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First match or all matches? Perl Regular Expressions

If you match a string to a regular expression, there are often lots of ways it can match. And if you're just saying "does this match", that's fair enough ... but if you're wanting to extract the matched data, you need to give it more thought.

A Perl match to /-?\d+\.\d+/ in an if statement will give the leftmost match, and the longest match from that point - so if the data is
  123454_AM_by -0.48486638 1.2125003 0.20711732
you'll match -0.48486638 (and not -0.4 and not 1.2125003 ...). You can access the matched string via $& (there are other prettier ways) if you want.

By adding a g for global on the match, and performing the match in a while loop, you can loop through all non-overlapping matches:
  while ($info =~ /\s-?\d+\.\d+/g) {
    print "Matched in loop to $&\n";
    }

giving
  Matched in loop to -0.48486638
  Matched in loop to 1.2125003
  Matched in loop to 0.20711732

and you could then push each matched element onto a list for later processing.

However, if you want a list of matches, there are often better ways using split (where you specify a regular expression for the separators you don't want) and the possibly grep to filter our required elements:
  @m2 = grep(/^-?\d+\.\d+$/,split(/\s+/,$info));
  print "Matching fields: @m2\n";


Full source code example [here], and subject covered on our Learning to program in Perl and Perl Programming course. More advanced delegates might like to take a look at our Perl for larger projects course.
(written 2012-11-19, updated 2012-11-24)

 
Associated topics are indexed as below, or enter http://melksh.am/nnnn for individual articles
P212 - Perl - More on Character Strings
  [4452] Binary data handling - Python and Perl - (2015-03-09)
  [3707] Converting codons via Amino Acids to Proteins in Perl - (2012-04-25)
  [3650] Possessive Regular Expression Matching - Perl, Objective C and some other languages - (2012-03-12)
  [3630] Serialsing and unserialising data for storage and transfer in Perl - (2012-02-28)
  [3546] The difference between dot (a.k.a. full stop, period) and comma in Perl - (2011-12-09)
  [3411] Single and double quotes strings in Perl - what is the difference? - (2011-08-30)
  [3332] DNA to Amino Acid - a sample Perl script - (2011-06-24)
  [3322] How much has Perl (and other languages) changed? - (2011-06-10)
  [3100] Looking ahead and behind in Regular Expressions - double matching - (2010-12-23)
  [3059] Object Orientation in an hour and other Perl Lectures - (2010-11-18)
  [2993] Arrays v Lists - what is the difference, why use one or the other - (2010-10-10)
  [2877] Further more advanced Perl examples - (2010-07-19)
  [2874] Unpacking a Perl string into a list - (2010-07-16)
  [2834] Teaching examples in Perl - third and final part - (2010-06-27)
  [2801] Binary data handling with unpack in Perl - (2010-06-10)
  [2657] Want to do a big batch edit? Nothing beats Perl! - (2010-03-01)
  [2379] Making variables persistant, pretending a database is a variable and other Perl tricks - (2009-08-27)
  [2230] Running a piece of code is like drinking a pint of beer - (2009-06-11)
  [1947] Perl substitute - the e modifier - (2008-12-16)
  [1735] Finding words and work boundaries (MySQL, Perl, PHP) - (2008-08-03)
  [1727] Equality and looks like tests - Perl - (2008-07-29)
  [1510] Handling Binary data (.gif file example) in Perl - (2008-01-17)
  [1336] Ignore case in Regular Expression - (2007-09-08)
  [1305] Regular expressions made easy - building from components - (2007-08-16)
  [1251] Substitute operator / modifiers in Perl - (2007-06-28)
  [1230] Commenting a Perl Regular Expression - (2007-06-12)
  [1222] Perl, the substitute operator s - (2007-06-08)
  [943] Matching within multiline strings, and ignoring case in regular expressions - (2006-11-25)
  [928] C++ and Perl - why did they do it THAT way? - (2006-11-16)
  [737] Coloured text in a terminal from Perl - (2006-05-29)
  [608] Don't expose your regular expressions - (2006-02-15)
  [597] Storing a regular expression in a perl variable - (2006-02-09)
  [586] Perl Regular Expressions - finding the position and length of the match - (2006-02-02)
  [583] Remember to process blank lines - (2006-01-31)
  [453] Commenting Perl regular expressions - (2005-09-30)


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