PCREJIT(3)                Library Functions Manual                PCREJIT(3)

NAME         top

       PCRE - Perl-compatible regular expressions


       Just-in-time compiling is a heavyweight optimization that can greatly
       speed up pattern matching. However, it comes at the cost of extra
       processing before the match is performed. Therefore, it is of most
       benefit when the same pattern is going to be matched many times. This
       does not necessarily mean many calls of a matching function; if the
       pattern is not anchored, matching attempts may take place many times
       at various positions in the subject, even for a single call.
       Therefore, if the subject string is very long, it may still pay to
       use JIT for one-off matches.

       JIT support applies only to the traditional Perl-compatible matching
       function.  It does not apply when the DFA matching function is being
       used. The code for this support was written by Zoltan Herczeg.

8-BIT, 16-BIT AND 32-BIT SUPPORT         top

       JIT support is available for all of the 8-bit, 16-bit and 32-bit PCRE
       libraries. To keep this documentation simple, only the 8-bit
       interface is described in what follows. If you are using the 16-bit
       library, substitute the 16-bit functions and 16-bit structures (for
       example, pcre16_jit_stack instead of pcre_jit_stack). If you are
       using the 32-bit library, substitute the 32-bit functions and 32-bit
       structures (for example, pcre32_jit_stack instead of pcre_jit_stack).


       JIT support is an optional feature of PCRE. The "configure" option
       --enable-jit (or equivalent CMake option) must be set when PCRE is
       built if you want to use JIT. The support is limited to the following
       hardware platforms:

         ARM v5, v7, and Thumb2
         Intel x86 32-bit and 64-bit
         MIPS 32-bit
         Power PC 32-bit and 64-bit
         SPARC 32-bit (experimental)

       If --enable-jit is set on an unsupported platform, compilation fails.

       A program that is linked with PCRE 8.20 or later can tell if JIT
       support is available by calling pcre_config() with the
       PCRE_CONFIG_JIT option. The result is 1 when JIT is available, and 0
       otherwise. However, a simple program does not need to check this in
       order to use JIT. The normal API is implemented in a way that falls
       back to the interpretive code if JIT is not available. For programs
       that need the best possible performance, there is also a "fast path"
       API that is JIT-specific.

       If your program may sometimes be linked with versions of PCRE that
       are older than 8.20, but you want to use JIT when it is available,
       you can test the values of PCRE_MAJOR and PCRE_MINOR, or the
       existence of a JIT macro such as PCRE_CONFIG_JIT, for compile-time
       control of your code. Also beware that the pcre_jit_exec() function
       was not available at all before 8.32, and may not be available at all
       if PCRE isn't compiled with --enable-jit. See the "JIT FAST PATH API"
       section below for details.

SIMPLE USE OF JIT         top

       You have to do two things to make use of the JIT support in the
       simplest way:

         (1) Call pcre_study() with the PCRE_STUDY_JIT_COMPILE option for
             each compiled pattern, and pass the resulting pcre_extra block

         (2) Use pcre_free_study() to free the pcre_extra block when it is
             no longer needed, instead of just freeing it yourself. This
       ensures that
             any JIT data is also freed.

       For a program that may be linked with pre-8.20 versions of PCRE, you
       can insert

         #ifndef PCRE_STUDY_JIT_COMPILE
         #define PCRE_STUDY_JIT_COMPILE 0

       so that no option is passed to pcre_study(), and then use something
       like this to free the study data:

         #ifdef PCRE_CONFIG_JIT

       PCRE_STUDY_JIT_COMPILE requests the JIT compiler to generate code for
       complete matches. If you want to run partial matches using the
       PCRE_PARTIAL_HARD or PCRE_PARTIAL_SOFT options of pcre_exec(), you
       should set one or both of the following options in addition to, or
       instead of, PCRE_STUDY_JIT_COMPILE when you call pcre_study():


       If using pcre_jit_exec() and supporting a pre-8.32 version of PCRE,
       you can insert:

          #if PCRE_MAJOR >= 8 && PCRE_MINOR >= 32

       but as described in the "JIT FAST PATH API" section below this
       assumes version 8.32 and later are compiled with --enable-jit, which
       may break.

       The JIT compiler generates different optimized code for each of the
       three modes (normal, soft partial, hard partial). When pcre_exec() is
       called, the appropriate code is run if it is available. Otherwise,
       the pattern is matched using interpretive code.

