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       perlreapi - perl regular expression plugin interface


       As of Perl 5.9.5 there is a new interface for plugging and using other regular expression
       engines than the default one.

       Each engine is supposed to provide access to a constant structure of the following format:

           typedef struct regexp_engine {
               REGEXP* (*comp) (pTHX_ const SV * const pattern, const U32 flags);
               I32     (*exec) (pTHX_ REGEXP * const rx, char* stringarg, char* strend,
                                char* strbeg, I32 minend, SV* screamer,
                                void* data, U32 flags);
               char*   (*intuit) (pTHX_ REGEXP * const rx, SV *sv, char *strpos,
                                  char *strend, U32 flags,
                                  struct re_scream_pos_data_s *data);
               SV*     (*checkstr) (pTHX_ REGEXP * const rx);
               void    (*free) (pTHX_ REGEXP * const rx);
               void    (*numbered_buff_FETCH) (pTHX_ REGEXP * const rx, const I32 paren,
                                        SV * const sv);
               void    (*numbered_buff_STORE) (pTHX_ REGEXP * const rx, const I32 paren,
                                              SV const * const value);
               I32     (*numbered_buff_LENGTH) (pTHX_ REGEXP * const rx, const SV * const sv,
                                               const I32 paren);
               SV*     (*named_buff) (pTHX_ REGEXP * const rx, SV * const key,
                                      SV * const value, U32 flags);
               SV*     (*named_buff_iter) (pTHX_ REGEXP * const rx, const SV * const lastkey,
                                           const U32 flags);
               SV*     (*qr_package)(pTHX_ REGEXP * const rx);
           #ifdef USE_ITHREADS
               void*   (*dupe) (pTHX_ REGEXP * const rx, CLONE_PARAMS *param);

       When a regexp is compiled, its "engine" field is then set to point at the appropriate
       structure, so that when it needs to be used Perl can find the right routines to do so.

       In order to install a new regexp handler, $^H{regcomp} is set to an integer which (when
       casted appropriately) resolves to one of these structures. When compiling, the "comp"
       method is executed, and the resulting regexp structure's engine field is expected to point
       back at the same structure.

       The pTHX_ symbol in the definition is a macro used by perl under threading to provide an
       extra argument to the routine holding a pointer back to the interpreter that is executing
       the regexp. So under threading all routines get an extra argument.


           REGEXP* comp(pTHX_ const SV * const pattern, const U32 flags);

       Compile the pattern stored in "pattern" using the given "flags" and return a pointer to a
       prepared "REGEXP" structure that can perform the match. See "The REGEXP structure" below
       for an explanation of the individual fields in the REGEXP struct.

       The "pattern" parameter is the scalar that was used as the pattern. previous versions of
       perl would pass two "char*" indicating the start and end of the stringified pattern, the
       following snippet can be used to get the old parameters:

           STRLEN plen;
           char*  exp = SvPV(pattern, plen);
           char* xend = exp + plen;

       Since any scalar can be passed as a pattern it's possible to implement an engine that does
       something with an array (""ook" =~ [ qw/ eek hlagh / ]") or with the non-stringified form
       of a compiled regular expression (""ook" =~ qr/eek/"). perl's own engine will always
       stringify everything using the snippet above but that doesn't mean other engines have to.

       The "flags" parameter is a bitfield which indicates which of the "msixp" flags the regex
       was compiled with. It also contains additional info such as whether "use locale" is in

       The "eogc" flags are stripped out before being passed to the comp routine. The regex
       engine does not need to know whether any of these are set as those flags should only
       affect what perl does with the pattern and its match variables, not how it gets compiled
       and executed.

       By the time the comp callback is called, some of these flags have already had effect
       (noted below where applicable). However most of their effect occurs after the comp
       callback has run in routines that read the "rx->extflags" field which it populates.

       In general the flags should be preserved in "rx->extflags" after compilation, although the
       regex engine might want to add or delete some of them to invoke or disable some special
       behavior in perl. The flags along with any special behavior they cause are documented

       The pattern modifiers:

       "/m" - RXf_PMf_MULTILINE
           If this is in "rx->extflags" it will be passed to "Perl_fbm_instr" by "pp_split" which
           will treat the subject string as a multi-line string.

       "/s" - RXf_PMf_SINGLELINE
       "/i" - RXf_PMf_FOLD
       "/x" - RXf_PMf_EXTENDED
           If present on a regex "#" comments will be handled differently by the tokenizer in
           some cases.

