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Mastering Regular Expressions
by Jeffrey E. F. Friedl, Jeffrey E. F. Friedl

third edition
August 2006
542 pages

Reviewed by Jeanne Boyarsky, September 2006
  (10 of 10)

"Mastering Regular Expressions" takes a great book and modernizes it to include the latest programming languages. The book starts out with assuming you know anything about Regular Expressions -- aside from the concept to be interested in picking up the book.

The author introduces regular expressions through examples and quickly introduces the constructs. The second third of the book goes into the details of how regular expressions are processed. This includes correctness and efficiency issues. The final third on the book goes over the syntax in Java, .NET, Perl and PHP. Tools like grep and awk are described in the text as well.

An alternate title for this book would have been "Thinking in Regular Expressions." Even if you think you know regular expressions, this book teaches you how much more there is to learn. It also teaches you some of the finer points of regular expressions in your favorite programming language along with cross references to the earlier part of the book.

The author uses good analogies to make the text understandable. After awhile, the concepts get so complicated that you have to read it many times to understand. A typically O'Reilly book. I've only had this book two weeks and I've already used it to make me a more effective developer!

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second edition
July 2002
496 pages

Reviewed by Jason Menard, March 2003
  (10 of 10)

Regular Expressions ("regexes" for short), have been officially integrated into Java with the release of J2SE 1.4. While many Java developers are just discovering them, they have been a fixture in other languages and tools for quite some time. Regular expressions are powerful tools for performing all kinds of text processing, but they require no small amount of knowledge to use effectively and efficiently. This is where "Mastering Regular Expressions" comes to the rescue.

The books nine chapters are categorized into three sections. The book first teaches the basics of regular expressions, crafting simple regexes, and the different features and flavors available in various regex packages. Next, the reader is given invaluable information about how the different types of regular expression engines work, as well as techniques for crafting practical and efficient expressions. The final section covers language specific issues in Perl, Java, and .NET.

The author does an outstanding job leading the reader from regex novice to master. The book is extremely easy to read and chock full of useful and relevant examples. The author offers up questions along the way designed to engage the reader to apply what he has learned. In-line references to other parts of the book containing information pertinent the particular topic being discussed are also very helpful.

Regular expressions are valuable tools that every developer should have in their toolbox. "Mastering Regular Expressions" is the definitive guide to the subject, and an outstanding resource that belongs on every programmer's bookshelf.

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