       In some circumstances you may need to call additional functions.
       These are described in the section entitled "Controlling the JIT
       stack" below.

       If JIT support is not available, PCRE_STUDY_JIT_COMPILE etc. are
       ignored, and no JIT data is created. Otherwise, the compiled pattern
       is passed to the JIT compiler, which turns it into machine code that
       executes much faster than the normal interpretive code. When
       pcre_exec() is passed a pcre_extra block containing a pointer to JIT
       code of the appropriate mode (normal or hard/soft partial), it obeys
       that code instead of running the interpreter. The result is
       identical, but the compiled JIT code runs much faster.

       There are some pcre_exec() options that are not supported for JIT
       execution. There are also some pattern items that JIT cannot handle.
       Details are given below. In both cases, execution automatically falls
       back to the interpretive code. If you want to know whether JIT was
       actually used for a particular match, you should arrange for a JIT
       callback function to be set up as described in the section entitled
       "Controlling the JIT stack" below, even if you do not need to supply
       a non-default JIT stack. Such a callback function is called whenever
       JIT code is about to be obeyed. If the execution options are not
       right for JIT execution, the callback function is not obeyed.

       If the JIT compiler finds an unsupported item, no JIT data is
       generated. You can find out if JIT execution is available after
       studying a pattern by calling pcre_fullinfo() with the PCRE_INFO_JIT
       option. A result of 1 means that JIT compilation was successful. A
       result of 0 means that JIT support is not available, or the pattern
       was not studied with PCRE_STUDY_JIT_COMPILE etc., or the JIT compiler
       was not able to handle the pattern.

       Once a pattern has been studied, with or without JIT, it can be used
       as many times as you like for matching different subject strings.


       The only pcre_exec() options that are supported for JIT execution are

       The only unsupported pattern items are \C (match a single data unit)
       when running in a UTF mode, and a callout immediately before an
       assertion condition in a conditional group.


       When a pattern is matched using JIT execution, the return values are
       the same as those given by the interpretive pcre_exec() code, with
       the addition of one new error code: PCRE_ERROR_JIT_STACKLIMIT. This
       means that the memory used for the JIT stack was insufficient. See
       "Controlling the JIT stack" below for a discussion of JIT stack
       usage. For compatibility with the interpretive pcre_exec() code, no
       more than two-thirds of the ovector argument is used for passing back
       captured substrings.

       The error code PCRE_ERROR_MATCHLIMIT is returned by the JIT code if
       searching a very large pattern tree goes on for too long, as it is in
       the same circumstance when JIT is not used, but the details of
       exactly what is counted are not the same. The
       PCRE_ERROR_RECURSIONLIMIT error code is never returned by JIT


       The code that is generated by the JIT compiler is architecture-
       specific, and is also position dependent. For those reasons it cannot
       be saved (in a file or database) and restored later like the bytecode
       and other data of a compiled pattern. Saving and restoring compiled
       patterns is not something many people do. More detail about this
       facility is given in the pcreprecompile documentation. It should be
       possible to run pcre_study() on a saved and restored pattern, and
       thereby recreate the JIT data, but because JIT compilation uses
       significant resources, it is probably not worth doing this; you might
       as well recompile the original pattern.


       When the compiled JIT code runs, it needs a block of memory to use as
       a stack.  By default, it uses 32K on the machine stack. However, some
       large or complicated patterns need more than this. The error
       PCRE_ERROR_JIT_STACKLIMIT is given when there is not enough stack.
       Three functions are provided for managing blocks of memory for use as
       JIT stacks. There is further discussion about the use of JIT stacks
       in the section entitled "JIT stack FAQ" below.

       The pcre_jit_stack_alloc() function creates a JIT stack. Its
       arguments are a starting size and a maximum size, and it returns a
       pointer to an opaque structure of type pcre_jit_stack, or NULL if
       there is an error. The pcre_jit_stack_free() function can be used to
       free a stack that is no longer needed. (For the technically minded:
       the address space is allocated by mmap or VirtualAlloc.)

       JIT uses far less memory for recursion than the interpretive code,
       and a maximum stack size of 512K to 1M should be more than enough for
       any pattern.

