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# Having regular expression stop at the first instance of a string, and not subsequent ones

Asked by Cheng-Ming on 18 Jan 2013

Hello!

I'm trying to find a solution to my problem, and I am not sure if there is one.

I have some Elmer code I am trying to parse using regular expressions in Matlab, that looks something like this:

...

Body 2 Target Bodies(1) = 2 Name = "Body 2" Equation = 1 Material = 3 End

Body 3 Target Bodies(1) = 3 Name = "Body 3" Equation = 2 Material = 1 Body Force = 1 End ...

My expression is : Body\s+N.*?(Body\sForce\s*=\s*)(\d+?)\s.*?End

where N is 2 or 3.

I am trying to pull the Body Force from the Body if there is one, and have the token return an empty string if there isn't one.

When I apply this with N = 3, it works fine. However, when N=2, the regexp gives back all of the text, so both body 2 and body 3. Is there a way to specifically tell it to stop at the first End it sees? Thank you very much!

Cheng

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Answer by Walter Roberson on 18 Jan 2013

Are both lines in the same string, or is it one line at a time? If it is one line at a time, then regexp for '(?<=Body\sForce\s+=\s+)(\d+)'

Cheng-Ming on 19 Jan 2013

They are in the same string. I could split them then parse again, that would not be difficult, but I was wondering if there was a more elegant solution.

Walter Roberson on 19 Jan 2013

Use the lazy quantifier .*? instead of .* which is the greedy quantifier.

Walter Roberson on 20 Jan 2013

Also, you can set the 'dotexceptnewline' regexp() option so that the .* will not cross linefeeds. In general when you start matching within individual lines you often end up also wanting the 'lineanchors' regexp() option, so that you can use ^ and \$ to match the beginning and end of individual lines.

Answer by Cedric Wannaz on 19 Jan 2013
Edited by Cedric Wannaz on 20 Jan 2013
` >> doc regexp`

Under Command options

` 'once'  : Return only the first match found.`

EDIT (after Walter's comment):

` >> str = 'Body 2 Target Bodies(1) = 2 Name = "Body 2" Equation = 1 Material = 3 End Body 3 Target Bodies(1) = 3 Name = "Body 3" Equation = 2 Material = 1 Body Force = 1 End Body 44 Target Bodies(1) = 2 Name = "Body 44" Equation = 1 Material = 3 End Body 345 Target Bodies(12) = 36 Name = "Body 345" Equation = 22 Material = 123456 Body Force = 987 End' ; `
` >> fmt = '(?<=Body %d(((?!End).)+)e \\= )\\d*' ;`
``` >> regexp(str, sprintf( fmt, 28), 'match', 'once' )
ans = ''```
``` >> regexp(str, sprintf( fmt, 2), 'match', 'once' )
ans = ''```
``` >> regexp(str, sprintf( fmt, 3), 'match', 'once' )
ans = '1'```
``` >> regexp(str, sprintf( fmt, 44), 'match', 'once' )
ans = ''```
``` >> regexp(str, sprintf( fmt, 345), 'match', 'once' )
ans = '987'```

I'll get some aspirin now ;)

Cedric