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10. Pattern Matching

The GNU C Library provides pattern matching facilities for two kinds of patterns: regular expressions and file-name wildcards. The library also provides a facility for expanding variable and command references and parsing text into words in the way the shell does.


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10.1 Wildcard Matching

This section describes how to match a wildcard pattern against a particular string. The result is a yes or no answer: does the string fit the pattern or not. The symbols described here are all declared in `fnmatch.h'.

Function: int fnmatch (const char *pattern, const char *string, int flags)

This function tests whether the string string matches the pattern pattern. It returns 0 if they do match; otherwise, it returns the nonzero value FNM_NOMATCH. The arguments pattern and string are both strings.

The argument flags is a combination of flag bits that alter the details of matching. See below for a list of the defined flags.

In the GNU C Library, fnmatch cannot experience an "error"--it always returns an answer for whether the match succeeds. However, other implementations of fnmatch might sometimes report "errors". They would do so by returning nonzero values that are not equal to FNM_NOMATCH.

These are the available flags for the flags argument:

FNM_FILE_NAME

Treat the `/' character specially, for matching file names. If this flag is set, wildcard constructs in pattern cannot match `/' in string. Thus, the only way to match `/' is with an explicit `/' in pattern.

FNM_PATHNAME

This is an alias for FNM_FILE_NAME; it comes from POSIX.2. We don't recommend this name because we don't use the term "pathname" for file names.

FNM_PERIOD

Treat the `.' character specially if it appears at the beginning of string. If this flag is set, wildcard constructs in pattern cannot match `.' as the first character of string.

If you set both FNM_PERIOD and FNM_FILE_NAME, then the special treatment applies to `.' following `/' as well as to `.' at the beginning of string. (The shell uses the FNM_PERIOD and FNM_FILE_NAME flags together for matching file names.)

FNM_NOESCAPE

Don't treat the `\' character specially in patterns. Normally, `\' quotes the following character, turning off its special meaning (if any) so that it matches only itself. When quoting is enabled, the pattern `\?' matches only the string `?', because the question mark in the pattern acts like an ordinary character.

If you use FNM_NOESCAPE, then `\' is an ordinary character.

FNM_LEADING_DIR

Ignore a trailing sequence of characters starting with a `/' in string; that is to say, test whether string starts with a directory name that pattern matches.

If this flag is set, either `foo*' or `foobar' as a pattern would match the string `foobar/frobozz'.

FNM_CASEFOLD

Ignore case in comparing string to pattern.

FNM_EXTMATCH

Recognize beside the normal patterns also the extended patterns introduced in `ksh'. The patterns are written in the form explained in the following table where pattern-list is a | separated list of patterns.

?(pattern-list)

The pattern matches if zero or one occurrences of any of the patterns in the pattern-list allow matching the input string.

*(pattern-list)

The pattern matches if zero or more occurrences of any of the patterns in the pattern-list allow matching the input string.

+(pattern-list)

The pattern matches if one or more occurrences of any of the patterns in the pattern-list allow matching the input string.

@(pattern-list)

The pattern matches if exactly one occurrence of any of the patterns in the pattern-list allows matching the input string.

!(pattern-list)

The pattern matches if the input string cannot be matched with any of the patterns in the pattern-list.


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10.2 Globbing

The archetypal use of wildcards is for matching against the files in a directory, and making a list of all the matches. This is called globbing.

You could do this using fnmatch, by reading the directory entries one by one and testing each one with fnmatch. But that would be slow (and complex, since you would have to handle subdirectories by hand).

The library provides a function glob to make this particular use of wildcards convenient. glob and the other symbols in this section are declared in `glob.h'.


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10.2.1 Calling glob

The result of globbing is a vector of file names (strings). To return this vector, glob uses a special data type, glob_t, which is a structure. You pass glob the address of the structure, and it fills in the structure's fields to tell you about the results.

Data Type: glob_t

This data type holds a pointer to a word vector. More precisely, it records both the address of the word vector and its size. The GNU implementation contains some more fields which are non-standard extensions.

gl_pathc

The number of elements in the vector, excluding the initial null entries if the GLOB_DOOFFS flag is used (see gl_offs below).

gl_pathv

The address of the vector. This field has type char **.

gl_offs

The offset of the first real element of the vector, from its nominal address in the gl_pathv field. Unlike the other fields, this is always an input to glob, rather than an output from it.

If you use a nonzero offset, then that many elements at the beginning of the vector are left empty. (The glob function fills them with null pointers.)

The gl_offs field is meaningful only if you use the GLOB_DOOFFS flag. Otherwise, the offset is always zero regardless of what is in this field, and the first real element comes at the beginning of the vector.

gl_closedir

The address of an alternative implementation of the closedir function. It is used if the GLOB_ALTDIRFUNC bit is set in the flag parameter. The type of this field is void (*) (void *).

