The String class
The `String' class is designed to extend GNU C++ to support string
processing capabilities similar to those in languages like Awk. The
class provides facilities that ought to be convenient and efficient
enough to be useful replacements for `char*' based processing via the C
string library (i.e., `strcpy, strcmp,' etc.) in many applications.
Many details about String representations are described in the
A separate `SubString' class supports substring extraction and
modification operations. This is implemented in a way that user
programs never directly construct or represent substrings, which are
only used indirectly via String operations.
Another separate class, `Regex' is also used indirectly via String
operations in support of regular expression searching, matching, and the
like. The Regex class is based entirely on the GNU Emacs regex
functions. Note: Syntax of Regular Expressions,
for a full explanation of regular expression syntax. (For
implementation details, see the internal documentation in files
`regex.h' and `regex.c'.)
Strings are initialized and assigned as in the following examples:
`String x; String y = 0; String z = "";'
Set x, y, and z to the nil string. Note that either 0 or "" may
always be used to refer to the nil string.
`String x = "Hello"; String y("Hello");'
Set x and y to a copy of the string "Hello".
`String x = 'A'; String y('A');'
Set x and y to the string value "A"
`String u = x; String v(x);'
Set u and v to the same string as String x
`String u = x.at(1,4); String v(x.at(1,4));'
Set u and v to the length 4 substring of x starting at position 1
(counting indexes from 0).
`String x("abc", 2);'
Sets x to "ab", i.e., the first 2 characters of "abc".
`String x = dec(20);'
Sets x to "20". As here, Strings may be initialized or assigned
the results of any `char*' function.
There are no directly accessible forms for declaring SubString
The declaration `Regex r("[a-zA-Z_][a-zA-Z0-9_]*");' creates a
compiled regular expression suitable for use in String operations
described below. (In this case, one that matches any C++ identifier).
The first argument may also be a String. Be careful in distinguishing
the role of backslashes in quoted GNU C++ char* constants versus those
in Regexes. For example, a Regex that matches either one or more tabs
or all strings beginning with "ba" and ending with any number of
occurrences of "na" could be declared as `Regex r =
"\\(\t+\\)\\|\\(ba\\(na\\)*\\)"' Note that only one backslash is needed
to signify the tab, but two are needed for the parenthesization and
virgule, since the GNU C++ lexical analyzer decodes and strips
backslashes before they are seen by Regex.
There are three additional optional arguments to the Regex
constructor that are less commonly useful:
`fast (default 0)'
`fast' may be set to true (1) if the Regex should be
"fast-compiled". This causes an additional compilation step that
is generally worthwhile if the Regex will be used many times.
`bufsize (default max(40, length of the string))'
This is an estimate of the size of the internal compiled
expression. Set it to a larger value if you know that the
expression will require a lot of space. If you do not know, do not
worry: realloc is used if necessary.
`transtable (default none == 0)'
The address of a byte translation table (a char) that
translates each character before matching.
As a convenience, several Regexes are predefined and usable in any
program. Here are their declarations from `String.h'.
extern Regex RXwhite; // = "[ \n\t]+"
extern Regex RXint; // = "-?[0-9]+"
extern Regex RXdouble; // = "-?\\(\\([0-9]+\\.[0-9]*\\)\\|
extern Regex RXalpha; // = "[A-Za-z]+"
extern Regex RXlowercase; // = "[a-z]+"
extern Regex RXuppercase; // = "[A-Z]+"
extern Regex RXalphanum; // = "[0-9A-Za-z]+"
extern Regex RXidentifier; // = "[A-Za-z_][A-Za-z0-9_]*"
Most `String' class capabilities are best shown via example. The
examples below use the following declarations.
String x = "Hello";
String y = "world";
String n = "123";
char* s = ",";
String lft, mid, rgt;
Regex r = "e[a-z]*o";
int i, pos, len;
words = "a";
words = "b";
words = "c";
Comparing, Searching and Matching
The usual lexicographic relational operators (`==, !=, <, <=, >, >=')
are defined. A functional form `compare(String, String)' is also
provided, as is `fcompare(String, String)', which compares Strings
without regard for upper vs. lower case.
All other matching and searching operations are based on some form
of the (non-public) `match' and `search' functions. `match' and
`search' differ in that `match' attempts to match only at the given
starting position, while `search' starts at the position, and then
proceeds left or right looking for a match. As seen in the following
examples, the second optional `startpos' argument to functions using
`match' and `search' specifies the starting position of the search: If
non-negative, it results in a left-to-right search starting at position
`startpos', and if negative, a right-to-left search starting at
position `x.length() + startpos'. In all cases, the index returned is
that of the beginning of the match, or -1 if there is no match.
Three String functions serve as front ends to `search' and `match'.
`index' performs a search, returning the index, `matches' performs a
match, returning nonzero (actually, the length of the match) on success,
and `contains' is a boolean function performing either a search or
match, depending on whether an index argument is provided:
returns the zero-based index of the leftmost occurrence of
substring "lo" (3, in this case). The argument may be a String,
SubString, char, char*, or Regex.
returns the index of the first of the leftmost occurrence of "l"
found starting the search at position x, or 2 in this case.
returns the index of the rightmost occurrence of "l", or 3 here.
returns the index of the rightmost occurrence of "l" found by
starting the search at the 3rd to the last position of x,
returning 2 in this case.
