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When to use the Pattern/Matcher paradigm

On the previous page, we saw that an alternative to calling String.matches() is to use a more "explicit" approach, constructing a Pattern object and corresponding Matcher for each string to be matched. So why would you do this rather than just calling String.matches().

Performance

Before a match is performed against a regular expression, that expression must be compiled. To compile the expression, the regex library creates an internal object representation of that expression that makes it efficient to perform matches. If you are performing several matches, then it is more efficient to compile the expression once, and then create several Matchers from the same compiled Pattern.

When you call matches() on a String, this is essentially just a shortcut. Under the hood, the expression you pass in is compiled into a Pattern object and then a Matcher is created from it, whose matches() method is then called to get the result.

Setting options

There are several options, such as case sensitivity, that can be set by passing a flags parameter into Pattern.compile(). Some of these parameters can actually be set in a "raw" expression string, but the syntax of Pattern.compile() flags is generally more convenient.

Finding multiple instances of a pattern within a string

As well as the simple matches() method, matchers actually provide a find() method which can be used to find multiple instances of a given pattern within a single string. For more details, see the section on the Matcher.find method.

Capturing groups

An important feature of regular expressions is that the parts of the string that match certain sub-expressions can be captured or "pulled out" of the matcher when a match is found. On the next page, we will look in more detail at capturing groups.

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Written by Neil Coffey. Copyright © Javamex UK 2012. All rights reserved.