This is a GNU extension.

gl_readdir

The address of an alternative implementation of the readdir function used to read the contents of a directory. It is used if the GLOB_ALTDIRFUNC bit is set in the flag parameter. The type of this field is struct dirent *(*) (void *).

This is a GNU extension.

gl_opendir

The address of an alternative implementation of the opendir function. It is used if the GLOB_ALTDIRFUNC bit is set in the flag parameter. The type of this field is void *(*) (const char *).

This is a GNU extension.

gl_stat

The address of an alternative implementation of the stat function to get information about an object in the filesystem. It is used if the GLOB_ALTDIRFUNC bit is set in the flag parameter. The type of this field is int (*) (const char *, struct stat *).

This is a GNU extension.

gl_lstat

The address of an alternative implementation of the lstat function to get information about an object in the filesystems, not following symbolic links. It is used if the GLOB_ALTDIRFUNC bit is set in the flag parameter. The type of this field is int (*) (const char *, struct stat *).

This is a GNU extension.

For use in the glob64 function `glob.h' contains another definition for a very similar type. glob64_t differs from glob_t only in the types of the members gl_readdir, gl_stat, and gl_lstat.

Data Type: glob64_t

This data type holds a pointer to a word vector. More precisely, it records both the address of the word vector and its size. The GNU implementation contains some more fields which are non-standard extensions.

gl_pathc

The number of elements in the vector, excluding the initial null entries if the GLOB_DOOFFS flag is used (see gl_offs below).

gl_pathv

The address of the vector. This field has type char **.

gl_offs

The offset of the first real element of the vector, from its nominal address in the gl_pathv field. Unlike the other fields, this is always an input to glob, rather than an output from it.

If you use a nonzero offset, then that many elements at the beginning of the vector are left empty. (The glob function fills them with null pointers.)

The gl_offs field is meaningful only if you use the GLOB_DOOFFS flag. Otherwise, the offset is always zero regardless of what is in this field, and the first real element comes at the beginning of the vector.

gl_closedir

The address of an alternative implementation of the closedir function. It is used if the GLOB_ALTDIRFUNC bit is set in the flag parameter. The type of this field is void (*) (void *).

This is a GNU extension.

gl_readdir

The address of an alternative implementation of the readdir64 function used to read the contents of a directory. It is used if the GLOB_ALTDIRFUNC bit is set in the flag parameter. The type of this field is struct dirent64 *(*) (void *).

This is a GNU extension.

gl_opendir

The address of an alternative implementation of the opendir function. It is used if the GLOB_ALTDIRFUNC bit is set in the flag parameter. The type of this field is void *(*) (const char *).

This is a GNU extension.

gl_stat

The address of an alternative implementation of the stat64 function to get information about an object in the filesystem. It is used if the GLOB_ALTDIRFUNC bit is set in the flag parameter. The type of this field is int (*) (const char *, struct stat64 *).

This is a GNU extension.

gl_lstat

The address of an alternative implementation of the lstat64 function to get information about an object in the filesystems, not following symbolic links. It is used if the GLOB_ALTDIRFUNC bit is set in the flag parameter. The type of this field is int (*) (const char *, struct stat64 *).

This is a GNU extension.

Function: int glob (const char *pattern, int flags, int (*errfunc) (const char *filename, int error-code), glob_t *vector-ptr)

The function glob does globbing using the pattern pattern in the current directory. It puts the result in a newly allocated vector, and stores the size and address of this vector into *vector-ptr. The argument flags is a combination of bit flags; see Flags for Globbing, for details of the flags.

The result of globbing is a sequence of file names. The function glob allocates a string for each resulting word, then allocates a vector of type char ** to store the addresses of these strings. The last element of the vector is a null pointer. This vector is called the word vector.

To return this vector, glob stores both its address and its length (number of elements, not counting the terminating null pointer) into *vector-ptr.

Normally, glob sorts the file names alphabetically before returning them. You can turn this off with the flag GLOB_NOSORT if you want to get the information as fast as possible. Usually it's a good idea to let glob sort them--if you process the files in alphabetical order, the users will have a feel for the rate of progress that your application is making.

If glob succeeds, it returns 0. Otherwise, it returns one of these error codes:

GLOB_ABORTED

There was an error opening a directory, and you used the flag GLOB_ERR or your specified errfunc returned a nonzero value. for an explanation of the GLOB_ERR flag and errfunc.

GLOB_NOMATCH

The pattern didn't match any existing files. If you use the GLOB_NOCHECK flag, then you never get this error code, because that flag tells glob to pretend that the pattern matched at least one file.

GLOB_NOSPACE

It was impossible to allocate memory to hold the result.

In the event of an error, glob stores information in *vector-ptr about all the matches it has found so far.

