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Constant-Delay Enumeration for Nondeterministic Document Spanners
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Constant-Delay Enumeration for Nondeterministic Document Spanners

This tool allows you to find efficiently all matches of a regular expression in a string, i.e., find all contiguous substrings of the string that satisfy the regular expression (including overlapping substrings).

The tool is being actively developed and has not been thoroughly tested yet. Use at your own risk.


On a Linux system with Python 3, simply clone this repository, then install the necessary Python modules described in requirements.txt. You can either install them manually using pip3, or setup a virtualenv:

python -m venv .venv
source .venv/bin/activate  # run this at any time you restarted a shell
pip install -U -r requirements.txt

You can then run src/


# Display all occurences of a pattern (regexp) in a file
src/ regexp [file]
cat [file] | src/ [pattern]

# For instance, this example will match 'aa@aa', 'aa@a', 'a@aa', 'a@a'
echo "aa@aa" | src/ ".+@.+"

# Run unit tests
make test

The matches displayed correspond to all distincts substrings of the text that match the given pattern. If the pattern contains named groups, the tool will output one match for each possible assignment of the groups.

Named groups

You can define named groups as follow: (?P<group_a>a+)(?P<group_b>b+). This example will extract any group of a's followed by a group of b's.

The group named match has a special behaviour, it can be used to match only the part captured by this group. For example:

  • (?P<match>\w+)@\w+ will enumerate the left parts of any feasible email address
  • ^.*(?P<match>\w+@\w+).*$ is equivalent to \w+@\w+

Supported Syntax for Regular Expressions

The tool supports a subset of the usual regular expression syntax, with several common operators. The supported grammar for the regular expressions is written in

Underlying Algorithm

The algorithm used by this tool is described in the research paper Constant-Delay Enumeration for Nondeterministic Document Spanners, by Amarilli, Bourhis, Mengel and Niewerth. It will be presented at the ICDT'19 conference.

The tool will first compile the regular expression into a nondeterministic finite automaton, and then apply an enumeration algorithm. Specifically, it will first preprocess the string (without producing any matches), in time linear in the string and polynomial in the regular expression. After this precomputation, the algorithm produces the matches sequentially, with constant delay between each match.

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