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Book Review: Regular Expressions Cookbook By Jan Goyvaerts and Steven Levithan

Regular Expressions Cookbook ReviewRegular expression is always a tricky subject for programmers and sysadmins. When you are dealing with lot of text handling, understanding how to use Reg-ex effectively is essential. It is hard to remember the syntax of reg-ex on top of your head all the times.

Regular Expressions Cookbook is written by the Reg-Ex Jedi Master Jan Goyvaerts along with Steven Levithan.

This book with ISBN-10: 0596520689 and ISBN-13: 978-0596520687 was published by O’reilly in May 2009 and has a total of 510 pages.

Regular Expression Flavors

Following regular expression flavors are covered in this book:

  • Perl: Version 5.6, 5.8 and 5.10 are covered.
  • PCRE: Perl-Compatible Regular Expressions. Covers PCRE V4 – V7.
  • Java
  • Javascript
  • .NET
  • Python
  • Ruby

Replacement Text Flavors

Following replacement text flavors are covered in this book:

  • Perl – s/regex/replace/
  • PHP – preg_replace
  • .NET – System.Text.RegularExpressions
  • Java – java.util.regex
  • Javascript
  • Python – re module with sub function
  • Ruby

100+ Recipe Ingredients

This cook book has over 100 recipes. Each recipe has the following:

  • Problem Definition. (i.e the real-world reg-ex requirement)
  • Solution in all flavors
  • Examples in a specific programming language. This includes a detailed explanation of what is going behind the scenes in the regular expression.

There are total of 8 chapters in this cook book. I’ve given some high level information of what is covered in each and every chapter.

Chapter 1: Introduction to Regular Expressions

This chapters gives a high level introduction to regular expression explaining the search and replace concepts. This also explains the various utilities that are required to work with regular expressions.

Chapter 2: Basic Regular Expression Skills

Before jumping into the real world problems and solutions, this chapter explains the technical details on some of the fundamentals of regular expressions. For example:

  • How to match something at the start/end of the line
  • Insert match context into the replacement text.

Chapter 3: Programming with Regular Expressions

Contains recipes of how to implement various regular expressions in the programming languages that you are using. For example:

  • Importing regular expression library
  • Creating regular expression objects

Chapter 4: Validation and Formatting

This is an awesome chapter that contains lot of real-world examples on how to validate tons of different user inputs. For example:

  • Email Address Validation
  • Phone Numbers (US and International) Validation
  • Date and Time Format Validation
  • Alphanumeric Validation
  • Postal/Zip Code Validation (US, Canada, UK)
  • Credit Card Number validation

Chapter 5: Words, Lines, and Special Characters

This chapter contains recipes for intensive text manipulations. For example:

  • Find Specific Word
  • Find All Except Specific Word
  • Remove Duplicate Lines
  • Replace Repeated Whitespace with a Single Space

Chapter 6: Numbers

It is very tricky to manipulate numbers inside a regular expression. This chapter explains some basic number manipulation. For example:

  • Manipulate Integer, Hex and Binary
  • Strip Leading Zeros
  • Manipulate Roman Numerals

Chapter 7: URLs, Paths, and Internet Addresses

This is one of my favorite chapters. This chapter is full of practical recipes for sysadmins.

  • Convert URL to Links
  • Validate URL
  • Extract Scheme, User, Host Name, Port Number, Path, Query, Fragment from URL
  • Validate Domain Name
  • Match IPv4, IPv6 Address
  • Strip Invalid characters from Filenames

Chapter 8: Markup and Data Exchange

Explains about regular expression manipulating while dealing with HTML, XHTML, XML,CSV and INI files. For example:

  • Replace <b> with <strong> in HTML
  • Convert plain text to HTML
  • Match INI Name-Value Pairs

Geek Rating: 5/5 Stars

Regular Expressions Cookbook is Highly Recommended. This is hands-down the best book on the regular expression written by the Reg-Ex guru Jan Goyvaerts himself. Sysadmins and DBAs who write administrative scripts in Perl should definitely have this book as a reference. This is a must-have for programmers of all languages. When you have this book in your desk, regular expression will not look intimidating at all.

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Comments on this entry are closed.

  • Phaniraj July 29, 2009, 1:57 am

    I have the book. Bible for regex.

  • Malaka July 29, 2009, 5:09 am

    Gr8 book. All you need to know about regex

  • david July 30, 2009, 11:38 am

    Great book.


  • Ramesh Natarajan August 2, 2009, 5:06 pm

    @Phaniraj, @Malaka, @David,

    Thanks for your comment. Great to hear your feedback on this book.

  • Rahul Shelke August 2, 2009, 10:30 pm

    Hi Ramesh Natrajan,
    How are you?…hope you fine
    I have registered on geekstuff site but i stil ldidnt get the password for online reading different articales. Could you please provide me password on above mentioned e-mail id?..
    Thanking you for u help.

    Rahul Shelke

  • Phu September 28, 2009, 3:12 am

    Thanks for a very well written review.