It is important to notice that the glob function will not fail if it encounters directories or files which cannot be handled without the LFS interfaces. The implementation of glob is supposed to use these functions internally. This at least is the assumptions made by the Unix standard. The GNU extension of allowing the user to provide own directory handling and stat functions complicates things a bit. If these callback functions are used and a large file or directory is encountered glob can fail.

Function: int glob64 (const char *pattern, int flags, int (*errfunc) (const char *filename, int error-code), glob64_t *vector-ptr)

The glob64 function was added as part of the Large File Summit extensions but is not part of the original LFS proposal. The reason for this is simple: it is not necessary. The necessity for a glob64 function is added by the extensions of the GNU glob implementation which allows the user to provide own directory handling and stat functions. The readdir and stat functions do depend on the choice of _FILE_OFFSET_BITS since the definition of the types struct dirent and struct stat will change depending on the choice.

Beside this difference the glob64 works just like glob in all aspects.

This function is a GNU extension.


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10.2.2 Flags for Globbing

This section describes the flags that you can specify in the flags argument to glob. Choose the flags you want, and combine them with the C bitwise OR operator |.

GLOB_APPEND

Append the words from this expansion to the vector of words produced by previous calls to glob. This way you can effectively expand several words as if they were concatenated with spaces between them.

In order for appending to work, you must not modify the contents of the word vector structure between calls to glob. And, if you set GLOB_DOOFFS in the first call to glob, you must also set it when you append to the results.

Note that the pointer stored in gl_pathv may no longer be valid after you call glob the second time, because glob might have relocated the vector. So always fetch gl_pathv from the glob_t structure after each glob call; never save the pointer across calls.

GLOB_DOOFFS

Leave blank slots at the beginning of the vector of words. The gl_offs field says how many slots to leave. The blank slots contain null pointers.

GLOB_ERR

Give up right away and report an error if there is any difficulty reading the directories that must be read in order to expand pattern fully. Such difficulties might include a directory in which you don't have the requisite access. Normally, glob tries its best to keep on going despite any errors, reading whatever directories it can.

You can exercise even more control than this by specifying an error-handler function errfunc when you call glob. If errfunc is not a null pointer, then glob doesn't give up right away when it can't read a directory; instead, it calls errfunc with two arguments, like this:

 
(*errfunc) (filename, error-code)

The argument filename is the name of the directory that glob couldn't open or couldn't read, and error-code is the errno value that was reported to glob.

If the error handler function returns nonzero, then glob gives up right away. Otherwise, it continues.

GLOB_MARK

If the pattern matches the name of a directory, append `/' to the directory's name when returning it.

GLOB_NOCHECK

If the pattern doesn't match any file names, return the pattern itself as if it were a file name that had been matched. (Normally, when the pattern doesn't match anything, glob returns that there were no matches.)

GLOB_NOSORT

Don't sort the file names; return them in no particular order. (In practice, the order will depend on the order of the entries in the directory.) The only reason not to sort is to save time.

GLOB_NOESCAPE

Don't treat the `\' character specially in patterns. Normally, `\' quotes the following character, turning off its special meaning (if any) so that it matches only itself. When quoting is enabled, the pattern `\?' matches only the string `?', because the question mark in the pattern acts like an ordinary character.

If you use GLOB_NOESCAPE, then `\' is an ordinary character.

glob does its work by calling the function fnmatch repeatedly. It handles the flag GLOB_NOESCAPE by turning on the FNM_NOESCAPE flag in calls to fnmatch.


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10.2.3 More Flags for Globbing

Beside the flags described in the last section, the GNU implementation of glob allows a few more flags which are also defined in the `glob.h' file. Some of the extensions implement functionality which is available in modern shell implementations.

GLOB_PERIOD

The . character (period) is treated special. It cannot be matched by wildcards. See section Wildcard Matching, FNM_PERIOD.

GLOB_MAGCHAR

The GLOB_MAGCHAR value is not to be given to glob in the flags parameter. Instead, glob sets this bit in the gl_flags element of the glob_t structure provided as the result if the pattern used for matching contains any wildcard character.

GLOB_ALTDIRFUNC

Instead of the using the using the normal functions for accessing the filesystem the glob implementation uses the user-supplied functions specified in the structure pointed to by pglob parameter. For more information about the functions refer to the sections about directory handling see Accessing Directories, and Reading the Attributes of a File.

GLOB_BRACE

If this flag is given the handling of braces in the pattern is changed. It is now required that braces appear correctly grouped. I.e., for each opening brace there must be a closing one. Braces can be used recursively. So it is possible to define one brace expression in another one. It is important to note that the range of each brace expression is completely contained in the outer brace expression (if there is one).

