Regular Expressions in MarcEdit

Using Regular Expressions in MarcEditor Replacement Functions:

Regular Expressions can now be utilized in the Replace and Edit Subfield functions in the MarcEditor.

This allows users to create complex search and replacement functions. In general, MarcEdit’s Regular Expression implemention is fairly straightforward. First, MarcEdit uses a replace/with structure, meaning that the regular expression must be broken into a pattern and a replacement argument. Second, MarcEdit’s implementation is slightly different from the traditional unix greg implementation. For example, if there was a field containing the following data:


And the user wanted the final output to look like:


In Unix, one might use the following regular expression:


Using the Replace Function, this same expression would be written like :

In the Find Text Textbox: ab

In the Replace With Textbox: 1xx

Check the Use Regular Expression option

In MarcEdit, regular expressions should use the format defined below:

Regular Expression Syntax in MarcEdit:

char definition:

. (period) : Matches any character, except the end-of-line.

^ (caret) : Matches the actual beginning-of-line position or the preceding line-delimiter character pair (also see [^] below for usage within a character class definition).

$ (dollar) : Matches the end-of-line position.

| (stile) : Specifies alternation (the OR operator),

so that an expression on either side can match. Precedence is from left-to-right, as encountered in the expression.

? (question mark) : Specifies that zero or one match of the preceding sub-pattern is allowed. Cannot be used with a Tag.

+ (plus) : Specifies that one or more matches of the preceding sub-pattern are allowed. Cannot be used with a Tag.

* (asterisk) : Specifies that zero or more matches of the preceding sub-pattern are allowed. Cannot be used with a Tag.


Character Classes

[ ] (square brackets) Identifies a user-defined class of characters, any of which will match: [abc] will match a, b, or c. Only three special metacharacters are recognized within a class definition, the caret (^) for complemented characters, the hyphen (-) for a range of characters, or one of the following backslash escape sequences :

\ – ] e f n q r t v x##

Any other use of a backslash within a class definition yields an undefined operation that should be avoided.


[-] (hyphen) The hyphen identifies a range of characters to match.
For example, [a-f] will match a, b, c, d, e, or f.

Characters in an individual range must occur in the natural order as they appear in the character set.
For example, [f-a] will match nothing.

Lists of characters, and one or more ranges of characters, may be intermixed in a single class definition. The start and end of a range may be specified by a literal character, or one of the backslash escape sequences:

\ – ] e f n q r t v x##

Any other use of a backslash within a class definition yields an undefined operation.

Multiple ranges in a class are valid.
For example, [a-d2-5] matches a, b, c, d, 2, 3, 4, or 5.

When the hyphen is escaped, it is treated as a literal.
For example, [a-c] is a list, not a range, and matches a, -, or c due to the backslash escape sequence.

[^] (caret) When the caret appears as the first item in a class definition, it identifies a complemented class of characters, which will not match.
For example, [^abc] matches any character except a, b, or c.

A range can also be specified for the complemented class. For example, [^a-z] matches any character except a through z.

A caret located in any position other than the first is treated as a literal character.


( ) (parentheses) : Parentheses are used to match a Tag, or sub-pattern, within the full search pattern, and remember the match. The matched sub-pattern can be retrieved later in the mask, or in a replace operation, with 1 through 99, based upon the left-to-right position of the opening parentheses.

Parentheses may also be used to force precedence of evaluation with the alternation operator.
For example, “(Begin)|(End)File” would match either “BeginFile” or “EndFile”,
but without the Tag designations,
“Begin|EndFile” would only match either “BeginndFile” or “BegiEndFile”.

Note: Parentheses may not be used with ? + * as any match repetition could cause the tag value to be ambiguous.
To match repeated expressions, use parentheses followed by 1*.

Escaped characters

(backslash). The escape operator (single-character quote). The following character will be treated as a literal value rather than being interpreted as a special character. Note that the character following the backslash must actually be a special character, as follows:

b A word boundary. The start or end of a word, where a word is defined as one or more characters that include an alphabetic character (A-Z or a-z), a numeric character (0-9), and an underscore.
For example, “abc_123” is considered a single word and “abc-123” is considered two words.

c Case-sensitive search. Without the c operator, the default is to ignore case when matching. Unlike some other implementations of regular expressions, case-insensitivity is recognized in all operations, even a range of characters such as “[6-Z]”. The c operator may appear at any position in the mask.

e Escape character:

f  Formfeed character:

n Linefeed (or newline)

q Double-quote mark (“):
example: “qHelloq”.

r Carriage-return character

s Shortest match character: The s flag causes the shortest matching string to be returned, rather than the longest (the default).
For example, when searching for the mask “abc.*abc” in “abcdabcabc”, the default setting would return position 1 and length 10. With the s switch set, it returns position 1 and length 7. This option may cause a slight increase in processing time.

t Horizontal tab character

v Vertical tab character

x## Hex character code: Indicates that an ASCII code follows, given by two hexadecimal digits.
For example, xFF = ANSI 255. XX must be in the range 0 through 255.

## Tag number: Evaluated as the characters matched by tag number ## (where ## is in the range 01 through 99, in decimal). Tags are implicitly numbered from 01 through 99, based upon the left-to-right position of the left parenthesis. “(�)w1” would match “abcwabc” or “456w456”.

Tags cannot be forward-referenced – that is, if a reference is made to any Tag that is not yet defined, a non-match is presumed.


Since 20 years I work on Database Architecture and data migration protocols. I am also a consultant in Web content management solutions. I am an experienced web-developer with over 10 years developing PHP/MySQL, C#, VB.Net applications ranging from simple web sites to extensive web-based business applications. When not writing code, I like to dance salsa and swing and have fun with my little family.

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