Regex – Regular expressions in C: examples


I'm after some simple examples and best practices of how to use regular expressions in ANSI C. man regex.h does not provide that much help.

Best Solution

Regular expressions actually aren't part of ANSI C. It sounds like you might be talking about the POSIX regular expression library, which comes with most (all?) *nixes. Here's an example of using POSIX regexes in C (based on this):

#include <regex.h>        
regex_t regex;
int reti;
char msgbuf[100];

/* Compile regular expression */
reti = regcomp(&regex, "^a[[:alnum:]]", 0);
if (reti) {
    fprintf(stderr, "Could not compile regex\n");

/* Execute regular expression */
reti = regexec(&regex, "abc", 0, NULL, 0);
if (!reti) {
else if (reti == REG_NOMATCH) {
    puts("No match");
else {
    regerror(reti, &regex, msgbuf, sizeof(msgbuf));
    fprintf(stderr, "Regex match failed: %s\n", msgbuf);

/* Free memory allocated to the pattern buffer by regcomp() */

Alternatively, you may want to check out PCRE, a library for Perl-compatible regular expressions in C. The Perl syntax is pretty much that same syntax used in Java, Python, and a number of other languages. The POSIX syntax is the syntax used by grep, sed, vi, etc.