`pos = r.search("leo", 3, len, 0)'
returns the index of r in the `char*' string of length 3, starting
at position 0, also placing the length of the match in reference
returns nonzero if the String x contains the substring "He". The
argument may be a String, SubString, char, char*, or Regex.
returns nonzero if x contains the substring "el" at position 1.
As in this example, the second argument to `contains', if present,
means to match the substring only at that position, and not to
search elsewhere in the string.
returns nonzero if x contains any whitespace (space, tab, or
newline). Recall that `RXwhite' is a global whitespace Regex.
returns nonzero if x starting at position 3 exactly matches "lo",
with no trailing characters (as it does in this example).
returns nonzero if String x as a whole matches Regex r.
`int f = x.freq("l")'
returns the number of distinct, nonoverlapping matches to the
argument (2 in this case).
Substrings may be extracted via the `at', `before', `through',
`from', and `after' functions. These behave as either lvalues or
`z = x.at(2, 3)'
sets String z to be equal to the length 3 substring of String x
starting at zero-based position 2, setting z to "llo" in this
case. A nil String is returned if the arguments don't make sense.
`x.at(2, 2) = "r"'
Sets what was in positions 2 to 3 of x to "r", setting x to "Hero"
in this case. As indicated here, SubString assignments may be of
`x.at("He") = "je";'
x("He") is the substring of x that matches the first occurrence of
it's argument. The substitution sets x to "jello". If "He" did not
occur, the substring would be nil, and the assignment would have
`x.at("l", -1) = "i";'
replaces the rightmost occurrence of "l" with "i", setting x to
`z = x.at(r)'
sets String z to the first match in x of Regex r, or "ello" in this
case. A nil String is returned if there is no match.
`z = x.before("o")'
sets z to the part of x to the left of the first occurrence of
"o", or "Hell" in this case. The argument may also be a String,
SubString, or Regex. (If there is no match, z is set to "".)
`x.before("ll") = "Bri";'
sets the part of x to the left of "ll" to "Bri", setting x to
`z = x.before(2)'
sets z to the part of x to the left of x, or "He" in this case.
`z = x.after("Hel")'
sets z to the part of x to the right of "Hel", or "lo" in this
`z = x.through("el")'
sets z to the part of x up and including "el", or "Hel" in this
`z = x.from("el")'
sets z to the part of x from "el" to the end, or "ello" in this
`x.after("Hel") = "p";'
sets x to "Help";
`z = x.after(3)'
sets z to the part of x to the right of x or "o" in this case.
`z = " ab c"; z = z.after(RXwhite)'
sets z to the part of its old string to the right of the first
group of whitespace, setting z to "ab c"; Use gsub(below) to strip
out multiple occurrences of whitespace or any pattern.
`x = 'J';'
sets the first element of x to 'J'. x[i] returns a reference to
the ith element of x, or triggers an error if i is out of range.
returns the String containing the common prefix of the two Strings
or "Hel" in this case.
returns the String containing the common suffix of the two Strings
or "o" in this case.
`z = x + s + ' ' + y.at("w") + y.after("w") + ".";'
sets z to "Hello, world."
`x += y;'
sets x to "Helloworld"
`cat(x, y, z)'
A faster way to say z = x + y.
`cat(z, y, x, x)'
Double concatenation; A faster way to say x = z + y + x.
A faster way to say y = x + y.
`z = replicate(x, 3);'
sets z to "HelloHelloHello".
`z = join(words, 3, "/")'
sets z to the concatenation of the first 3 Strings in String array
words, each separated by "/", setting z to "a/b/c" in this case.
The last argument may be "" or 0, indicating no separation.
`z = "this string has five words"; i = split(z, words, 10, RXwhite);'
sets up to 10 elements of String array words to the parts of z
separated by whitespace, and returns the number of parts actually
encountered (5 in this case). Here, words = "this", words =
"string", etc. The last argument may be any of the usual. If
there is no match, all of z ends up in words. The words array
is *not* dynamically created by split.
`int nmatches x.gsub("l","ll")'
substitutes all original occurrences of "l" with "ll", setting x
to "Hellllo". The first argument may be any of the usual,
including Regex. If the second argument is "" or 0, all
occurrences are deleted. gsub returns the number of matches that
`z = x + y; z.del("loworl");'
deletes the leftmost occurrence of "loworl" in z, setting z to
`z = reverse(x)'
sets z to the reverse of x, or "olleH".
`z = upcase(x)'
sets z to x, with all letters set to uppercase, setting z to
`z = downcase(x)'
sets z to x, with all letters set to lowercase, setting z to
`z = capitalize(x)'
sets z to x, with the first letter of each word set to uppercase,
and all others to lowercase, setting z to "Hello"
`x.reverse(), x.upcase(), x.downcase(), x.capitalize()'
in-place, self-modifying versions of the above.
Reading, Writing and Conversion
`cout << x'
writes out x.
`cout << x.at(2, 3)'
writes out the substring "llo".
`cin >> x'
reads a whitespace-bounded string into x.
returns the length of String x (5, in this case).
`s = (const char*)x'
can be used to extract the `char*' char array. This coercion is
useful for sending a String as an argument to any function
expecting a `const char*' argument (like `atoi', and
`File::open'). This operator must be used with care, since the
conversion returns a pointer to `String' internals without copying
the characters: The resulting `(char*)' is only valid until the
next String operation, and you must not modify it. (The
conversion is defined to return a const value so that GNU C++ will
produce warning and/or error messages if changes are attempted.)
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