           TODO: Document those cases.

       "/p" - RXf_PMf_KEEPCOPY
       Character set
           The character set semantics are determined by an enum that is contained in this field.
           This is still experimental and subject to change, but the current interface returns
           the rules by use of the in-line function "get_regex_charset(const U32 flags)".  The
           only currently documented value returned from it is REGEX_LOCALE_CHARSET, which is set
           if "use locale" is in effect. If present in "rx->extflags" "split" will use the locale
           dependent definition of whitespace under when RXf_SKIPWHITE or RXf_WHITE are in
           effect. Under ASCII whitespace is defined as per isSPACE, and by the internal macros
           "is_utf8_space" under UTF-8 and "isSPACE_LC" under "use locale".

       Additional flags:

           Set if the pattern is SvUTF8(), set by Perl_pmruntime.

           A regex engine may want to set or disable this flag during compilation. The perl
           engine for instance may upgrade non-UTF-8 strings to UTF-8 if the pattern includes
           constructs such as "\x{...}" that can only match Unicode values.

           If "split" is invoked as "split ' '" or with no arguments (which really means "split('
           ', $_)", see split), perl will set this flag. The regex engine can then check for it
           and set the SKIPWHITE and WHITE extflags. To do this the perl engine does:

               if (flags & RXf_SPLIT && r->prelen == 1 && r->precomp[0] == ' ')
                   r->extflags |= (RXf_SKIPWHITE|RXf_WHITE);

       These flags can be set during compilation to enable optimizations in the "split" operator.

           If the flag is present in "rx->extflags" "split" will delete whitespace from the start
           of the subject string before it's operated on. What is considered whitespace depends
           on whether the subject is a UTF-8 string and whether the "RXf_PMf_LOCALE" flag is set.

           If RXf_WHITE is set in addition to this flag "split" will behave like "split " ""
           under the perl engine.

           Tells the split operator to split the target string on newlines ("\n") without
           invoking the regex engine.

           Perl's engine sets this if the pattern is "/^/" ("plen == 1 && *exp == '^'"), even
           under "/^/s", see split. Of course a different regex engine might want to use the same
           optimizations with a different syntax.

           Tells the split operator to split the target string on whitespace without invoking the
           regex engine. The definition of whitespace varies depending on whether the target
           string is a UTF-8 string and on whether RXf_PMf_LOCALE is set.

           Perl's engine sets this flag if the pattern is "\s+".

           Tells the split operator to split the target string on characters. The definition of
           character varies depending on whether the target string is a UTF-8 string.

           Perl's engine sets this flag on empty patterns, this optimization makes "split //"
           much faster than it would otherwise be. It's even faster than "unpack".

           I32 exec(pTHX_ REGEXP * const rx,
                    char *stringarg, char* strend, char* strbeg,
                    I32 minend, SV* screamer,
                    void* data, U32 flags);

       Execute a regexp.

           char* intuit(pTHX_ REGEXP * const rx,
                         SV *sv, char *strpos, char *strend,
                         const U32 flags, struct re_scream_pos_data_s *data);

       Find the start position where a regex match should be attempted, or possibly whether the
       regex engine should not be run because the pattern can't match. This is called as
       appropriate by the core depending on the values of the extflags member of the regexp

           SV* checkstr(pTHX_ REGEXP * const rx);

       Return a SV containing a string that must appear in the pattern. Used by "split" for
       optimising matches.

           void free(pTHX_ REGEXP * const rx);

       Called by perl when it is freeing a regexp pattern so that the engine can release any
       resources pointed to by the "pprivate" member of the regexp structure. This is only
       responsible for freeing private data; perl will handle releasing anything else contained
       in the regexp structure.

   Numbered capture callbacks
       Called to get/set the value of "$`", "$'", $& and their named equivalents, ${^PREMATCH},
       ${^POSTMATCH} and $^{MATCH}, as well as the numbered capture groups ($1, $2, ...).

       The "paren" parameter will be "-2" for "$`", "-1" for "$'", 0 for $&, 1 for $1 and so

       The names have been chosen by analogy with Tie::Scalar methods names with an additional
       LENGTH callback for efficiency. However named capture variables are currently not tied
       internally but implemented via magic.


           void numbered_buff_FETCH(pTHX_ REGEXP * const rx, const I32 paren,
                                    SV * const sv);

       Fetch a specified numbered capture. "sv" should be set to the scalar to return, the scalar
       is passed as an argument rather than being returned from the function because when it's
       called perl already has a scalar to store the value, creating another one would be
       redundant. The scalar can be set with "sv_setsv", "sv_setpvn" and friends, see perlapi.

