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34.3 Regular Expressions

A regular expression, or regexp for short, is a pattern that denotes a (possibly infinite) set of strings. Searching for matches for a regexp is a very powerful operation. This section explains how to write regexps; the following section says how to search for them.

For interactive development of regular expressions, you can use the M-x re-builder command. It provides a convenient interface for creating regular expressions, by giving immediate visual feedback in a separate buffer. As you edit the regexp, all its matches in the target buffer are highlighted. Each parenthesized sub-expression of the regexp is shown in a distinct face, which makes it easier to verify even very complex regexps.