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Perl Compatible Regular Expressions for .NET

Build NuGet Package GitHub release PCRE2 License

PCRE.NET is a .NET wrapper for the PCRE2 library.

The following systems are supported:

  • Windows x64
  • Windows x86
  • Linux x64
  • macOS x64

API Types

The classic API

This is a friendly API that is very similar to .NET's System.Text.RegularExpressions. It works on string objects, and supports the following operations:

  • NFA matching and substring extraction:
    • Matches
    • Match
    • IsMatch
  • Matched string replacement: Replace
    • Callbacks: Func<PcreMatch, string>
    • Replacement strings with placeholders: $n ${name} $& $_ $` $' $+
  • String splitting on matches: Split

The Span API

PcreRegex objects provide overloads which take a ReadOnlySpan<char> parameter for the following methods:

  • Matches
  • Match
  • IsMatch

These methods return a ref struct type, but are otherwise similar to the classic API.

The zero-allocation API

This is the fastest matching API the library provides.

Call the CreateMatchBuffer method on a PcreRegex instance to create the necessary data structures up-front, then use the returned match buffer for subsequent match operations. Performing a match through this buffer will not allocate further memory, reducing GC pressure and optimizing the process.

The downside of this approach is that the returned match buffer is not thread-safe and not reentrant: you cannot perform a match operation with a buffer which is already being used - match operations need to be sequential.

It is also counter-productive to allocate a match buffer to perform a single match operation. Use this API if you need to match a pattern against many subject strings.

PcreMatchBuffer objects are disposable (and finalizable in case they're not disposed). They provide an API for matching against ReadOnlySpan<char> subjects.

If you're looking for maximum speed, consider using the following options:

  • PcreOptions.Compiled at compile time to enable the JIT compiler, which will improve matching speed.
  • PcreMatchOptions.NoUtfCheck at match time to skip the Unicode validity check: by default PCRE2 scans the entire input string to make sure it's valid Unicode.
  • PcreOptions.MatchInvalidUtf at compile time if you plan to use PcreMatchOptions.NoUtfCheck and your subject strings may contain invalid Unicode sequences.

The DFA matching API

This API provides regex matching in O(subject length) time. It is accessible through the Dfa property on a PcreRegex instance:

  • Dfa.Matches
  • Dfa.Match

You can read more about its features in the PCRE2 documentation, where it's described as the alternative matching algorithm.

Library highlights

  • Support for compiled patterns (x86/x64 JIT)
  • Support for partial matching (when the subject is too short to match the pattern)
  • Callout support (numbered and string-based)
  • Mark retrieval support
  • Conversion from POSIX BRE, POSIX ERE and glob patterns (PcreConvert class)

Example usage

  • Extract all words except those within parentheses:
var matches = PcreRegex.Matches("(foo) bar (baz) 42", @"\(\w+\)(*SKIP)(*FAIL)|\w+")
                       .Select(m => m.Value)
// result: "bar", "42"
  • Enclose a series of punctuation characters within angle brackets:
var result = PcreRegex.Replace("hello, world!!!", @"\p{P}+", "<$&>");
// result: "hello<,> world<!!!>"
  • Partial matching:
var regex = new PcreRegex(@"(?<=abc)123");
var match = regex.Match("xyzabc12", PcreMatchOptions.PartialSoft);
// result: match.IsPartialMatch == true
  • Validate a JSON string:
const string jsonPattern = """
        # An object is an unordered set of name/value pairs.
        (?<object> \{
            (?: (?&keyvalue) (?: , (?&keyvalue) )* )?
        (?&ws) \} )
            (?&ws) (?&string) (?&ws) : (?&value)

        # An array is an ordered collection of values.
        (?<array> \[
            (?: (?&value) (?: , (?&value) )* )?
        (?&ws) \] )

        # A value can be a string in double quotes, or a number,
        # or true or false or null, or an object or an array.
        (?<value> (?&ws)
            (?: (?&string) | (?&number) | (?&object) | (?&array) | true | false | null )

        # A string is a sequence of zero or more Unicode characters,
        # wrapped in double quotes, using backslash escapes.
            " (?: [^"\\\p{Cc}]++ | \\u[0-9A-Fa-f]{4} | \\ ["\\/bfnrt] )* "
            # \p{Cc} matches control characters

        # A number is very much like a C or Java number, except that the octal
        # and hexadecimal formats are not used.
            -? (?: 0 | [1-9][0-9]* ) (?: \. [0-9]+ )? (?: [Ee] [-+]? [0-9]+ )?

        # Whitespace
        (?<ws> \s*+ )

    \A (?&ws) (?&object) (?&ws) \z

var regex = new PcreRegex(jsonPattern, PcreOptions.IgnorePatternWhitespace);

const string subject = """
        "hello": "world",
        "numbers": [4, 8, 15, 16, 23, 42],
        "foo": null,
        "bar": -2.42e+17,
        "baz": true

var isValidJson = regex.IsMatch(subject);
// result: true