The Java™ Tutorials
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Trail: Essential Java Classes
Lesson: Regular Expressions


What Are Regular Expressions?

Regular expressions are a way to describe a set of strings based on common characteristics shared by each string in the set. They can be used to search, edit, or manipulate text and data. You must learn a specific syntax to create regular expressions — one that goes beyond the normal syntax of the Java programming language. Regular expressions vary in complexity, but once you understand the basics of how they're constructed, you'll be able to decipher (or create) any regular expression.

This trail teaches the regular expression syntax supported by the java.util.regex API and presents several working examples to illustrate how the various objects interact. In the world of regular expressions, there are many different flavors to choose from, such as grep, Perl, Tcl, Python, PHP, and awk. The regular expression syntax in the java.util.regex API is most similar to that found in Perl.

How Are Regular Expressions Represented in This Package?

The java.util.regex package primarily consists of three classes: Pattern, Matcher, and PatternSyntaxException.

The last few lessons of this trail explore each class in detail. But first, you must understand how regular expressions are actually constructed. Therefore, the next section introduces a simple test harness that will be used repeatedly to explore their syntax.

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