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Mastering Regular Expressions [Paperback]

Jeffrey E. F. Friedl
5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
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Book Description

Aug. 18 2006 0596528124 978-0596528126 Third Edition

Regular expressions are an extremely powerful tool for manipulating text and data. They are now standard features in a wide range of languages and popular tools, including Perl, Python, Ruby, Java, VB.NET and C# (and any language using the .NET Framework), PHP, and MySQL.

If you don't use regular expressions yet, you will discover in this book a whole new world of mastery over your data. If you already use them, you'll appreciate this book's unprecedented detail and breadth of coverage. If you think you know all you need to know about regularexpressions, this book is a stunning eye-opener.

As this book shows, a command of regular expressions is an invaluable skill. Regular expressions allow you to code complex and subtle text processing that you never imagined could be automated. Regular expressions can save you time and aggravation. They can be used to craft elegant solutions to a wide range of problems. Once you've mastered regular expressions, they'll become an invaluable part of your toolkit. You will wonder how you ever got by without them.

Yet despite their wide availability, flexibility, and unparalleled power, regular expressions are frequently underutilized. Yet what is power in the hands of an expert can be fraught with peril for the unwary. Mastering Regular Expressions will help you navigate the minefield to becoming an expert and help you optimize your use of regular expressions.

Mastering Regular Expressions, Third Edition, now includes a full chapter devoted to PHP and its powerful and expressive suite of regular expression functions, in addition to enhanced PHP coverage in the central "core" chapters. Furthermore, this edition has been updated throughout to reflect advances in other languages, including expanded in-depth coverage of Sun's java.util.regex package, which has emerged as the standard Java regex implementation.Topics include:

  • A comparison of features among different versions of many languages and tools
  • How the regular expression engine works
  • Optimization (major savings available here!)
  • Matching just what you want, but not what you don't want
  • Sections and chapters on individual languages

Written in the lucid, entertaining tone that makes a complex, dry topic become crystal-clear to programmers, and sprinkled with solutions to complex real-world problems, Mastering Regular Expressions, Third Edition offers a wealth information that you can put to immediateuse.

Reviews of this new edition and the second edition:

"There isn't a better (or more useful) book available on regular expressions."

--Zak Greant, Managing Director, eZ Systems

"A real tour-de-force of a book which not only covers the mechanics of regexes in extraordinary detail but also talks about efficiency and the use of regexes in Perl, Java, and .NET...If you use regular expressions as part of your professional work (even if you already have a good book on whatever language you're programming in) I would strongly recommend this book to you."

--Dr. Chris Brown, Linux Format

"The author does an outstanding job leading the reader from regexnovice to master. The book is extremely easy to read and chock full ofuseful and relevant examples...Regular expressions are valuable toolsthat every developer should have in their toolbox. Mastering RegularExpressions is the definitive guide to the subject, and an outstandingresource that belongs on every programmer's bookshelf. Ten out of TenHorseshoes."

--Jason Menard, Java Ranch


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"Indispensable for text processing wizards and regex newcomers alike." - Paul Hudson, Linux Format, February 2007 "In addition to the sheer volume of information, one thing that sets this book apart is that the author uses "real-world" rather than contrived examples. A few of the examples were situations that I have yet to come across, but many were either "been there, done that" or things that I had to go out and try." - James Mohr, Linux Magazine, April 2007

Book Description

Understand Your Data and Be More Productive

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5.0 out of 5 stars It's "The Book" March 11 2010
Format:Paperback
I'll keep the review short, if your looking to learn regular expressions in any form, this is the book you want to pick-up. Don't buy another one, you'll just regret it and end up picking this one up anyways.

Enjoy it!
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5.0 out of 5 stars Essential for the reference library! Oct. 1 2008
By Joel Andrews TOP 500 REVIEWER
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
This book is a must have for your programming library! It has helped when I needed a regex solution for a complicated query!
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Amazon.com: 4.5 out of 5 stars  73 reviews
16 of 16 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Mastering Regular Expressions Aug. 23 2006
By Dotnetsky - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
I've corresponded personally with Jeffrey Friedl several times over the last few years, and I remember being at once impressed with his attention to detail and his focus. I was invited to be one of the technical review editors for this third edition of his authoritative book on Regular Expressions, but had to pass due to time constraints.

However, I am pleased to state that whoever the tech reviewers were, they did a thorough job on this one from O'Reilly. This book has matured over these three editions to become what I would consider the most detailed and valuable book about Regex on the planet - and that means whatever your favorite programming language or platform is.

You see, Regular Expressions is in itself a language, and transcends programming languages and platforms because the concepts are basically the same across all languages - whether it be Perl, JAVA, C#, Visual Basic, Javascript, PHP, Ruby, Python, TCL - you name it.

And this book focuses on the mastery of regex, not being a reference tool. Though each language has a different syntax for handling objects and methods, the underlying objects and methods are the same with Regex, so even complex examples shown in one language directly translate to the other languages.

Suffice to say that there are basic concept chapters that are really language - agnostic, and then specific sections on PHP, .NET, JAVA, and Perl. The book covers practical Regex techniques and most importantly, it gets you to the conceptual level where you can begin constructing Regex patterns on your own, without having to look for "examples".

For .NET developers, Jeffrey provides a complete table-based overview of .NET's Regular Expression flavor, with a focus on the new features available in .NET 2.0, including class subtraction, RegexOptions, and named capture.