       This callback is where perl untaints its own capture variables under taint mode (see
       perlsec). See the "Perl_reg_numbered_buff_fetch" function in regcomp.c for how to untaint
       capture variables if that's something you'd like your engine to do as well.


           void    (*numbered_buff_STORE) (pTHX_ REGEXP * const rx, const I32 paren,
                                           SV const * const value);

       Set the value of a numbered capture variable. "value" is the scalar that is to be used as
       the new value. It's up to the engine to make sure this is used as the new value (or reject


           if ("ook" =~ /(o*)/) {
               # `paren' will be `1' and `value' will be `ee'
               $1 =~ tr/o/e/;

       Perl's own engine will croak on any attempt to modify the capture variables, to do this in
       another engine use the following callback (copied from "Perl_reg_numbered_buff_store"):

           Example_reg_numbered_buff_store(pTHX_ REGEXP * const rx, const I32 paren,
                                                                   SV const * const value)

               if (!PL_localizing)
                   Perl_croak(aTHX_ PL_no_modify);

       Actually perl will not always croak in a statement that looks like it would modify a
       numbered capture variable. This is because the STORE callback will not be called if perl
       can determine that it doesn't have to modify the value. This is exactly how tied variables
       behave in the same situation:

           package CaptureVar;
           use base 'Tie::Scalar';

           sub TIESCALAR { bless [] }
           sub FETCH { undef }
           sub STORE { die "This doesn't get called" }

           package main;

           tie my $sv => "CaptureVar";
           $sv =~ y/a/b/;

       Because $sv is "undef" when the "y///" operator is applied to it the transliteration won't
       actually execute and the program won't "die". This is different to how 5.8 and earlier
       versions behaved since the capture variables were READONLY variables then, now they'll
       just die when assigned to in the default engine.


           I32 numbered_buff_LENGTH (pTHX_ REGEXP * const rx, const SV * const sv,
                                     const I32 paren);

       Get the "length" of a capture variable. There's a special callback for this so that perl
       doesn't have to do a FETCH and run "length" on the result, since the length is (in perl's
       case) known from an offset stored in "rx->offs" this is much more efficient:

           I32 s1  = rx->offs[paren].start;
           I32 s2  = rx->offs[paren].end;
           I32 len = t1 - s1;

       This is a little bit more complex in the case of UTF-8, see what
       "Perl_reg_numbered_buff_length" does with is_utf8_string_loclen.

   Named capture callbacks
       Called to get/set the value of "%+" and "%-" as well as by some utility functions in re.

       There are two callbacks, "named_buff" is called in all the cases the FETCH, STORE, DELETE,
       CLEAR, EXISTS and SCALAR Tie::Hash callbacks would be on changes to "%+" and "%-" and
       "named_buff_iter" in the same cases as FIRSTKEY and NEXTKEY.

       The "flags" parameter can be used to determine which of these operations the callbacks
       should respond to, the following flags are currently defined:

       Which Tie::Hash operation is being performed from the Perl level on "%+" or "%+", if any:


       Whether "%+" or "%-" is being operated on, if any.

           RXapif_ONE /* %+ */
           RXapif_ALL /* %- */

       Whether this is being called as "re::regname", "re::regnames" or "re::regnames_count", if
       any. The first two will be combined with "RXapif_ONE" or "RXapif_ALL".


       Internally "%+" and "%-" are implemented with a real tied interface via
       Tie::Hash::NamedCapture. The methods in that package will call back into these functions.
       However the usage of Tie::Hash::NamedCapture for this purpose might change in future
       releases. For instance this might be implemented by magic instead (would need an extension
       to mgvtbl).


           SV*     (*named_buff) (pTHX_ REGEXP * const rx, SV * const key,
                                  SV * const value, U32 flags);


           SV*     (*named_buff_iter) (pTHX_ REGEXP * const rx, const SV * const lastkey,
                                       const U32 flags);

           SV* qr_package(pTHX_ REGEXP * const rx);

       The package the qr// magic object is blessed into (as seen by "ref qr//"). It is
       recommended that engines change this to their package name for identification regardless
       of whether they implement methods on the object.