The string between the matching braces is separated into single expressions by splitting at , (comma) characters. The commas themselves are discarded. Please note what we said above about recursive brace expressions. The commas used to separate the subexpressions must be at the same level. Commas in brace subexpressions are not matched. They are used during expansion of the brace expression of the deeper level. The example below shows this

 
glob ("{foo/{,bar,biz},baz}", GLOB_BRACE, NULL, &result)

is equivalent to the sequence

 
glob ("foo/", GLOB_BRACE, NULL, &result)
glob ("foo/bar", GLOB_BRACE|GLOB_APPEND, NULL, &result)
glob ("foo/biz", GLOB_BRACE|GLOB_APPEND, NULL, &result)
glob ("baz", GLOB_BRACE|GLOB_APPEND, NULL, &result)

if we leave aside error handling.

GLOB_NOMAGIC

If the pattern contains no wildcard constructs (it is a literal file name), return it as the sole "matching" word, even if no file exists by that name.

GLOB_TILDE

If this flag is used the character ~ (tilde) is handled special if it appears at the beginning of the pattern. Instead of being taken verbatim it is used to represent the home directory of a known user.

If ~ is the only character in pattern or it is followed by a / (slash), the home directory of the process owner is substituted. Using getlogin and getpwnam the information is read from the system databases. As an example take user bart with his home directory at `/home/bart'. For him a call like

 
glob ("~/bin/*", GLOB_TILDE, NULL, &result)

would return the contents of the directory `/home/bart/bin'. Instead of referring to the own home directory it is also possible to name the home directory of other users. To do so one has to append the user name after the tilde character. So the contents of user homer's `bin' directory can be retrieved by

 
glob ("~homer/bin/*", GLOB_TILDE, NULL, &result)

If the user name is not valid or the home directory cannot be determined for some reason the pattern is left untouched and itself used as the result. I.e., if in the last example home is not available the tilde expansion yields to "~homer/bin/*" and glob is not looking for a directory named ~homer.

This functionality is equivalent to what is available in C-shells if the nonomatch flag is set.

GLOB_TILDE_CHECK

If this flag is used glob behaves like as if GLOB_TILDE is given. The only difference is that if the user name is not available or the home directory cannot be determined for other reasons this leads to an error. glob will return GLOB_NOMATCH instead of using the pattern itself as the name.

This functionality is equivalent to what is available in C-shells if nonomatch flag is not set.

GLOB_ONLYDIR

If this flag is used the globbing function takes this as a hint that the caller is only interested in directories matching the pattern. If the information about the type of the file is easily available non-directories will be rejected but no extra work will be done to determine the information for each file. I.e., the caller must still be able to filter directories out.

This functionality is only available with the GNU glob implementation. It is mainly used internally to increase the performance but might be useful for a user as well and therefore is documented here.

Calling glob will in most cases allocate resources which are used to represent the result of the function call. If the same object of type glob_t is used in multiple call to glob the resources are freed or reused so that no leaks appear. But this does not include the time when all glob calls are done.

Function: void globfree (glob_t *pglob)

The globfree function frees all resources allocated by previous calls to glob associated with the object pointed to by pglob. This function should be called whenever the currently used glob_t typed object isn't used anymore.

Function: void globfree64 (glob64_t *pglob)

This function is equivalent to globfree but it frees records of type glob64_t which were allocated by glob64.


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10.3 Regular Expression Matching

The GNU C library supports two interfaces for matching regular expressions. One is the standard POSIX.2 interface, and the other is what the GNU system has had for many years.

Both interfaces are declared in the header file `regex.h'. If you define _POSIX_C_SOURCE, then only the POSIX.2 functions, structures, and constants are declared.


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10.3.1 POSIX Regular Expression Compilation

Before you can actually match a regular expression, you must compile it. This is not true compilation--it produces a special data structure, not machine instructions. But it is like ordinary compilation in that its purpose is to enable you to "execute" the pattern fast. (See section Matching a Compiled POSIX Regular Expression, for how to use the compiled regular expression for matching.)

There is a special data type for compiled regular expressions:

Data Type: regex_t

This type of object holds a compiled regular expression. It is actually a structure. It has just one field that your programs should look at:

re_nsub

This field holds the number of parenthetical subexpressions in the regular expression that was compiled.

There are several other fields, but we don't describe them here, because only the functions in the library should use them.

After you create a regex_t object, you can compile a regular expression into it by calling regcomp.

Function: int regcomp (regex_t *restrict compiled, const char *restrict pattern, int cflags)

The function regcomp "compiles" a regular expression into a data structure that you can use with regexec to match against a string. The compiled regular expression format is designed for efficient matching. regcomp stores it into *compiled.

It's up to you to allocate an object of type regex_t and pass its address to regcomp.

The argument cflags lets you specify various options that control the syntax and semantics of regular expressions. See section Flags for POSIX Regular Expressions.

