pcreprecompile.3   [plain text]


.TH PCREPRECOMPILE 3
.SH NAME
PCRE - Perl-compatible regular expressions
.SH "SAVING AND RE-USING PRECOMPILED PCRE PATTERNS"
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If you are running an application that uses a large number of regular
expression patterns, it may be useful to store them in a precompiled form
instead of having to compile them every time the application is run.
If you are not using any private character tables (see the
.\" HREF
\fBpcre_maketables()\fP
.\"
documentation), this is relatively straightforward. If you are using private
tables, it is a little bit more complicated.
.P
If you save compiled patterns to a file, you can copy them to a different host
and run them there. This works even if the new host has the opposite endianness
to the one on which the patterns were compiled. There may be a small
performance penalty, but it should be insignificant. However, compiling regular
expressions with one version of PCRE for use with a different version is not
guaranteed to work and may cause crashes.
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.SH "SAVING A COMPILED PATTERN"
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The value returned by \fBpcre_compile()\fP points to a single block of memory
that holds the compiled pattern and associated data. You can find the length of
this block in bytes by calling \fBpcre_fullinfo()\fP with an argument of
PCRE_INFO_SIZE. You can then save the data in any appropriate manner. Here is
sample code that compiles a pattern and writes it to a file. It assumes that
the variable \fIfd\fP refers to a file that is open for output:
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  int erroroffset, rc, size;
  char *error;
  pcre *re;
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  re = pcre_compile("my pattern", 0, &error, &erroroffset, NULL);
  if (re == NULL) { ... handle errors ... }
  rc = pcre_fullinfo(re, NULL, PCRE_INFO_SIZE, &size);
  if (rc < 0) { ... handle errors ... }
  rc = fwrite(re, 1, size, fd);
  if (rc != size) { ... handle errors ... }
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In this example, the bytes that comprise the compiled pattern are copied
exactly. Note that this is binary data that may contain any of the 256 possible
byte values. On systems that make a distinction between binary and non-binary
data, be sure that the file is opened for binary output.
.P
If you want to write more than one pattern to a file, you will have to devise a
way of separating them. For binary data, preceding each pattern with its length
is probably the most straightforward approach. Another possibility is to write
out the data in hexadecimal instead of binary, one pattern to a line.
.P
Saving compiled patterns in a file is only one possible way of storing them for
later use. They could equally well be saved in a database, or in the memory of
some daemon process that passes them via sockets to the processes that want
them.
.P
If the pattern has been studied, it is also possible to save the study data in
a similar way to the compiled pattern itself. When studying generates
additional information, \fBpcre_study()\fP returns a pointer to a
\fBpcre_extra\fP data block. Its format is defined in the
.\" HTML <a href="pcreapi.html#extradata">
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section on matching a pattern
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in the
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\fBpcreapi\fP
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documentation. The \fIstudy_data\fP field points to the binary study data, and
this is what you must save (not the \fBpcre_extra\fP block itself). The length
of the study data can be obtained by calling \fBpcre_fullinfo()\fP with an
argument of PCRE_INFO_STUDYSIZE. Remember to check that \fBpcre_study()\fP did
return a non-NULL value before trying to save the study data.
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.SH "RE-USING A PRECOMPILED PATTERN"
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Re-using a precompiled pattern is straightforward. Having reloaded it into main
memory, you pass its pointer to \fBpcre_exec()\fP or \fBpcre_dfa_exec()\fP in
the usual way. This should work even on another host, and even if that host has
the opposite endianness to the one where the pattern was compiled.
.P
However, if you passed a pointer to custom character tables when the pattern
was compiled (the \fItableptr\fP argument of \fBpcre_compile()\fP), you must
now pass a similar pointer to \fBpcre_exec()\fP or \fBpcre_dfa_exec()\fP,
because the value saved with the compiled pattern will obviously be nonsense. A
field in a \fBpcre_extra()\fP block is used to pass this data, as described in
the
.\" HTML <a href="pcreapi.html#extradata">
.\" </a>
section on matching a pattern
.\"
in the
.\" HREF
\fBpcreapi\fP
.\"
documentation.
.P
If you did not provide custom character tables when the pattern was compiled,
the pointer in the compiled pattern is NULL, which causes \fBpcre_exec()\fP to
use PCRE's internal tables. Thus, you do not need to take any special action at
run time in this case.
.P
If you saved study data with the compiled pattern, you need to create your own
\fBpcre_extra\fP data block and set the \fIstudy_data\fP field to point to the
reloaded study data. You must also set the PCRE_EXTRA_STUDY_DATA bit in the
\fIflags\fP field to indicate that study data is present. Then pass the
\fBpcre_extra\fP block to \fBpcre_exec()\fP or \fBpcre_dfa_exec()\fP in the
usual way.
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.SH "COMPATIBILITY WITH DIFFERENT PCRE RELEASES"
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In general, it is safest to recompile all saved patterns when you update to a
new PCRE release, though not all updates actually require this. Recompiling is
definitely needed for release 7.2.
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.SH AUTHOR
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Philip Hazel
University Computing Service
Cambridge CB2 3QH, England.
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.SH REVISION
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Last updated: 13 June 2007
Copyright (c) 1997-2007 University of Cambridge.
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