       The package this method returns should also have the internal "Regexp" package in its
       @ISA. "qr//->isa("Regexp")" should always be true regardless of what engine is being used.

       Example implementation might be:

           Example_qr_package(pTHX_ REGEXP * const rx)
               return newSVpvs("re::engine::Example");

       Any method calls on an object created with "qr//" will be dispatched to the package as a
       normal object.

           use re::engine::Example;
           my $re = qr//;
           $re->meth; # dispatched to re::engine::Example::meth()

       To retrieve the "REGEXP" object from the scalar in an XS function use the "SvRX" macro,
       see "REGEXP Functions" in perlapi.

           void meth(SV * rv)
               REGEXP * re = SvRX(sv);

           void* dupe(pTHX_ REGEXP * const rx, CLONE_PARAMS *param);

       On threaded builds a regexp may need to be duplicated so that the pattern can be used by
       multiple threads. This routine is expected to handle the duplication of any private data
       pointed to by the "pprivate" member of the regexp structure.  It will be called with the
       preconstructed new regexp structure as an argument, the "pprivate" member will point at
       the old private structure, and it is this routine's responsibility to construct a copy and
       return a pointer to it (which perl will then use to overwrite the field as passed to this

       This allows the engine to dupe its private data but also if necessary modify the final
       structure if it really must.

       On unthreaded builds this field doesn't exist.

The REGEXP structure

       The REGEXP struct is defined in regexp.h. All regex engines must be able to correctly
       build such a structure in their "comp" routine.

       The REGEXP structure contains all the data that perl needs to be aware of to properly work
       with the regular expression. It includes data about optimisations that perl can use to
       determine if the regex engine should really be used, and various other control info that
       is needed to properly execute patterns in various contexts such as is the pattern anchored
       in some way, or what flags were used during the compile, or whether the program contains
       special constructs that perl needs to be aware of.

       In addition it contains two fields that are intended for the private use of the regex
       engine that compiled the pattern. These are the "intflags" and "pprivate" members.
       "pprivate" is a void pointer to an arbitrary structure whose use and management is the
       responsibility of the compiling engine. perl will never modify either of these values.

           typedef struct regexp {
               /* what engine created this regexp? */
               const struct regexp_engine* engine;

               /* what re is this a lightweight copy of? */
               struct regexp* mother_re;

               /* Information about the match that the perl core uses to manage things */
               U32 extflags;   /* Flags used both externally and internally */
               I32 minlen;     /* mininum possible length of string to match */
               I32 minlenret;  /* mininum possible length of $& */
               U32 gofs;       /* chars left of pos that we search from */

               /* substring data about strings that must appear
                  in the final match, used for optimisations */
               struct reg_substr_data *substrs;

               U32 nparens;  /* number of capture groups */

               /* private engine specific data */
               U32 intflags;   /* Engine Specific Internal flags */
               void *pprivate; /* Data private to the regex engine which
                                  created this object. */

               /* Data about the last/current match. These are modified during matching*/
               U32 lastparen;            /* last open paren matched */
               U32 lastcloseparen;       /* last close paren matched */
               regexp_paren_pair *swap;  /* Swap copy of *offs */
               regexp_paren_pair *offs;  /* Array of offsets for (@-) and (@+) */

               char *subbeg;  /* saved or original string so \digit works forever. */
               SV_SAVED_COPY  /* If non-NULL, SV which is COW from original */
               I32 sublen;    /* Length of string pointed by subbeg */

               /* Information about the match that isn't often used */
               I32 prelen;           /* length of precomp */
               const char *precomp;  /* pre-compilation regular expression */

               char *wrapped;  /* wrapped version of the pattern */
               I32 wraplen;    /* length of wrapped */

               I32 seen_evals;   /* number of eval groups in the pattern - for security checks */
               HV *paren_names;  /* Optional hash of paren names */

               /* Refcount of this regexp */
               I32 refcnt;             /* Refcount of this regexp */
           } regexp;

       The fields are discussed in more detail below:

       This field points at a regexp_engine structure which contains pointers to the subroutines
       that are to be used for performing a match. It is the compiling routine's responsibility
       to populate this field before returning the regexp object.

       Internally this is set to "NULL" unless a custom engine is specified in $^H{regcomp},
       perl's own set of callbacks can be accessed in the struct pointed to by "RE_ENGINE_PTR".

       TODO, see

       This will be used by perl to see what flags the regexp was compiled with, this will
       normally be set to the value of the flags parameter by the comp callback. See the comp
       documentation for valid flags.