In sum, let me just say that any developer who finds the need to manipulate text - whether it be scraping a web page, creating a report, importing data, or a hundred other applications, is going to need Regular Expressions. Jeffrey's book provides a complete and mature approach that is fresh, timely and detailed. I would recommend this book for any developer.
12 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Mastering Regular Expressions - A must-read for any savvy power-user Jan. 17 2007
By Ben Hilburn - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
For many savvy computer users, regular expressions embody the perfect utility: a well defined, documented, and designed tool that makes complicated and arduous jobs short and easy. That being said, the craft of regular expressions (hereafter, `regex') makes about as much sense as a foreign language to the uninitiated or novice. Regex have no immediately apparent meaning to those unfamiliar with them, and are so enigmatic in appearance that many users do not even attempt to understand them - writing them off as a tool only for experts. "Mastering Regular Expressions" sets out to not only make regex understandable, but easy to apply to a wide range of situations.

Stylistically and structurally, this is one of the most unique O'Reilly publications I have read. The author even says in the early chapters to think of the book as a novel, and not as a reference (the book's structure doesn't really lend itself to being a reference book anyways). The mindset that the author applies to his writing makes a discernable difference in how the book reads, and it feels more like a chronological story and less like a textbook as a result. Even the quizzes that the author scatters throughout the book are treated as part of the "story", and the solutions are on the very next page rather than in the back of the book or at the end of the chapter. As a result, the book is very easy to read, and flows extremely well. It feels much less like a textbook and more like a narrated lesson from an enjoyable professor.

With a topic as muddy and potentially confusing as regex, I was worried that the text would be just as confusing to follow. However, I was pleasantly surprised. The text itself is very well written, and very clear. There was never an instance in which I had trouble comprehending what the author was trying to communicate, and I almost never had to go back and re-read something multiple times to grasp the concept.

Furthermore, the text is full of excellent examples with accompanying explanations. The author almost exclusively teaches through example, and as a result, most of the lessons are extremely practical and great real-world applications. All of the code examples (of which there are many page-long instances of) are very well documented, and easy to understand.

Regex really is one of the most portable utilities that exists in the UNIX world. It can be applied to an enormous number of situations, and is interoperable with a laundry list of other tools and languages. As such, regex is not only a tool, but a general concept that must be grasped prior to proper usage - and this is what the first several chapters focus on. Thinking about problems in terms of regex is something that takes practice, and does not come easily to most people. This book tends to teach through example, and jumps right into matching simple regex to text lines to demonstrate how regex works. This brings me to my next point.

This book is not for beginners. I cannot stress this enough. The chapters not specifically aimed at a language require solid knowledge of a structured language like C++ or Java. Granted, the book really won't appeal to anyone that doesn't use computers on an advanced level on a regular basis; however, what I want to stress is that regardless of the reader's level of computer experience, if the reader does not have advanced knowledge of text handling in serious computer languages, most of the book's content will be too complex.

On the same note, and this is not a bad thing, about half the book is language-specific. There is a chapter for Perl, PHP, and Java. Obviously, if you don't know these languages, then most of the content of these chapters will be useless. This is not to say that the book will be useless to you if you don't know these languages - the non-language specific chapters occupy a large portion of the book, and contain more than enough material to master regex - however, the reader should be aware that just under half the book is aimed at specific languages.

Overall, this book is nothing short of fantastic. The audience for it is very limited - however, the author manages to make a concept difficult to understand, and even harder to master, easy to read about and learn. Clearly, a lot of thought went into the craft and design of this book, and it shows. I would highly recommend this book to any programmer, system administrator, or computer power user.
37 of 44 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Well written but an AWKward approach to Regex Nov. 22 2012
By Dave - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Kindle Edition
The first chapter was clear and methodical. I really liked the author's style and thought process and was excited to read the rest of the book. Unfortunately, the author takes a sudden left-turn at the beginning of Chapter 2 and starts teaching you Perl before he can demonstrate regex concepts. This was a poor choice in my opinion, and ultimately unnecessary (until perhaps much later chapters where implementation differences could be discussed). When teaching a concept, it is awkward to throw in an even more complex and cryptic topic like Perl for simply illustration.

Further, because this book shares a similar title and cover as the Regex Pocket Reference by O'Reilly Media, I had mistakenly assumed that this book also shared its coverage of Ruby specifics. It does not. If you are a rubinest you'll find scant references to Ruby at all; Tcl gets more attention than Ruby.

On the other hand, if you're into Perl or PHP (I am not, obviously) you'll find a lot of value in this book. Dive right in.

I encourage the author and editors to decouple regex and language-specific implementations in future editions.
18 of 21 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars RE: Third Edition Aug. 21 2006
By Brett Merkey - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
§

The third edition just came out -- and that makes 10 years since this book was first published. That statistic alone indicates the steady value of "Mastering Regular Expressions" across the constant changes in applied software technology over that time. Regular expressions, still the most under-used power tool, needs a book like this.

Specifically, this third edition features enhanced coverage of PHP in the early tutorial chapters, plus an all new chapter devoted entirely to PHP regular expressions.

Also new in this edition, the Java chapter has been rewritten and expanded to reflect new features as Java itself has developed.

§
7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Book is great but avoid in Kindle!!! Jan. 31 2014
By Dave - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
I have tried reading this on a Paperwhite, which didn't work well, but then I didn't expect it to. Next I tried using a Nexus 7 and that didn't work either, and for a very specific reason:

The font/special characters/colors that Friedl uses to illustrate how a regex will match a string of text works very well - if you can read it. The problem is that they are really tiny on a high-res tablet screen and while you can zoom in on an image or enlarge a font, there seems to be nothing you can do to enlarge those examples.

For me it makes the kindle version unusable.
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