If additional arguments are specified after string then they are treated as the names of variables in which to return information about which parts of string match exp. matchVar is set to the range of string that matched all of exp. The first subMatchVar contains the characters in string that match the leftmost parenthesized subexpression within exp, the next subMatchVar contains the characters that match the next parenthesized subexpression to the right in exp, and so on.
If the initial arguments to regexp start with ``-'' then they are treated as switches. The following switches are currently supported:
A regular expression is zero or more branches, separated by ``|''. It matches anything that matches one of the branches.
A branch is zero or more pieces, concatenated. It matches a match for the first, followed by a match for the second, and so on.
A piece is an atom possibly followed by ``'', ``+'', or ``?''. An atom followed by ``'' matches a sequence of 0 or more matches of the atom. An atom followed by ``+'' matches a sequence of 1 or more matches of the atom. An atom followed by ``?'' matches a match of the atom, or the null string.
An atom is a regular expression in parentheses (matching a match for the regular expression), a range (see below), ``.'' (matching any single character), ``^'' (matching the null string at the beginning of the input string), ``$'' (matching the null string at the end of the input string), a ``\'' followed by a single character (matching that character), or a single character with no other significance (matching that character).
A range is a sequence of characters enclosed in ``''. It normally matches any single character from the sequence. If the sequence begins with ``^'', it matches any single character not from the rest of the sequence. If two characters in the sequence are separated by ``-'', this is shorthand for the full list of ASCII characters between them (for example,``[0-9]'' matches any decimal digit). To include a literal ``]'' in the sequence, make it the first character (following a possible ``^''). To include a literal ``-'', make it the first or last character.
Considering only the rules given so far, x and y could end up with the values aabb and aa, aaab and aaa, ab and a, or any of several other combinations. To resolve this potential ambiguity regexp chooses among alternatives using the rule ``first then longest''. In other words, it considers the possible matches in order, working from left to right across the input string and the pattern, and it attempts to match longer pieces of the input string before shorter ones. More specifically, the following rules apply in decreasing order of priority:
After this command x will be abc, y will be ab, and z will be an empty string. Rule 4 specifies that (ab|a) is checked for a match against the input string first, and Rule 2 specifies that the ab sub-expression is checked before the a sub-expression. Thus the b has already been claimed before the (b) component is checked and (b) must match an empty string.