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Perl & regex help

by Anonymous Monk
on Jan 30, 2013 at 22:02 UTC ( #1016162=perlquestion: print w/replies, xml ) Need Help??
Anonymous Monk has asked for the wisdom of the Perl Monks concerning the following question:

I'm stuck on trying to create a regex that will match & but not &

The problem is that I need to encode HTML entities in a string, but in some cases parts of the string will already have had their HTML entities encoded.


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Re: Perl & regex help
by choroba (Bishop) on Jan 30, 2013 at 22:30 UTC
    To avoid &, use a negative look-ahead:
    i.e. the & not followed by amp;.
    لսႽ ᥲᥒ⚪⟊Ⴙᘓᖇ Ꮅᘓᖇ⎱ Ⴙᥲ𝇋ƙᘓᖇ

      Ah, yes. Perhaps a more general form for the html entities, e.g.,:


      Update: I have no idea what I was 'thinking' here. Excellent and appreciated corrections to this below...

        That won't just exclude HTML entities from being matched, it will exclude any & character that is in the same line as a semicolon somewhere to the right of it, because .+? also matches whitespace.

        Instead, you should match for HTML/XML entities specifically. There are three forms that they can take, and the corresponding regexes for matching them would be:

          /&#[0-9]+;/ - character referenced by decimal number

          /&#x[0-9a-f]+;/i - character referenced by hexadecimal number

          /&[a-z]+;/i - character referenced by name

        Putting it together, you get this regex for matching an HTML entity:

        Although that's kinda messy and pedantic, and you can probably get away with using this simplified version:
        (Unlike the more pedantic version, it would match some false positives such as &#amp; or &1a2b3c;, but what are the chances such constructs will appear in the input document?)

        To do what the OP requested, wrap everything after the & in a negative look-ahead bracket like choroba suggested:

        # 10 20 30 40 50 # ---------'---------'---------'---------'---------'---- my $str = "& ... & ... & ... &no_entity; ... & ... ;"; while ($str =~ /&(?!#?[0-9a-z]+;)/gi) { print "Found ampersand at position ".pos($str)."\n"; }


        Found ampersand at position 32 Found ampersand at position 48

        (i.e. it only matches the last two & characters in $str)

        It fails on a string like this: "I saw a dog & a cat;".

        A safer solution, would be: /&(?!#?[a-zA-Z0-9]+;)/
Re: Perl & regex help
by Kenosis (Priest) on Jan 30, 2013 at 22:27 UTC

    Please enclose the items you want matched/non matched within <code> tags, so we can see what they are.

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