       The pcre_assign_jit_stack() function specifies which stack JIT code
       should use. Its arguments are as follows:

         pcre_extra         *extra
         pcre_jit_callback  callback
         void               *data

       The extra argument must be the result of studying a pattern with
       PCRE_STUDY_JIT_COMPILE etc. There are three cases for the values of
       the other two options:

         (1) If callback is NULL and data is NULL, an internal 32K block
             on the machine stack is used.

         (2) If callback is NULL and data is not NULL, data must be
             a valid JIT stack, the result of calling

         (3) If callback is not NULL, it must point to a function that is
             called with data as an argument at the start of matching, in
             order to set up a JIT stack. If the return from the callback
             function is NULL, the internal 32K stack is used; otherwise the
             return value must be a valid JIT stack, the result of calling

       A callback function is obeyed whenever JIT code is about to be run;
       it is not obeyed when pcre_exec() is called with options that are
       incompatible for JIT execution. A callback function can therefore be
       used to determine whether a match operation was executed by JIT or by
       the interpreter.

       You may safely use the same JIT stack for more than one pattern
       (either by assigning directly or by callback), as long as the
       patterns are all matched sequentially in the same thread. In a
       multithread application, if you do not specify a JIT stack, or if you
       assign or pass back NULL from a callback, that is thread-safe,
       because each thread has its own machine stack. However, if you assign
       or pass back a non-NULL JIT stack, this must be a different stack for
       each thread so that the application is thread-safe.

       Strictly speaking, even more is allowed. You can assign the same non-
       NULL stack to any number of patterns as long as they are not used for
       matching by multiple threads at the same time. For example, you can
       assign the same stack to all compiled patterns, and use a global
       mutex in the callback to wait until the stack is available for use.
       However, this is an inefficient solution, and not recommended.

       This is a suggestion for how a multithreaded program that needs to
       set up non-default JIT stacks might operate:

         During thread initalization
           thread_local_var = pcre_jit_stack_alloc(...)

         During thread exit

         Use a one-line callback function
           return thread_local_var

       All the functions described in this section do nothing if JIT is not
       available, and pcre_assign_jit_stack() does nothing unless the extra
       argument is non-NULL and points to a pcre_extra block that is the
       result of a successful study with PCRE_STUDY_JIT_COMPILE etc.

JIT STACK FAQ         top

       (1) Why do we need JIT stacks?

       PCRE (and JIT) is a recursive, depth-first engine, so it needs a
       stack where the local data of the current node is pushed before
       checking its child nodes.  Allocating real machine stack on some
       platforms is difficult. For example, the stack chain needs to be
       updated every time if we extend the stack on PowerPC.  Although it is
       possible, its updating time overhead decreases performance. So we do
       the recursion in memory.

       (2) Why don't we simply allocate blocks of memory with malloc()?

       Modern operating systems have a nice feature: they can reserve an
       address space instead of allocating memory. We can safely allocate
       memory pages inside this address space, so the stack could grow
       without moving memory data (this is important because of pointers).
       Thus we can allocate 1M address space, and use only a single memory
       page (usually 4K) if that is enough. However, we can still grow up to
       1M anytime if needed.

       (3) Who "owns" a JIT stack?

       The owner of the stack is the user program, not the JIT studied
       pattern or anything else. The user program must ensure that if a
       stack is used by pcre_exec(), (that is, it is assigned to the pattern
       currently running), that stack must not be used by any other threads
       (to avoid overwriting the same memory area). The best practice for
       multithreaded programs is to allocate a stack for each thread, and
       return this stack through the JIT callback function.

       (4) When should a JIT stack be freed?

       You can free a JIT stack at any time, as long as it will not be used
       by pcre_exec() again. When you assign the stack to a pattern, only a
       pointer is set. There is no reference counting or any other magic.
       You can free the patterns and stacks in any order, anytime. Just do
       not call pcre_exec() with a pattern pointing to an already freed
       stack, as that will cause SEGFAULT. (Also, do not free a stack
       currently used by pcre_exec() in another thread). You can also
       replace the stack for a pattern at any time. You can even free the
       previous stack before assigning a replacement.

       (5) Should I allocate/free a stack every time before/after calling

       No, because this is too costly in terms of resources. However, you
       could implement some clever idea which release the stack if it is not
       used in let's say two minutes. The JIT callback can help to achieve
       this without keeping a list of the currently JIT studied patterns.

