The <character-class><repetitions> structure of a regex.

- Syntax around things like capture (is the parens part of some matcher? what to escape?)

We should have a version of regex that separates characters, character classes and operators, or whatever the regex jargon for those things are. Half the things I usually want to regex for, like parens on a function or dot accessors need to be escaped!

A quick example for illustration purposes (please don't point out why this grammar wont map to regex):

    <startofline>(['a' or 'b']<2,4,greedy>, captureAs="prefix")[number or '.']<2><endofline>

is definitely more approachable and easier to explain than the regex equivalent (which I'm avoiding to write because I don't have time to test if I got capture syntax right).

Maybe someone makes a wasm regex-simple transformer we can use in multiple languages. Regex is too useful to have such a scary syntax for newcomers!


I think most people just like to hate on regex syntax because when just glanced over it looks like spilled tea leaves.

However I'd argue that it's not actually very hard to learn and its brevity makes it easier to retain. (personally I did so using https://www.regular-expressions.info/tutorial.html)

I agree that escaping is a problem, mainly because languages have often different rules for this.


I started teaching Python to my GF(she is working from home and now has plenty of time to do some extra learning). She is not a programmer and I have been giving her small functions to write. Recently, we started with RegEx and she finds it really hard to get into. She wants to see examples and follow along. I think this will be perfect for her and anyone starting out to learn regex.


FWIW Cisco Umbrella is blocking/reporting your site as a security threat.


Very odd, no idea. Perhaps because the certificate is just a few days old?


Hey this is great!

I noticed that in the "Escapes" chapter, the "Next" link at the bottom of the page goes back to the introduction when it should go to "Groups".

I poked around in your repo to try and submit a pull request, but I can't tell where the edit needs to go; the meta.json file seems to have an array with the right chapter headings which was my guess about the problem.

Anyway, there is a typo. Sorry I can't be more helpful when you've put together such a great resource.

https://github.com/shreyasminocha/regex-for-regular-folk/blo...


Yep! Sorry, I broke that late last night. I've fixed it with https://github.com/shreyasminocha/regex-for-regular-folk/com....

It was fairly unintuitive for someone unfamiliar with the source, so no worries :D


It seems the “next” button is not working on mobile safari on ios 13. It just reloads the page you’re in. Tried with and without content blockers.

However from what i quickly read from the links on the front page, the tutorials itself seem really high quality!


Fixed it! Thanks.


Same on Firefox!


Link saved for later. Looks really well done!


Recursive RegEx has always been confusing to me.

https://www.rexegg.com/regex-recursion.html


Railroad diagrams may help. I use a three step approach to present one example of recursion, which includes showing the difference between two-level nesting vs recursive version [1]. This is the railroad visualization for two-level [2].

[1] https://github.com/learnbyexample/py_regular_expressions/blo...

[2] https://www.debuggex.com/r/SMLRfiyt0Ag2hXu5


Very clear and concise with simple presentation. Good job!


I've always wanted to introduce regexes to non-programmers because they have always struck me as staggeringly useful. Just simple things like find/replace in my filenames and find/replace in documents.

This guide, along with a simple web-based regex tester would be great for this...

But it's missing a 3rd part: regex plugins for common non-programmers tools, like for ms office, the windows explorer, etc.


Incredible resource - I liked the structured approach as opposed to guess and check regex which is what most tools offer


This is a nice, non-threatening intro. One piece of advice that I've learned from teaching people regex syntax is that it's much easier to keep it to three basic topics at first (Repetition, Alternation, Concatenation), and then describe the rest of the stuff (character classes, character escapes, etc.) as "syntactic sugar" that makes those previous topics simpler, or provides more power. I usually introduce groups pretty early but most people get them notionally because they're kind of like algebraic parentheses. And then I'll expand on groups as well to show more power, escapes, etc.

For example,

(a|c|d|e|f|g|...|z) uses only notional groups and basic alternation while [abcdefghi...xyz] shows character classes, and [a-z] shows ranges - each step builds on the previous step and shows how to make them easier. For the learner this seems to act as building blocks rather than "separate things that are kind of alike I need to learn"

This is similar to how you can talk about repetition as

aaaaa, then aaaaaaaaaaaaa, then a, then aa, then a+, then a?, a{0,1}, a{0,5}, a{1,5}, a{,10}, etc. which simplifies, then generalizes the idea of repetition from a very natural concept build on concatenation to an opaque looking syntax that turns out to be both general and powerful

After that, most of the time I need to explain how capturing works, and how to turn it off and so on. Good tools help here and it starts to move away from a whiteboard exercise into something more active. But if students have followed you to this point it starts to make them feel very powerful as they're suddenly parsing things apart and transforming them.

At the end I usually follow up with a big on anchors (^ and $) and other odds and ends (case insensitivity, global search, greedy and non-greedy, etc.) and usually turn people loose after that. I've rarely found people who actually need lookarounds and other advanced topics and those are usually covered one-on-one as they need.

But this is fairly minor quibbling and is just rearrangement of what's here. I think this is overall a nice clear explanation. Regex syntax is honestly pretty simple once the syntax magic is explained.

What I think would be really helpful is a tool where somebody can type in a regex, have it checked for syntax and then generate the list of strings that would match it (within the constraints of limits on infinite repetition operators, like turning * to {0,2} or something.


