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on 17 April 2002
I bought this book so as to answer a couple of simple questions about regular expressions. I then found it surprisingly readable, and read it for pleasure.
Once I had read it, I found that I was able to apply what I had learned in a variety of powerful ways. I had known that regexes are an important part of Perl. But now I find that they are supported by, and remarkably useful in, Javascript.
The subject matter is difficult, largely because different regex engines work in subtly different ways - this is all clearly covered.
Above all, Friedl avoids the irritating patronising style of so many authors of computer books.
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on 7 June 2000
This is a book about Regular Expressions 'for Perl and Other Tools' but really it's a book about Perl. Other tools are covered, but coverage is a bit woolly, so if you are reading it to get the low-down on Python's RegEx capabilities etc. this book won't get you far. I can't help that feel that if the book had just concentrated on Perl, rather than giving sketchy coverage of 'Other Tools', it could have been even better (and would have definitely got five starts). That said, the extra coverage (particularly the RegEx engine material) was very interesting and has turned out invaluable in practice.
If you are an absolute beginner to Perl or programming you will need another book(s) to get the most out of this one, but it is a gentle and thorough introduction that won't leave you scratching your head, which is a feat in itself considering the complexity of Regular Expressions.
This is an excellent book for getting the most out of Perl's RegEx capabilities, you will close the back cover feeling that you genuinely have Mastered the subject. It is without doubt the best book available on the subject, nicely written, with a friendly and un-patronising tone (grammatical errors aside), you can't really go wrong with this one.
There could have been some more useful real world examples/projects included, and the book could probably do with an overhaul (it was published in 97) to accommodate Perl 5.6 and other developments (O'Reilly are you listening?), but it is still the best out there.
If RegEx is a subject you need to get to grips with, this book is the solution.
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on 4 November 1997
I had to convert a client's db-backed Web server from the Illustra Web Blade (where it was deadlocking) into the safe fast land of AOLserver Tcl. This involved writing a Perl program to parse the Web Blade syntax and then generate Tcl with the appropriate AOLserver API calls. I didn't have the BNF for the Web Blade language and didn't particularly feel like figuring it out. Reading _Mastering Regular Expressions_ enabled me to hack this out pretty painlessly in Perl in a day or two. Probably saved the client $10,000 in programmer time.
Jeffrey Friedl would say that you're supposed to read it from cover-to-cover but I think that you can benefit by pulling it out in emergencies.
Anyway, I had to pick four O'Reilly titles to give away every month from and this book was the first that came to my mind.
Why doesn't this book get a 10? Because in a world with _Anna Karenina_, I don't think any computer trade book deserves a 10! END
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on 29 November 1999
I found this book a very useful aid to understanding regular expressions. However I do find that the author's lack of attention to detail in the grammar used in the text makes some explanations and examples hard to follow. Frequently the text branches into examples, where the clarity of the explanation of the regular expression being discussed is clouded by the implicit grammar used. This is particularly the case when the text discusses greedy and non greedy matches, the text implicity refers to objects or nouns from paragraphs or pages back with the words "the match" or "it", making the thread of explanation difficult to follow. However no other text covers the subject in anything like as much detail, this is THE book for regular expressions.
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on 12 June 1998
Wow. After reading O'Reilly's first book on the Perl language in general, this book was the real eye opener to realizing that Perl was truly a powerful language. The examples provided in this book are real world examples you can take and use or modify within your own code. If you look above, I rated this book at five stars; but then you might wonder why I said this book was for insomniacs?! Everytime I try and sit down to read a few chapters I end up feeling sleepy and nodding off! One of the most noticeable chapters in the book is the discussion on DFA versus NFA implementations of various regular expression parsers: Perl, Python, Tcl, POSIX, grep, emacs... If you want to truly optimize your code, this is the chapter to read to analyze all your "hot spots." Later chapters deal with even more real world applications, such as IP addresses and WWW pages. Don't let those big nasty regular expressions scare you though. Pretty soon you'll be able to read and understand powerful expressions that will let you manipulate any kind of text you come across.
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on 24 September 2006
Regular expressions always terrified me. I really got tired of looking for related examples on the 'net and hacking sample code so I decided I had to take the plunge.

I can say that the first chapter of this book is one of the most important chapters of any book I ever read. It leaves you breathless. Actually you'll probably want to read it again as the first time round you were so glued to the pages you didn't have time to try out the examples yourself.

In a book such as this layout and typographical conventions are of utmost importance and this book gets this spot on. An author who can cover this subject without simply using masses of examples and dry outlines of selected syntax arrangements deserves an acolade. This book goes further. It stimulates the juices and is a struggle to put down (to the detriment of your hands-on practice as mentioned above).

I was quite wary of exploring the territory of regular expressions and used to be very ambivalent towards Perl but this book helped to ease me in to a whole new world of script programming.

This book is not just for Perl geeks. PCREs (Perl Compatible Regular Expressions) are creeping into other programming and scripting languages now and this book will serve you no matter where you're coming from.

Get this book and get over your fear!
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on 7 February 1998
I made the mistake of buying a bunch of books on Perl to try to learn Perl programming. I made progress, but it was slow -- and it beat me down. Then I bought THIS book. Perl's implementation of Regular Expressions is a great deal of the functionality of that language. This is true to the extent that trying to read Perl script without knowing Regular Expressions is tedious at best. This is not just another computer book. Jeffrey Friedl has put his heart and soul into this work, and it shows. He even offers free updates (in the truest, most honest sense of the word) from his own web page. This is the best programming book I own.
After reading this book, Perl script reads like USA Today! Save yourself lots of heartache. Buy this book, Mastering Regular Expressions -- read it -- THEN learn Perl!
Jeff Morris
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on 20 November 1998
Anyone working with regular expressions should own a copy of this book. Anyone who uses them occasionally should borrow one.
Some of the other reviewers of the book have focussed on the chapters providing practical advice on regexes in the Perl language and described this as advocating poor programming practice by describing the internals of Perl's regular expression implementation. This misses two points - first, that the book is not Perl specific but is useful for all regular expression tools. Second, that no programming techniques which would provide worse performance if Perl's regex engine changed were advocated. Knowledge of the implementation is not, of course harmful in itself.
To summarise: A useful book for anyone using regexes and one of the two books I would consider essential for a serious Perl programmer to own. (The other is the blue camel (of course)).
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on 16 February 1997
After reading just 50 pages, I stopped and went back to look at some of my old awk code. I turned 32 lines of code into 3. I spend so much more time on the computer, my wife wants to sue the author for "causing a divorce"! She can't wait for me to finish the book.

I have always wanted to know more about regular expressions, and you have shown me the light. If you are a manager of a technical staff (like myself) and you want to stimulate creativity. buy this book for them. I have heard more "did you know you can do this" statments while passing workstations than I ever have.

Awesome! We all would like to thank Jeffery Friedl and OReilly and Associates so much.
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on 2 January 2001
"Regular Expressions" -- the term sounds fairly bland and unexciting, but it isn't. Using regexes can cut down the number of lines in your code. How many lines of code would it take you to program Perl to turn text like this:
_text_
into text like this:
<b>text</b>
Well, this book shows you how to do in a few lines of regexes. Jeff uses several different scripting languages: Perl, Tk, Python, etc. and explains how the regexes work in the languages. A great reference book. Buy this if you want to know everything about expressions.
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