       (6) OK, the stack is for long term memory allocation. But what
       happens if a pattern causes stack overflow with a stack of 1M? Is
       that 1M kept until the stack is freed?

       Especially on embedded sytems, it might be a good idea to release
       memory sometimes without freeing the stack. There is no API for this
       at the moment.  Probably a function call which returns with the
       currently allocated memory for any stack and another which allows
       releasing memory (shrinking the stack) would be a good idea if
       someone needs this.

       (7) This is too much of a headache. Isn't there any better solution
       for JIT stack handling?

       No, thanks to Windows. If POSIX threads were used everywhere, we
       could throw out this complicated API.

EXAMPLE CODE         top

       This is a single-threaded example that specifies a JIT stack without
       using a callback.

         int rc;
         int ovector[30];
         pcre *re;
         pcre_extra *extra;
         pcre_jit_stack *jit_stack;

         re = pcre_compile(pattern, 0, &error, &erroffset, NULL);
         /* Check for errors */
         extra = pcre_study(re, PCRE_STUDY_JIT_COMPILE, &error);
         jit_stack = pcre_jit_stack_alloc(32*1024, 512*1024);
         /* Check for error (NULL) */
         pcre_assign_jit_stack(extra, NULL, jit_stack);
         rc = pcre_exec(re, extra, subject, length, 0, 0, ovector, 30);
         /* Check results */

JIT FAST PATH API         top

       Because the API described above falls back to interpreted execution
       when JIT is not available, it is convenient for programs that are
       written for general use in many environments. However, calling JIT
       via pcre_exec() does have a performance impact. Programs that are
       written for use where JIT is known to be available, and which need
       the best possible performance, can instead use a "fast path" API to
       call JIT execution directly instead of calling pcre_exec() (obviously
       only for patterns that have been successfully studied by JIT).

       The fast path function is called pcre_jit_exec(), and it takes
       exactly the same arguments as pcre_exec(), plus one additional
       argument that must point to a JIT stack. The JIT stack arrangements
       described above do not apply. The return values are the same as for

       When you call pcre_exec(), as well as testing for invalid options, a
       number of other sanity checks are performed on the arguments. For
       example, if the subject pointer is NULL, or its length is negative,
       an immediate error is given. Also, unless PCRE_NO_UTF[8|16|32] is
       set, a UTF subject string is tested for validity. In the interests of
       speed, these checks do not happen on the JIT fast path, and if
       invalid data is passed, the result is undefined.

       Bypassing the sanity checks and the pcre_exec() wrapping can give
       speedups of more than 10%.

       Note that the pcre_jit_exec() function is not available in versions
       of PCRE before 8.32 (released in November 2012). If you need to
       support versions that old you must either use the slower pcre_exec(),
       or switch between the two codepaths by checking the values of

       Due to an unfortunate implementation oversight, even in versions 8.32
       and later there will be no pcre_jit_exec() stub function defined when
       PCRE is compiled with --disable-jit, which is the default, and
       there's no way to detect whether PCRE was compiled with --enable-jit
       via a macro.

       If you need to support versions older than 8.32, or versions that may
       not build with --enable-jit, you must either use the slower
       pcre_exec(), or switch between the two codepaths by checking the
       values of PCRE_MAJOR and PCRE_MINOR.

       Switching between the two by checking the version assumes that all
       the versions being targeted are built with --enable-jit. To also
       support builds that may use --disable-jit either pcre_exec() must be
       used, or a compile-time check for JIT via pcre_config() (which
       assumes the runtime environment will be the same), or as the Git
       project decided to do, simply assume that pcre_jit_exec() is present
       in 8.32 or later unless a compile-time flag is provided, see the
       "grep: un-break building with PCRE >= 8.32 without --enable-jit"
       commit in git.git for an example of that.

SEE ALSO         top


AUTHOR         top

       Philip Hazel (FAQ by Zoltan Herczeg)
       University Computing Service
       Cambridge CB2 3QH, England.

REVISION         top

       Last updated: 05 July 2017
       Copyright (c) 1997-2017 University of Cambridge.

COLOPHON         top

       This page is part of the PCRE (Perl Compatible Regular Expressions)
       project.  Information about the project can be found at 
       ⟨⟩.  If you have a bug report for this manual
       page, see ⟨⟩.  This
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PCRE 8.41                       05 July 2017                      PCREJIT(3)