If you use the flag REG_NOSUB, then regcomp omits from the compiled regular expression the information necessary to record how subexpressions actually match. In this case, you might as well pass 0 for the matchptr and nmatch arguments when you call regexec.

If you don't use REG_NOSUB, then the compiled regular expression does have the capacity to record how subexpressions match. Also, regcomp tells you how many subexpressions pattern has, by storing the number in compiled->re_nsub. You can use that value to decide how long an array to allocate to hold information about subexpression matches.

regcomp returns 0 if it succeeds in compiling the regular expression; otherwise, it returns a nonzero error code (see the table below). You can use regerror to produce an error message string describing the reason for a nonzero value; see POSIX Regexp Matching Cleanup.

Here are the possible nonzero values that regcomp can return:

REG_BADBR

There was an invalid `\{…\}' construct in the regular expression. A valid `\{…\}' construct must contain either a single number, or two numbers in increasing order separated by a comma.

REG_BADPAT

There was a syntax error in the regular expression.

REG_BADRPT

A repetition operator such as `?' or `*' appeared in a bad position (with no preceding subexpression to act on).

REG_ECOLLATE

The regular expression referred to an invalid collating element (one not defined in the current locale for string collation). See section Categories of Activities that Locales Affect.

REG_ECTYPE

The regular expression referred to an invalid character class name.

REG_EESCAPE

The regular expression ended with `\'.

REG_ESUBREG

There was an invalid number in the `\digit' construct.

REG_EBRACK

There were unbalanced square brackets in the regular expression.

REG_EPAREN

An extended regular expression had unbalanced parentheses, or a basic regular expression had unbalanced `\(' and `\)'.

REG_EBRACE

The regular expression had unbalanced `\{' and `\}'.

REG_ERANGE

One of the endpoints in a range expression was invalid.

REG_ESPACE

regcomp ran out of memory.


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10.3.2 Flags for POSIX Regular Expressions

These are the bit flags that you can use in the cflags operand when compiling a regular expression with regcomp.

REG_EXTENDED

Treat the pattern as an extended regular expression, rather than as a basic regular expression.

REG_ICASE

Ignore case when matching letters.

REG_NOSUB

Don't bother storing the contents of the matches-ptr array.

REG_NEWLINE

Treat a newline in string as dividing string into multiple lines, so that `$' can match before the newline and `^' can match after. Also, don't permit `.' to match a newline, and don't permit `[^…]' to match a newline.

Otherwise, newline acts like any other ordinary character.


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10.3.3 Matching a Compiled POSIX Regular Expression

Once you have compiled a regular expression, as described in POSIX Regular Expression Compilation, you can match it against strings using regexec. A match anywhere inside the string counts as success, unless the regular expression contains anchor characters (`^' or `$').

Function: int regexec (const regex_t *restrict compiled, const char *restrict string, size_t nmatch, regmatch_t matchptr[restrict], int eflags)

This function tries to match the compiled regular expression *compiled against string.

regexec returns 0 if the regular expression matches; otherwise, it returns a nonzero value. See the table below for what nonzero values mean. You can use regerror to produce an error message string describing the reason for a nonzero value; see POSIX Regexp Matching Cleanup.

The argument eflags is a word of bit flags that enable various options.

If you want to get information about what part of string actually matched the regular expression or its subexpressions, use the arguments matchptr and nmatch. Otherwise, pass 0 for nmatch, and NULL for matchptr. See section Match Results with Subexpressions.

You must match the regular expression with the same set of current locales that were in effect when you compiled the regular expression.

The function regexec accepts the following flags in the eflags argument:

REG_NOTBOL

Do not regard the beginning of the specified string as the beginning of a line; more generally, don't make any assumptions about what text might precede it.

REG_NOTEOL

Do not regard the end of the specified string as the end of a line; more generally, don't make any assumptions about what text might follow it.

Here are the possible nonzero values that regexec can return:

REG_NOMATCH

The pattern didn't match the string. This isn't really an error.

REG_ESPACE

regexec ran out of memory.


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10.3.4 Match Results with Subexpressions

When regexec matches parenthetical subexpressions of pattern, it records which parts of string they match. It returns that information by storing the offsets into an array whose elements are structures of type regmatch_t. The first element of the array (index 0) records the part of the string that matched the entire regular expression. Each other element of the array records the beginning and end of the part that matched a single parenthetical subexpression.

Data Type: regmatch_t

This is the data type of the matcharray array that you pass to regexec. It contains two structure fields, as follows:

rm_so

The offset in string of the beginning of a substring. Add this value to string to get the address of that part.

rm_eo

The offset in string of the end of the substring.

Data Type: regoff_t

regoff_t is an alias for another signed integer type. The fields of regmatch_t have type regoff_t.

