PCRE - Perl-compatible regular expressions
This document describes the optional features of PCRE that can be selected when the library is compiled. It assumes use of the configure script, where the optional features are selected or deselected by providing options to configure before running the make command. However, the same options can be selected in both Unix-like and non-Unix-like environments using the GUI facility of CMakeSetup if you are using CMake instead of configure to build PCRE.
The complete list of options for configure (which includes the standard ones such as the selection of the installation directory) can be obtained by running
The following sections include descriptions of options whose names begin with --enable or --disable. These settings specify changes to the defaults for the configure command. Because of the way that configure works, --enable and --disable always come in pairs, so the complementary option always exists as well, but as it specifies the default, it is not described.
By default, the configure script will search for a C++ compiler and C++ header files. If it finds them, it automatically builds the C++ wrapper library for PCRE. You can disable this by adding
to the configure command.
To build PCRE with support for UTF-8 character strings, add
to the configure command. Of itself, this does not make PCRE treat strings as UTF-8. As well as compiling PCRE with this option, you also have have to set the PCRE_UTF8 option when you call the pcre_compile() function.
UTF-8 support allows PCRE to process character values greater than 255 in the strings that it handles. On its own, however, it does not provide any facilities for accessing the properties of such characters. If you want to be able to use the pattern escapes \P, \p, and \X, which refer to Unicode character properties, you must add
to the configure command. This implies UTF-8 support, even if you have not explicitly requested it.
Including Unicode property support adds around 30K of tables to the PCRE library. Only the general category properties such as Lu and Nd are supported. Details are given in the pcrepattern documentation.
By default, PCRE interprets character 10 (linefeed, LF) as indicating the end of a line. This is the normal newline character on Unix-like systems. You can compile PCRE to use character 13 (carriage return, CR) instead, by adding
to the configure command. There is also a --enable-newline-is-lf option, which explicitly specifies linefeed as the newline character.
Alternatively, you can specify that line endings are to be indicated by the two character sequence CRLF. If you want this, add
to the configure command. There is a fourth option, specified by
which causes PCRE to recognize any of the three sequences CR, LF, or CRLF as indicating a line ending. Finally, a fifth option, specified by
causes PCRE to recognize any Unicode newline sequence.
Whatever line ending convention is selected when PCRE is built can be overridden when the library functions are called. At build time it is conventional to use the standard for your operating system.
By default, the sequence \R in a pattern matches any Unicode newline sequence, whatever has been selected as the line ending sequence. If you specify
the default is changed so that \R matches only CR, LF, or CRLF. Whatever is selected when PCRE is built can be overridden when the library functions are called.
The PCRE building process uses libtool to build both shared and static Unix libraries by default. You can suppress one of these by adding one of
to the configure command, as required.
When PCRE is called through the POSIX interface (see the pcreposix documentation), additional working storage is required for holding the pointers to capturing substrings, because PCRE requires three integers per substring, whereas the POSIX interface provides only two. If the number of expected substrings is small, the wrapper function uses space on the stack, because this is faster than using malloc() for each call. The default threshold above which the stack is no longer used is 10; it can be changed by adding a setting such as
to the configure command.
Within a compiled pattern, offset values are used to point from one part to another (for example, from an opening parenthesis to an alternation metacharacter). By default, two-byte values are used for these offsets, leading to a maximum size for a compiled pattern of around 64K. This is sufficient to handle all but the most gigantic patterns. Nevertheless, some people do want to process enormous patterns, so it is possible to compile PCRE to use three-byte or four-byte offsets by adding a setting such as
to the configure command. The value given must be 2, 3, or 4. Using longer offsets slows down the operation of PCRE because it has to load additional bytes when handling them.
When matching with the pcre_exec() function, PCRE implements backtracking by making recursive calls to an internal function called match(). In environments where the size of the stack is limited, this can severely limit PCREs operation. (The Unix environment does not usually suffer from this problem, but it may sometimes be necessary to increase the maximum stack size. There is a discussion in the pcrestack documentation.) An alternative approach to recursion that uses memory from the heap to remember data, instead of using recursive function calls, has been implemented to work round the problem of limited stack size. If you want to build a version of PCRE that works this way, add
to the configure command. With this configuration, PCRE will use the pcre_stack_malloc and pcre_stack_free variables to call memory management functions. By default these point to malloc() and free(), but you can replace the pointers so that your own functions are used.
Separate functions are provided rather than using pcre_malloc and pcre_free because the usage is very predictable: the block sizes requested are always the same, and the blocks are always freed in reverse order. A calling program might be able to implement optimized functions that perform better than malloc() and free(). PCRE runs noticeably more slowly when built in this way. This option affects only the pcre_exec() function; it is not relevant for the the pcre_dfa_exec() function.
Internally, PCRE has a function called match(), which it calls repeatedly (sometimes recursively) when matching a pattern with the pcre_exec() function. By controlling the maximum number of times this function may be called during a single matching operation, a limit can be placed on the resources used by a single call to pcre_exec(). The limit can be changed at run time, as described in the pcreapi documentation. The default is 10 million, but this can be changed by adding a setting such as
to the configure command. This setting has no effect on the pcre_dfa_exec() matching function.
In some environments it is desirable to limit the depth of recursive calls of match() more strictly than the total number of calls, in order to restrict the maximum amount of stack (or heap, if --disable-stack-for-recursion is specified) that is used. A second limit controls this; it defaults to the value that is set for --with-match-limit, which imposes no additional constraints. However, you can set a lower limit by adding, for example,
to the configure command. This value can also be overridden at run time.
PCRE uses fixed tables for processing characters whose code values are less than 256. By default, PCRE is built with a set of tables that are distributed in the file pcre_chartables.c.dist. These tables are for ASCII codes only. If you add
to the configure command, the distributed tables are no longer used. Instead, a program called dftables is compiled and run. This outputs the source for new set of tables, created in the default locale of your C runtime system. (This method of replacing the tables does not work if you are cross compiling, because dftables is run on the local host. If you need to create alternative tables when cross compiling, you will have to do so "by hand".)
PCRE assumes by default that it will run in an environment where the character code is ASCII (or Unicode, which is a superset of ASCII). This is the case for most computer operating systems. PCRE can, however, be compiled to run in an EBCDIC environment by adding
to the configure command. This setting implies --enable-rebuild-chartables. You should only use it if you know that you are in an EBCDIC environment (for example, an IBM mainframe operating system).
Philip Hazel University Computing Service Cambridge CB2 3QH, England.
Last updated: 21 September 2007 Copyright (c) 1997-2007 University of Cambridge.
See attributes(5) for descriptions of the following attributes:
ATTRIBUTE TYPE ATTRIBUTE VALUE Availability SUNWpcre Interface Stability Uncommitted
Source for PCRE is available on http://opensolaris.org.
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