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Let's Talk About REGEX !!

the_unconventional_coder profile image ABHINAVA GHOSH (he/him) Updated on ・3 min read

I think most of us would agree that :

"Regex" is one of those concepts in computer science that no matter how many times you practice , you may have to go back to your notes or google about it. 😟

What are regex/regular expressions ❓ 😕

A regular expression defines a search pattern for strings. The abbreviation for regular expression is regex. The search pattern can be anything from a simple character, a fixed string or a complex expression containing special characters describing the pattern. The pattern defined by the regex may match one or several times or not at all for a given string.

💥 Common matching symbols:

Regular Expression Description
. matches any character
^regex Finds regex that must match at the beginning of the line.
regex$ Finds regex that must match at the end of the line.
[abc] Set definition, can match the letter a or b or c.
[abc][vz] Set definition, can match a or b or c followed by either v or z.
[^abc] When a caret appears as the first character inside square brackets, it negates the pattern. This pattern matches any character except a or b or c.
[a-d1-7] Ranges: matches a letter between a and d and figures from 1 to 7, but not d1.
XZ Finds X directly followed by Z.
$ Checks if a line end follows.

💥 Meta characters:

Regular Expression Description
\d Any digit, short for [0-9]
\D A non-digit, short for [^0-9]
\s A whitespace character, short for [ \t\n\x0b\r\f]
\S A non-whitespace character
\w A word character, short for [a-zA-Z_0-9]
\W A non-word character [^\w]
\S+ Several non-whitespace characters
\b Matches a word boundary where a word character is [a-zA-Z0-9_]

🎯 [NOTE]: These meta characters have the same first letter as their representation, e.g., digit, space, word, and boundary. Uppercase symbols define the opposite.

💥 Quantifier:

A quantifier defines how often an element can occur. The symbols ?, *, + and {} are qualifiers.

Regular Expression Description
* Occurs zero or more times, is short for {0,}
+ Occurs one or more times, is short for {1,}
? Occurs no or one times, ? is short for {0,1}.
{X} Occurs X number of times, {} describes the order of the preceding liberal
{X,Y} Occurs between X and Y times
*? ? after a quantifier makes it a reluctant quantifier. It tries to find the smallest match. This makes the regular expression stop at the first match.

🎯 [NOTE] - The backslash \ is an escape character in Java Strings. That means backslash has a predefined meaning in Java. You have to use double backslash \ to define a single backslash. If you want to define \w, then you must be using \w in your regex. If you want to use backslash as a literal, you have to type \\ as \ is also an escape character in regular expressions.

💥 Redefined methods on String for processing regular expressions.

Regular Expression Description
s.matches("regex") Evaluates if "regex" matches s. Returns only true if the WHOLE string can be matched.
s.split("regex") Creates an array with substrings of s divided at occurrence of "regex". "regex" is not included in the result.
s.replaceFirst("regex"), "replacement" Replaces first occurance of "regex" with "replacement.
s.replaceAll("regex"), "replacement" Replaces all occurances of "regex" with "replacement.

Practice your Regex Skills here

Some resources gathered from the discussions panel:

Thank you Madza , Jakeer for the links.

Some of my other posts:

Concept link
Java Access Modifiers goto Article
Java Generics goto Article
Java Regex goto Article
Java Streams Api goto Article

Please leave a ❤️ if you liked this post!
A 🦄 would be great!

And feel free to let me know in the discussions if you think i missed something.


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the_unconventional_coder profile



I'm Abhinava Ghosh, a Computer Science and Engineering Student who is passionate about simplifying things through technology. I work with all kinds of modern Java,Android and JavaScript Applications.


markdown guide

Thank you for this. Very helpful.


What regex? There's more different syntaxes for regular expressions than I can count; something that works in perl might not work in vim; grep allows selecting one of several regex flavours, etc.


Interesting article. Going back to my notes or google about it it's an understatement. I literally need to re-learn it every time I use it :).


Interesting article. A nice regex visualizer / tester: extendsclass.com/regex-tester.html