   "minlen" "minlenret"
       The minimum string length required for the pattern to match.  This is used to prune the
       search space by not bothering to match any closer to the end of a string than would allow
       a match. For instance there is no point in even starting the regex engine if the minlen is
       10 but the string is only 5 characters long. There is no way that the pattern can match.

       "minlenret" is the minimum length of the string that would be found in $& after a match.

       The difference between "minlen" and "minlenret" can be seen in the following pattern:


       where the "minlen" would be 3 but "minlenret" would only be 2 as the \d is required to
       match but is not actually included in the matched content. This distinction is
       particularly important as the substitution logic uses the "minlenret" to tell whether it
       can do in-place substitution which can result in considerable speedup.

       Left offset from pos() to start match at.

       Substring data about strings that must appear in the final match. This is currently only
       used internally by perl's engine for but might be used in the future for all engines for

   "nparens", "lasparen", and "lastcloseparen"
       These fields are used to keep track of how many paren groups could be matched in the
       pattern, which was the last open paren to be entered, and which was the last close paren
       to be entered.

       The engine's private copy of the flags the pattern was compiled with. Usually this is the
       same as "extflags" unless the engine chose to modify one of them.

       A void* pointing to an engine-defined data structure. The perl engine uses the
       "regexp_internal" structure (see "Base Structures" in perlreguts) but a custom engine
       should use something else.

       Unused. Left in for compatibility with perl 5.10.0.

       A "regexp_paren_pair" structure which defines offsets into the string being matched which
       correspond to the $& and $1, $2 etc. captures, the "regexp_paren_pair" struct is defined
       as follows:

           typedef struct regexp_paren_pair {
               I32 start;
               I32 end;
           } regexp_paren_pair;

       If "->offs[num].start" or "->offs[num].end" is "-1" then that capture group did not match.
       "->offs[0].start/end" represents $& (or "${^MATCH" under "//p") and "->offs[paren].end"
       matches $$paren where $paren = 1>.

   "precomp" "prelen"
       Used for optimisations. "precomp" holds a copy of the pattern that was compiled and
       "prelen" its length. When a new pattern is to be compiled (such as inside a loop) the
       internal "regcomp" operator checks whether the last compiled "REGEXP"'s "precomp" and
       "prelen" are equivalent to the new one, and if so uses the old pattern instead of
       compiling a new one.

       The relevant snippet from "Perl_pp_regcomp":

               if (!re || !re->precomp || re->prelen != (I32)len ||
                   memNE(re->precomp, t, len))
               /* Compile a new pattern */

       This is a hash used internally to track named capture groups and their offsets. The keys
       are the names of the buffers the values are dualvars, with the IV slot holding the number
       of buffers with the given name and the pv being an embedded array of I32.  The values may
       also be contained independently in the data array in cases where named backreferences are

       Holds information on the longest string that must occur at a fixed offset from the start
       of the pattern, and the longest string that must occur at a floating offset from the start
       of the pattern. Used to do Fast-Boyer-Moore searches on the string to find out if its
       worth using the regex engine at all, and if so where in the string to search.

   "subbeg" "sublen" "saved_copy"
       Used during execution phase for managing search and replace patterns.

   "wrapped" "wraplen"
       Stores the string "qr//" stringifies to. The perl engine for example stores "(?^:eek)" in
       the case of "qr/eek/".

       When using a custom engine that doesn't support the "(?:)" construct for inline modifiers,
       it's probably best to have "qr//" stringify to the supplied pattern, note that this will
       create undesired patterns in cases such as:

           my $x = qr/a|b/;  # "a|b"
           my $y = qr/c/i;   # "c"
           my $z = qr/$x$y/; # "a|bc"

       There's no solution for this problem other than making the custom engine understand a
       construct like "(?:)".

       This stores the number of eval groups in the pattern. This is used for security purposes
       when embedding compiled regexes into larger patterns with "qr//".

       The number of times the structure is referenced. When this falls to 0 the regexp is
       automatically freed by a call to pregfree. This should be set to 1 in each engine's "comp"


       Originally part of perlreguts.


       Originally written by Yves Orton, expanded by var Arnfjoer` Bjarmason.


       Copyright 2006 Yves Orton and 2007 var Arnfjoer` Bjarmason.

       This program is free software; you can redistribute it and/or modify it under the same
       terms as Perl itself.