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If you want some "down and dirty" simply practical knowledge, read up on regular expressions. (Be sure to read up on the better cautions associated with using them, as well.) I would recommend Jeffrey Friedl's book, "Mastering Regular Expressions".

http://shop.oreilly.com/product/9780596528126.do

One other caveat about this, though. They make more sense and the topic is more motivating when you have a significant amount of text munging to accomplish (as I did, at one point).

Nonetheless, I remember some years ago being astonished at some of the Java code I saw being written, at not insignificant amounts of programmer time and with a bevy of mistakes, to accomplish simple pattern matching in use cases where a regular expression would have been more appropriate and more efficient -- both to write and probably in execution.

The developers, despite being fairly seasoned, just weren't familiar with the paradigm. A few years later, they were using them "all over the place".




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