The regmatch_t elements correspond to subexpressions positionally; the first element (index 1) records where the first subexpression matched, the second element records the second subexpression, and so on. The order of the subexpressions is the order in which they begin.

When you call regexec, you specify how long the matchptr array is, with the nmatch argument. This tells regexec how many elements to store. If the actual regular expression has more than nmatch subexpressions, then you won't get offset information about the rest of them. But this doesn't alter whether the pattern matches a particular string or not.

If you don't want regexec to return any information about where the subexpressions matched, you can either supply 0 for nmatch, or use the flag REG_NOSUB when you compile the pattern with regcomp.


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10.3.5 Complications in Subexpression Matching

Sometimes a subexpression matches a substring of no characters. This happens when `f\(o*\)' matches the string `fum'. (It really matches just the `f'.) In this case, both of the offsets identify the point in the string where the null substring was found. In this example, the offsets are both 1.

Sometimes the entire regular expression can match without using some of its subexpressions at all--for example, when `ba\(na\)*' matches the string `ba', the parenthetical subexpression is not used. When this happens, regexec stores -1 in both fields of the element for that subexpression.

Sometimes matching the entire regular expression can match a particular subexpression more than once--for example, when `ba\(na\)*' matches the string `bananana', the parenthetical subexpression matches three times. When this happens, regexec usually stores the offsets of the last part of the string that matched the subexpression. In the case of `bananana', these offsets are 6 and 8.

But the last match is not always the one that is chosen. It's more accurate to say that the last opportunity to match is the one that takes precedence. What this means is that when one subexpression appears within another, then the results reported for the inner subexpression reflect whatever happened on the last match of the outer subexpression. For an example, consider `\(ba\(na\)*s \)*' matching the string `bananas bas '. The last time the inner expression actually matches is near the end of the first word. But it is considered again in the second word, and fails to match there. regexec reports nonuse of the "na" subexpression.

Another place where this rule applies is when the regular expression

 
\(ba\(na\)*s \|nefer\(ti\)* \)*

matches `bananas nefertiti'. The "na" subexpression does match in the first word, but it doesn't match in the second word because the other alternative is used there. Once again, the second repetition of the outer subexpression overrides the first, and within that second repetition, the "na" subexpression is not used. So regexec reports nonuse of the "na" subexpression.


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10.3.6 POSIX Regexp Matching Cleanup

When you are finished using a compiled regular expression, you can free the storage it uses by calling regfree.

Function: void regfree (regex_t *compiled)

Calling regfree frees all the storage that *compiled points to. This includes various internal fields of the regex_t structure that aren't documented in this manual.

regfree does not free the object *compiled itself.

You should always free the space in a regex_t structure with regfree before using the structure to compile another regular expression.

When regcomp or regexec reports an error, you can use the function regerror to turn it into an error message string.

Function: size_t regerror (int errcode, const regex_t *restrict compiled, char *restrict buffer, size_t length)

This function produces an error message string for the error code errcode, and stores the string in length bytes of memory starting at buffer. For the compiled argument, supply the same compiled regular expression structure that regcomp or regexec was working with when it got the error. Alternatively, you can supply NULL for compiled; you will still get a meaningful error message, but it might not be as detailed.

If the error message can't fit in length bytes (including a terminating null character), then regerror truncates it. The string that regerror stores is always null-terminated even if it has been truncated.

The return value of regerror is the minimum length needed to store the entire error message. If this is less than length, then the error message was not truncated, and you can use it. Otherwise, you should call regerror again with a larger buffer.

Here is a function which uses regerror, but always dynamically allocates a buffer for the error message:

 
char *get_regerror (int errcode, regex_t *compiled)
{
  size_t length = regerror (errcode, compiled, NULL, 0);
  char *buffer = xmalloc (length);
  (void) regerror (errcode, compiled, buffer, length);
  return buffer;
}

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10.4 Shell-Style Word Expansion

Word expansion means the process of splitting a string into words and substituting for variables, commands, and wildcards just as the shell does.

For example, when you write `ls -l foo.c', this string is split into three separate words--`ls', `-l' and `foo.c'. This is the most basic function of word expansion.

When you write `ls *.c', this can become many words, because the word `*.c' can be replaced with any number of file names. This is called wildcard expansion, and it is also a part of word expansion.

When you use `echo $PATH' to print your path, you are taking advantage of variable substitution, which is also part of word expansion.

Ordinary programs can perform word expansion just like the shell by calling the library function wordexp.


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10.4.1 The Stages of Word Expansion

When word expansion is applied to a sequence of words, it performs the following transformations in the order shown here:

  1. Tilde expansion: Replacement of `~foo' with the name of the home directory of `foo'.
  2. Next, three different transformations are applied in the same step, from left to right:
  3. Field splitting: subdivision of the text into words.
  4. Wildcard expansion: The replacement of a construct such as `*.c' with a list of `.c' file names. Wildcard expansion applies to an entire word at a time, and replaces that word with 0 or more file names that are themselves words.
  5. Quote removal: The deletion of string-quotes, now that they have done their job by inhibiting the above transformations when appropriate.

