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Java Regular Expressions: Taming the java.util.regex Engine by Mehran Habibi

 
Book Review Team
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<pre>Author/s : Mehran Habibi
Publisher : Apress
Category : Miscellaneous Java
Review by : Dirk Schreckmann
Rating : 9 horseshoes
</pre>
I've had this book a bit over a day. Yes, I've read the entire book. It is that good.
As I first approached it, I was afraid of this book. It's so easy to explain regular expressions in terribly dry and technical ways. Max, the author, doesn't do that.
Don't fear your painful memories of the wordy, boring, and expensive text books read during university studies. This book won't bring them back. Max has again demonstrated his excellent, clear and concise writing skills with Java Regular Expressions.
This book is not some boring reference or cookbook of regular expressions, excellent ones of which can be found for free on the internet. Instead, this book provides excellent explanations detailing techniques on how to understand and create regular expressions - object-oriented techniques at that! This is not your father's procedural regex reference.
New to java.util.regex? Buy this book, not that other one.
(Note: I'm a difficult reviewer. I won't give a 10 horseshoe review, excepting two classics that come to mind - Thoreau's Walden and Orwell's 1984.)


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Ilja Preuss
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What is the audience of this book? Is it mainly targeted at the beginner, or will already advanced regex-users find it to be valuable, too?
 
Max Habibi
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Hi Ilja,
If my book has a hero, it's Java Collections(John Zukowski). I wanted to do for regex what John did for collections(except for the open source part: for regex, that really deserves it's own book). Of course, John set a pretty high standard.
There's a great deal for less experienced programmers, but there is also a great deal there for more experienced users. For example, you might find the RegexProperties file, the subtleties of lookaheads, and the optimization materials useful. OTOH, you might want a reminder of the details of the overloaded String.split method, and why you should sometimes use a negative value as the second parameter. It's designed to support you either way.
Of course, no book can be all things to everyone, and you may find that the content, or the tone, isn't right for you. However, I did try pretty hard to cover all my bases.
All best,
M
[ March 05, 2004: Message edited by: Max Habibi ]
 
Ilja Preuss
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Good to know - thanks!
 
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<pre>Review by : Ernest Friedman-Hill
Rating : 9 horseshoes
</pre>
An old-fashioned regular expressions education starts with a Big Scary Table listing every metacharacter. Newbies often run away screaming when faced with this explosion of punctuation, never to return.
Help has arrived in this small, accessible book. Rather than starting out with the Big Scary Table, Habibi appeals to the reader's intuition, and demonstrates several regex applications before even mentioning punctuation marks. By the time that fragments of the Big Scary Table do arrive, the reader has already seen fully worked examples and learned techniques for developing a regular expression for a given problem.
Instead of the Big Scary Table, this book uses small tables that make understanding complex regular expressions easy. There are tables which break up regular expressions into pieces, each row pairing one chunk of the expression with a clear explanation. Other tables show the steps involved in developing a complex regex. The honest explanation of each step makes these tables valuable real-life case studies.
After describing regular expressions themselves, the book presents a practical overview of the java.util.regex API. There's also a separate chapter on advanced features, and a final chapter showing fully-worked practical applications.
The only flaw in this book is a slight bias toward Java on Windows systems. A reader working the examples on Linux would have minor problems the author doesn't mention.
Overall, I'd strongly recommend this book to anyone new to java.util.regex, whether or not they have previous regular expressions experience.


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Jeroen Wenting
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Is this book available in Europe yet?
I asked at the largest computer bookstore in the Netherlands yesterday and they'd never even heard of it?
 
Max Habibi
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Hi Jeroen,
I was coming to the netherlands in May for Cttm again, but it didn't work out this year. PM your address to me, and I'll try to put you on the next cycle of reviewers.
All best,
M
 
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<pre>Author/s : Mehran Habibi
Publisher : Apress
Category : Miscellaneous Java
Review by : Thomas Paul
Rating : 9 horseshoes
</pre>
This book is an excellent introduction to regular expressions in general and the Java regex package in particular. The author assumes that the reader has no experience with regular expressions so even if the subject is completely new to you, you will be able to follow along easily.
The book approaches the topic in a clever way that makes it both an excellent tutorial as well as an excellent reference to keep nearby. The first chapter covers regular expression syntax. The second chapter looks at the two main classes, Pattern and Matcher, and discusses each of the methods in these classes. The way the information is presented makes it a perfect tutorial, as the methods are introduced in a sensible order that allows the detailed discussion to build. At the same time, since each method is discussed with excellent description and examples, it serves as a useful reference. Chapter three looks at some advanced topics such as groups, qualifiers, and lookaheads. In chapter four the author gives us some advice and chapter five demonstrates some useful examples. The books ends with a reference, summarizing the topics discussed in the first two chapters.
Other than a few minor misprints and one slightly confusing group example early on I could find nothing to complain about. Any Java programmer interested in learning regular expressions will find this book extremely useful. It is hard to imagine that there could be a better book on regular expressions than this one.


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[ March 26, 2004: Message edited by: Book Review Team ]
 
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