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1. Introducing Flex and Bison > Regular Expressions and Scanning

Regular Expressions and Scanning

Scanners generally work by looking for patterns of characters in the input. For example, in a C program, an integer constant is a string of one or more digits, a variable name is a letter followed by zero or more letters or digits, and the various operators are single characters or pairs of characters. A straightforward way to describe these patterns is regular expressions, often shortened to regex or regexp. These are the same kind of patterns that the editors ed and vi and the search program egrep use to describe text to search for. A flex program basically consists of a list of regexps with instructions about what to do when the input matches any of them, known as actions . A flex-generated scanner reads through its input, matching the input against all of the regexps and doing the appropriate action on each match. Flex translates all of the regexps into an efficient internal form that lets it match the input against all the patterns simultaneously, so it’s just as fast for 100 patterns as for one.[1]


  

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