E Using regular expressions
Regular expressions (aka. regex) are character sequences that define a search pattern. In theoretical computer science and formal language theory, such patterns are used for validating text inputs and for finding or replacing patterns in strings of text.
Many R commands involving character data (e.g., the base R functions
strsplit(), and most of the stringr functions discussed in Chapter 9 on Strings of text) support the use of regular expressions.
While regular expressions can be immensely powerful and time-saving tools, their abstract nature and formal appearance often seem scary and intimidating. For instance, given a vector
dinos that contains the 10 character strings
two moderately cryptic
would each find the following results:
To provide a glimpse into the potential of regular expressions without requiring too much formal overhead, this appendix provides a gentle introduction into using regular expressions in R.