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Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Mastering Regular Expressions

The final four chapters in this book each cover one of the four regex flavors that are probably the most widely used ones today. Though general programming books on these languages usually have a chapter devoted to regular expressions, you can't compare those with the chapters in this books. Other books give you an incomplete introduction to the regular expression syntax (which Mastering Regular Expressions covers in the first 6 chapters), and explain which functions and classes to use for common regex functions. The four language chapters in Mastering Regular Expressions, however, focus on the pitfalls and special features of each of the languages. They're too dense for programmers inexperienced with regular expressions or the programming language in question. But if you're ready to master you're language, they offer a wealth of information.

Chapter 7 covers Perl and its many regex-related features and tricks. Regular expressions are a core part of the Perl language, forming an essential part of almost any Perl script. Here you'll learn everything that no other book on Perl (that I know) will teach you. Where general books on programming in Perl usually have one chapter with a regular expression quick start, "Mastering Regular Expressions" shows you how to best use them with Perl.

The Java chapter covers the java.util.regex package in detail. This package is available in Java 4 (JDK 1.4) and later. The chapter tells you everything you need to know about the java.util.regex package, including the fixes and new features in Java 5 (JDK 1.5) and Java 6 (JDK 1.6). consists of two parts. There's a lot of detail here, which may overwhelm you if you're new to regular expressions. In that case, you'll probably want to get a copy of "Java Regular Expressions" by Mehran Habibi to go along with "Mastering Regular Expressions".

Chapter nine provides a good overview of the regular expression support in Microsoft's .NET framework, and how to best use it. This chapter provides a lot of information that is sorely lacking from the documentation included with the .NET SDK. While I wouldn't recommend buying this book just for the .NET chapter, "Mastering Regular Expressions" is certainly a good buy for .NET programmers wanting to get the most of their programming framework's excellent regular expression support.

The final chapter describes PHP's preg functions and the PCRE library they're built upon. The intricacies of all the PHP functions and the parameters they take are explained. The PHP chapter also explains PCRE's regex flavor, including PCRE's unique features such as recursive patterns. This book does not explain how to use PCRE in C/C++ applications.

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