For the details of these transformations, and how to write the constructs that use them, see The BASH Manual (to appear).


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10.4.2 Calling wordexp

All the functions, constants and data types for word expansion are declared in the header file `wordexp.h'.

Word expansion produces a vector of words (strings). To return this vector, wordexp uses a special data type, wordexp_t, which is a structure. You pass wordexp the address of the structure, and it fills in the structure's fields to tell you about the results.

Data Type: wordexp_t

This data type holds a pointer to a word vector. More precisely, it records both the address of the word vector and its size.

we_wordc

The number of elements in the vector.

we_wordv

The address of the vector. This field has type char **.

we_offs

The offset of the first real element of the vector, from its nominal address in the we_wordv field. Unlike the other fields, this is always an input to wordexp, rather than an output from it.

If you use a nonzero offset, then that many elements at the beginning of the vector are left empty. (The wordexp function fills them with null pointers.)

The we_offs field is meaningful only if you use the WRDE_DOOFFS flag. Otherwise, the offset is always zero regardless of what is in this field, and the first real element comes at the beginning of the vector.

Function: int wordexp (const char *words, wordexp_t *word-vector-ptr, int flags)

Perform word expansion on the string words, putting the result in a newly allocated vector, and store the size and address of this vector into *word-vector-ptr. The argument flags is a combination of bit flags; see Flags for Word Expansion, for details of the flags.

You shouldn't use any of the characters `|&;<>' in the string words unless they are quoted; likewise for newline. If you use these characters unquoted, you will get the WRDE_BADCHAR error code. Don't use parentheses or braces unless they are quoted or part of a word expansion construct. If you use quotation characters `'"`', they should come in pairs that balance.

The results of word expansion are a sequence of words. The function wordexp allocates a string for each resulting word, then allocates a vector of type char ** to store the addresses of these strings. The last element of the vector is a null pointer. This vector is called the word vector.

To return this vector, wordexp stores both its address and its length (number of elements, not counting the terminating null pointer) into *word-vector-ptr.

If wordexp succeeds, it returns 0. Otherwise, it returns one of these error codes:

WRDE_BADCHAR

The input string words contains an unquoted invalid character such as `|'.

WRDE_BADVAL

The input string refers to an undefined shell variable, and you used the flag WRDE_UNDEF to forbid such references.

WRDE_CMDSUB

The input string uses command substitution, and you used the flag WRDE_NOCMD to forbid command substitution.

WRDE_NOSPACE

It was impossible to allocate memory to hold the result. In this case, wordexp can store part of the results--as much as it could allocate room for.

WRDE_SYNTAX

There was a syntax error in the input string. For example, an unmatched quoting character is a syntax error.

Function: void wordfree (wordexp_t *word-vector-ptr)

Free the storage used for the word-strings and vector that *word-vector-ptr points to. This does not free the structure *word-vector-ptr itself--only the other data it points to.


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10.4.3 Flags for Word Expansion

This section describes the flags that you can specify in the flags argument to wordexp. Choose the flags you want, and combine them with the C operator |.

WRDE_APPEND

Append the words from this expansion to the vector of words produced by previous calls to wordexp. This way you can effectively expand several words as if they were concatenated with spaces between them.

In order for appending to work, you must not modify the contents of the word vector structure between calls to wordexp. And, if you set WRDE_DOOFFS in the first call to wordexp, you must also set it when you append to the results.

WRDE_DOOFFS

Leave blank slots at the beginning of the vector of words. The we_offs field says how many slots to leave. The blank slots contain null pointers.

WRDE_NOCMD

Don't do command substitution; if the input requests command substitution, report an error.

WRDE_REUSE

Reuse a word vector made by a previous call to wordexp. Instead of allocating a new vector of words, this call to wordexp will use the vector that already exists (making it larger if necessary).

Note that the vector may move, so it is not safe to save an old pointer and use it again after calling wordexp. You must fetch we_pathv anew after each call.

WRDE_SHOWERR

Do show any error messages printed by commands run by command substitution. More precisely, allow these commands to inherit the standard error output stream of the current process. By default, wordexp gives these commands a standard error stream that discards all output.

WRDE_UNDEF

If the input refers to a shell variable that is not defined, report an error.


