Perl Pattern Matching Question

I am trying to match patterns in perl and need some help.

I need to delete from a string anything that matches [xxxx] i.e. opening bracket-things inside it-first closing bracket that occurs.

So I am trying to substitute with space the opening bracket, things inside, first closing bracket with the following code :

   if($_ =~ /[/)
    print "In here!\n";
    $_ =~ s/[(.*?)]/ /ig;

Similarly I need to match i.e. angular bracket-things inside it-first closing angular bracket.

I am doing that using the following code :

   if($_ =~ /</)
    print "In here!\n";
    $_ =~ s/<(.*?)>/ /ig;

This some how does not seem to work. My sample data is as below :

 'Joanne' <!--Her name does NOT contain "Kathleen"; see the section "Name"--> "'Jo'" 'Rowling', OBE [http://news bbc co uk/1/hi/uk/793844 stm Caine heads birthday honours list]  BBC News  17 June 2000  Retrieved 25 October 2000  , [http://content scholastic com/browse/contributor jsp?id=3578 JK Rowling Biography]  Scholastic com  Retrieved 20 October 2007  better known as 'J  K  Rowling' ,<ref name=telegraph>[http://www telegraph co uk/news/uknews/1531779/BBCs-secret-guide-to-avoid-tripping-over-your-tongue html Daily Telegraph, BBC's secret guide to avoid tripping over your tongue, 19 October 2006] is a British <!--do not change to "English" or "Scottish" until issue is resolved --> author best known as the creator of the [[Harry Potter]] fantasy series, the idea for which was conceived whilst on a train trip from Manchester to London in 1990  The Potter books have gained worldwide attention, won multiple awards, sold more than 400 million copies and been the basis for a popular series of films, in which Rowling had creative control serving as a producer in two of the seven installments  [http://www businesswire com/news/home/20100920005538/en/Warner-Bros -Pictures-Worldwide-Satellite-Trailer-Debut%C2%A0Harry Business Wire - Warner Bros  Pictures mentions J  K  Rowling as producer ] 

Any help would be appreciated. Thanks!


$_ =~ /someregex/ will not modify $_

Just a note, $_ =~ /someregex/ and /someregex/ do the same thing.

Also, you don't need to check for the existence of [ or < or the grouping parenthesis:

s/\[.*?\]/ /g;

s/<.*?>/ /g;

will do the job you want.

Edit: changed code to match the fact you're modifying $_

You need to use this:

1 while s/\[[^\[\]]*\];


% echo "i have [some [square] brackets] in [here] and [here] today."| perl -pe '1 while s/\[[^\[\]]*\]/NADA/g'
i have NADA in NADA and NADA today.

Versus the failing:

% echo "i have [some [square] brackets] in [here] and [here] today." | perl -pe 's/\[.*?\]/NADA/g'
i have NADA brackets] in NADA and NADA today.

The recursive regular expression I leave as an exercise for the reader. :)

EDIT: Eric Strom kindly provided a recursive solution you don’t have to use 1 while:

% echo "i have [some [square] brackets] in [here] and [here] today." | perl -pe 's/\[(?:[^\[\]]*|(?R))*\]/NADA/g'
i have NADA in NADA and NADA today.

  • Square brackets have special meaning in the regex syntax, so escape them: /\[.*?\]/. (You also don't need the parentheses here, and doing case-insensitive matching is pointless.)

  • It's been a long time since I had to wrestle with Perl, but I'm pretty sure that testing $_ with a regex will also modify $_ (even if you aren't using s///). You don't need the test anyway; just run the replacement, and if the pattern doesn't match anywhere, then it won't do anything.

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