Leaena

Regex for Fun and Profit

Oct
17

I’ve always been a bit intimidated by regex (or Regular Expressions for the uninitiated). In a nutshell, regular expressions are these archaic looking bits of symbols that when put together look bizarre but actually are used to search for specific characters in a chunk of text/input. For example [^0-9] means search for the first non-numeric character (the ^ is a not, so [0-9] would be search for the first numeric character). I’ve used them a few times, but only by looking up other peoples versions and mucking around with it until it it gives me something like what I want.

Then Ava introduced me Regex Crossword and I knew that if she could do it I could sure as heck learn it too. I breezed through (or to be more accurate bashed through utterly confused) the introduction and part of the beginner puzzles and then got royally stuck. I had never formally learned regex and still didn’t have a clue what half of it meant. Off I went searching for a good tutorial, which was harder than I thought.

I first found Learn Regex the Hard Way, and while I normally like the Learn Code the Hard Way stuff the regex version isn’t finished and wasn’t really helping. I like interactive things that tell me whether I am even on to the right track of a clue. But then I found RegexOne which checked all my boxes! It gives you a bit of a lesson on each new character and then makes you test it out before you move on to the next lesson. I completed the beginning tutorials on there and decided to try the Crosswords again, feeling much more confident.

I got stuck again almost immediately. It was time for some good old fashioned cheating. I discovered Regexper and at first didn’t think it would be much of a help, but let me tell you, I was wrong. You can copy a regular expression into the text box and it will give you a humanized version with actual words and descriptions. With that in my tool belt I was no longer stuck and am now halfway through the intermediate challenges.

I’m not sure I’ll ever really enjoy regex, but at least now it doesn’t just look like magic.

One Response to Regex for Fun and Profit

  1. Arg, sorry! We totally did RegexOne first and I could have told you to go there but I didn’t think about it.