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10.4.4 wordexp Example

Here is an example of using wordexp to expand several strings and use the results to run a shell command. It also shows the use of WRDE_APPEND to concatenate the expansions and of wordfree to free the space allocated by wordexp.

 
int
expand_and_execute (const char *program, const char **options)
{
  wordexp_t result;
  pid_t pid
  int status, i;

  /* Expand the string for the program to run.  */
  switch (wordexp (program, &result, 0))
    {
    case 0:			/* Successful.  */
      break;
    case WRDE_NOSPACE:
      /* If the error was WRDE_NOSPACE,
         then perhaps part of the result was allocated.  */
      wordfree (&result);
    default:                    /* Some other error.  */
      return -1;
    }

  /* Expand the strings specified for the arguments.  */
  for (i = 0; options[i] != NULL; i++)
    {
      if (wordexp (options[i], &result, WRDE_APPEND))
        {
          wordfree (&result);
          return -1;
        }
    }

  pid = fork ();
  if (pid == 0)
    {
      /* This is the child process.  Execute the command. */
      execv (result.we_wordv[0], result.we_wordv);
      exit (EXIT_FAILURE);
    }
  else if (pid < 0)
    /* The fork failed.  Report failure.  */
    status = -1;
  else
    /* This is the parent process.  Wait for the child to complete.  */
    if (waitpid (pid, &status, 0) != pid)
      status = -1;

  wordfree (&result);
  return status;
}

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10.4.5 Details of Tilde Expansion

It's a standard part of shell syntax that you can use `~' at the beginning of a file name to stand for your own home directory. You can use `~user' to stand for user's home directory.

Tilde expansion is the process of converting these abbreviations to the directory names that they stand for.

Tilde expansion applies to the `~' plus all following characters up to whitespace or a slash. It takes place only at the beginning of a word, and only if none of the characters to be transformed is quoted in any way.

Plain `~' uses the value of the environment variable HOME as the proper home directory name. `~' followed by a user name uses getpwname to look up that user in the user database, and uses whatever directory is recorded there. Thus, `~' followed by your own name can give different results from plain `~', if the value of HOME is not really your home directory.


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10.4.6 Details of Variable Substitution

Part of ordinary shell syntax is the use of `$variable' to substitute the value of a shell variable into a command. This is called variable substitution, and it is one part of doing word expansion.

There are two basic ways you can write a variable reference for substitution:

${variable}

If you write braces around the variable name, then it is completely unambiguous where the variable name ends. You can concatenate additional letters onto the end of the variable value by writing them immediately after the close brace. For example, `${foo}s' expands into `tractors'.

$variable

If you do not put braces around the variable name, then the variable name consists of all the alphanumeric characters and underscores that follow the `$'. The next punctuation character ends the variable name. Thus, `$foo-bar' refers to the variable foo and expands into `tractor-bar'.

When you use braces, you can also use various constructs to modify the value that is substituted, or test it in various ways.

${variable:-default}

Substitute the value of variable, but if that is empty or undefined, use default instead.

${variable:=default}

Substitute the value of variable, but if that is empty or undefined, use default instead and set the variable to default.

${variable:?message}

If variable is defined and not empty, substitute its value.

Otherwise, print message as an error message on the standard error stream, and consider word expansion a failure.

${variable:+replacement}

Substitute replacement, but only if variable is defined and nonempty. Otherwise, substitute nothing for this construct.

${#variable}

Substitute a numeral which expresses in base ten the number of characters in the value of variable. `${#foo}' stands for `7', because `tractor' is seven characters.

These variants of variable substitution let you remove part of the variable's value before substituting it. The prefix and suffix are not mere strings; they are wildcard patterns, just like the patterns that you use to match multiple file names. But in this context, they match against parts of the variable value rather than against file names.

${variable%%suffix}

Substitute the value of variable, but first discard from that variable any portion at the end that matches the pattern suffix.

If there is more than one alternative for how to match against suffix, this construct uses the longest possible match.

Thus, `${foo%%r*}' substitutes `t', because the largest match for `r*' at the end of `tractor' is `ractor'.

${variable%suffix}

Substitute the value of variable, but first discard from that variable any portion at the end that matches the pattern suffix.

If there is more than one alternative for how to match against suffix, this construct uses the shortest possible alternative.

Thus, `${foo%r*}' substitutes `tracto', because the shortest match for `r*' at the end of `tractor' is just `r'.

${variable##prefix}

Substitute the value of variable, but first discard from that variable any portion at the beginning that matches the pattern prefix.

If there is more than one alternative for how to match against prefix, this construct uses the longest possible match.

Thus, `${foo##*t}' substitutes `or', because the largest match for `*t' at the beginning of `tractor' is `tract'.

${variable#prefix}

Substitute the value of variable, but first discard from that variable any portion at the beginning that matches the pattern prefix.

If there is more than one alternative for how to match against prefix, this construct uses the shortest possible alternative.

Thus, `${foo#*t}' substitutes `ractor', because the shortest match for `*t' at the beginning of `tractor' is just `t'.


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