Learned more in just the first few pages than I have in my many years of copy-pasting regex from StackOverflow. Cheers


In case it's useful for others, I found "Mastering Regular Expressions" by "Jeffrey E. F. Friedl" to be very effective for becoming proficient with Regex.

Also – reading it was just a useful look into systems mapping (which is what language is!) with insights that apply in many contexts.


Great work! These examples are super clear.

One thought: it would be great to highlight a given match on hover. I know that each match has its own undertie and it's explicitly mentioned early on but it might help really drive it home if each match reacted individually when hovered.


Nice guide! As a complete regex-dyslectic i didn't know the slash '/' could be used to make expressions more readable.

On another note, since this is supposed to be a book and all, is there a simple way to get this on one a single page and make it easier to print?


That's not really true. The guide seems to be javascript centric. The slash and flags is not part of the regex, it's a delimiter. In certain contexts like sed, perl, php, an arbitrary delimiter can be used to avoid needing to escape slashes. If you pass a string to a regex engine with a /, it does what you would expect, match a literal /. For instance, python and grep does not interpret slashes and flags. Those are pretty common.


Thanks for the heads up, it seems i have some more reading to do :)


> is there a simple way to get this on one a single page and make it easier to print?

That's on my TODO!

- https://github.com/shreyasminocha/regex-for-regular-folk/iss... - https://github.com/shreyasminocha/regex-for-regular-folk/iss...

I was having some trouble with wkhtmltopdf, but I'll try to figure this out ASAP.


I don't know what that is but just having all html pages merged into one would be enough and super useful for me and my printing purposes, and probably good for web UX too. Keep up the good work mate


There it is! https://refrf.shreyasminocha.me/book

Printing instructions are on the home page.


Feedback: the “next” link on this page just takes you back to that same page https://refrf.shreyasminocha.me/chapters/introduction


Yeah, I messed that up late last night. Fixed!


Related: I found this online tool to be very useful for debugging regex: https://www.debuggex.com/


Thank you so much for making this! at a certain point, on our team at least, we have to compile regex resources into a guide and this is incredibly helpful.


We need this approach for more advanced RegEx and the regular language subject in general for actual working programmers, from some of what I've seen.


Lots of praise here, so I won't re-iterate the good points (presentation, pleasant tone, good structuring) and will head straight to the meat of my issue with the title:

This is not a book for regular folk.

A regular HN reader, sure. A technically inclined interested party who wants to break the ice with Regexes, sure. But not regular folk.

Here is what I'm talking about:

> Introduction

> Regular expressions (“regexes”) allow defining a pattern

Ok, with you so far. As a layman, though, I would be very much be looking for you to expand on what you mean by 'pattern'.

> and executing it against strings.

"Executing" gets a wrinkled brow. "Strings" gets a squinty eye. "executing against strings" and you've lost me. There's now too much new information in this sentence for me to be on board with it. If I knew what all those terms meant and the context with which they are meaningful, I probably wouldn't be trying to read 'RegEx for Regular Folk'.

> Substrings which match the pattern are termed “matches”.

As above, but it's also slightly confusing here that we're defining matches and we haven't even talked about what a pattern is yet. As such, I can't even visualise or conceptualise what I would be matching or similar. If I press on regardless, this is just some unresolved debt that I will have to reconcile later or I will just get frustrated and put the book down.

> A regular expression is a sequence of characters that define a search pattern.

Ah, good, we're defining a pattern after we've already described a 'match'.

> Regex finds utility in:

>input validation

And straight out the bat we're hit with a term that is only going to be relevant for techie people. Unless you are aiming this at techie people. But aren't we aiming this at 'regular folk'?

The above is really just my long drawn out beef with 'x for the masses', 'y for mere mortals' and the like. For me the best explanation of regular expressions comes from Al Sweigart in 'Automate the Boring Stuff with Python' [1]. He not only gives a pretty thorough explanation of pattern matching before bringing in any domain-specific terms, but he also motivates why you would want to pattern match in the first place. He gives context for circumstances under which you might reach for regex as a tool.

I'm looking through the later pages of this book and as a techperson I'm thinking 'this is beautiful. I can see the examples clearly, there is a clear correlation between the visuals and the exercise.' I'm also thinking as a folk person 'when the hell will I need a match? Under what circumstances and I going to need to know that there is one 'p' in 'grape' but two 'p's in 'apple'? What use is writing a pattern to match against certain fruits and utility items?

So yes, basically, after all that I can summarise "good book, bad title".

[1] https://automatetheboringstuff.com


Valid points. I agree.

I'll try easing the curve, especially early on and make clearer the intended audience.


Hey! I'm wondering if in the first example of regex negation the (^) should appear after the bracket ([).


Yes, it must appear immediately after `[`


This is very nice looking. Especially so given that regexes are often not easy to look at. Kudos.


This is looking great. Thank you.


Also, I rely on https://regexr.com/ for interactive RE debugging.


Me too! There are links to RegExr next to each example. Glad they have query string support.


This is literally the best RegEx tutorial that I've ever gone through.


Maybe I missed it, but there doesn't seem to be any credit given for the xkcd comic (https://xkcd.com/208/) shown on the Next Steps page (https://refrf.shreyasminocha.me/chapters/next-steps). Does Randall even require it?


He does require it per CC-BY-NC-2.5. I felt it was sufficient to permalink to the version on his domain, but I shall make it more explicit.




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