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[Caml-list] Regular expression library: a poll on features
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Date: -- (:)
From: Matt Armstrong <matt@l...>
Subject: [Caml-list] Re: Regular expression library: a poll on features
Xavier Leroy <xavier.leroy@inria.fr> writes:

[...]

> Feature 2: partial string matching as per Str.string_partial_match, i.e.
> the ability to recognize that a string is a prefix of a string that
> match a regexp.
>
>      has already used           0
>      could use in some cases    6
>      no use                     8

[...]

> Feature 2 is unusual and I haven't heard from anyone that uses it
> :-) I got two replies suggesting one plausible scenario where
> partial matching could come handy: find delimiters in a piece of
> text that is being read block by block.  However, I'm not sure
> Str.string_partial_match is adequate here, it looks like a "search
> forward for a partial match" operation is needed, which Str doesn't
> provide...

This is how a MIME message parser I wrote worked (written in a
scripting language that made byte-by-byte string comparisons more
costly than regexps).  The parser read in the message chunk by chunk.
I had a list of regexps representing the current set of MIME
boundaries, and I was interested if the last N bytes of the current
chunk ended with a (possibly partial) match of each regexp.  If there
was a match and it wasn't complete, you have to deal with a MIME
boundary that might cross a chunk boundary.


> It was also suggested to me that the effect of partial matching
> against a regexp R can be achieved by exact matching against a
> regexp R' derived from R.  This is true for "textbook regexps",
> e.g. if R is "ab*c", then R' would be
> "epsilon|a(epsilon|b*(epsilon|c))", but doesn't work for more
> complex regexps languages, especially if back-references are
> supported.  (Consider R = "(a+)\1".)

And in the MIME parser, this is what I did -- since the regexps were
simple.

In Ocaml, I'm not sure I would use regexps for this at all since (I
assume) comparing strings "by hand" would be fast.
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