Appendix A. Using Regular Expressions in Apache

A number of the Apache web server’s configuration directives permit (or require!) the use of what are called regular expressions . Regular expressions are used to determine if a string, such as a URL or a user’s name, matches a pattern.

There are numerous resources that cover regular expressions in excruciating detail, so this appendix is not designed to be a tutorial for their use. Instead, it documents the specific features of regular expressions used by Apache—what’s available and what isn’t. Even though there are quite a number of regular expression packages, with differing feature sets, there are some commonalities among them. The Perl language, for instance, has a particularly rich set of regular expressions but only a small subset of them are available in the Apache regex library, which is different from Perl’s.

Regular expressions, as mentioned, are a language that allows you to determine if a particular string or variable looks like some pattern. For example, you may wish to determine if a particular string is all uppercase, or if it contains at least 3 numbers, or perhaps if it contains the word “monkey” or “Monkey.” Regular expressions provide a vocabulary for talking about these sort of tests. Most modern programming languages contain some variety of regular expression library, and they tend to have a large number of things in common, although they may differ in small details.

Apache 1.3 uses a regular expression library called ...

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