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Ruby Regex Examples

Some simple examples for using regular expressions in Ruby scripts.

1. Syntax

Compared to other scripting languages Ruby more behaves like Perl allowing to use regex seemlessly without the need for explicit objects in Python or a function in PHP. So you can just match something with putting a regular expression between two slashes:

/search string/

2. Simple String Checks

Here are some syntax examples that check strings for certain content:

Basic Matching

text =~ /Ruby/       # Match for an unbound literal
text =~ /^Ruby/      # Match literal at start of string
text =~ /Ruby$/      # Match literal at end of string
text =~ /^Ruby$/     # Match for exact string content
text =~ /^$/         # Match empty string

Using different regex delimiters

%r/Ruby/               # / as commonly used delimiter
%r@Ruby@               # @ as delimiter
%r!Ruby!               # ! as delimiter

Changing the delimiter becomes useful in some cases

"http://" =~ /http:\/\//     # match http:// protocol prefix with / delimiter
"http://" =~ %r#http://#     # match http:// protocol prefix with # delimiter

Case sensitity

text =~ /Ruby/                # case sensitive string matching
text =~ /ruby/i               # case in-sensitive string matching

Matching with wildcards

"Ruby" =~ /R..y/            # match a single character with .
"Ruby" =~ /R.*y/            # match multipe characters
"Ruby" =~ /R[a-z]y/         # match from character range a-z
"Rbuy" =~ /[Ruby]*/         # match from character set R,u,b and y
"Ruby" =~ /R\wy/            # match one word character
"regex in Ruby" =~ /\bRuby\b/"   # match the word "Ruby", but not "Ruby" as larger string

Using quantifiers

"Ruby" =~ /[Ruby]{4}/          # match exactly 4 characters from set [Ruby]
"Ruby" =~ /[Ruby]{4,4}/        # match exactly 4 characters from set [Ruby]
"Ruby" =~ /[Ruby]{,3}/         # match at most 3 characters from set [Ruby]
"Ruby" =~ /[Ruby]{3,}/         # match at least 3 characters from set [Ruby]

3. Replacing Patterns

You need to do substitution using the in place string object methods sub!() for replacing first occurence and gsub!() for replacing all occurences:

text.sub!(/Rbuy/, "Ruby")

4. Capture Groups

To extract data using regular expression we have to use capture/grouping syntax and

  • to do exactly one match: the String#match method and MatchData#captures to produce a result array
  • to do multiple matches: the String#scan method which returns a nested array with an result array for each match

Some basic examples to do the exactly one match with String#match

Extract everything after the literal “START”

if result = line.match(/START(.*)/")
   text = result.captures

Extract the number from a date string “2012-10-20”

if result = line.match(/(\d{4})-(\d{2})-(\d{2})/)
  year, week, day = result.captures

Nesting of capture groups, extract full name, and both parts… string “name is Doe, John”

if result = line.match(/name is ((\w+), (\w+))/)
  fullname, firstname, lastname = result.capture

Ensure always to check for nil result if the match might fail!