pcrecallout(3) — Linux manual page


PCRECALLOUT(3)            Library Functions Manual            PCRECALLOUT(3)

NAME         top

       PCRE - Perl-compatible regular expressions

SYNOPSIS         top

       #include <pcre.h>

       int (*pcre_callout)(pcre_callout_block *);

       int (*pcre16_callout)(pcre16_callout_block *);

       int (*pcre32_callout)(pcre32_callout_block *);

DESCRIPTION         top

       PCRE provides a feature called "callout", which is a means of
       temporarily passing control to the caller of PCRE in the middle of
       pattern matching. The caller of PCRE provides an external function by
       putting its entry point in the global variable pcre_callout
       (pcre16_callout for the 16-bit library, pcre32_callout for the 32-bit
       library). By default, this variable contains NULL, which disables all
       calling out.

       Within a regular expression, (?C) indicates the points at which the
       external function is to be called. Different callout points can be
       identified by putting a number less than 256 after the letter C. The
       default value is zero.  For example, this pattern has two callout


       If the PCRE_AUTO_CALLOUT option bit is set when a pattern is
       compiled, PCRE automatically inserts callouts, all with number 255,
       before each item in the pattern. For example, if PCRE_AUTO_CALLOUT is
       used with the pattern


       it is processed as if it were


       Notice that there is a callout before and after each parenthesis and
       alternation bar. If the pattern contains a conditional group whose
       condition is an assertion, an automatic callout is inserted
       immediately before the condition. Such a callout may also be inserted
       explicitly, for example:


       This applies only to assertion conditions (because they are
       themselves independent groups).

       Automatic callouts can be used for tracking the progress of pattern
       matching.  The pcretest program has a pattern qualifier (/C) that
       sets automatic callouts; when it is used, the output indicates how
       the pattern is being matched. This is useful information when you are
       trying to optimize the performance of a particular pattern.


       You should be aware that, because of optimizations in the way PCRE
       compiles and matches patterns, callouts sometimes do not happen
       exactly as you might expect.

       At compile time, PCRE "auto-possessifies" repeated items when it
       knows that what follows cannot be part of the repeat. For example,
       a+[bc] is compiled as if it were a++[bc]. The pcretest output when
       this pattern is anchored and then applied with automatic callouts to
       the string "aaaa" is:

          +0 ^        ^
          +1 ^        a+
          +3 ^   ^    [bc]
         No match

       This indicates that when matching [bc] fails, there is no
       backtracking into a+ and therefore the callouts that would be taken
       for the backtracks do not occur.  You can disable the auto-possessify
       feature by passing PCRE_NO_AUTO_POSSESS to pcre_compile(), or
       starting the pattern with (*NO_AUTO_POSSESS). If this is done in
       pcretest (using the /O qualifier), the output changes to this:

          +0 ^        ^
          +1 ^        a+
          +3 ^   ^    [bc]
          +3 ^  ^     [bc]
          +3 ^ ^      [bc]
          +3 ^^       [bc]
         No match

       This time, when matching [bc] fails, the matcher backtracks into a+
       and tries again, repeatedly, until a+ itself fails.

       Other optimizations that provide fast "no match" results also affect
       callouts.  For example, if the pattern is


       PCRE knows that any matching string must contain the letter "d". If
       the subject string is "abyz", the lack of "d" means that matching
       doesn't ever start, and the callout is never reached. However, with
       "abyd", though the result is still no match, the callout is obeyed.

       If the pattern is studied, PCRE knows the minimum length of a
       matching string, and will immediately give a "no match" return
       without actually running a match if the subject is not long enough,
       or, for unanchored patterns, if it has been scanned far enough.

       You can disable these optimizations by passing the
       PCRE_NO_START_OPTIMIZE option to the matching function, or by
       starting the pattern with (*NO_START_OPT). This slows down the
       matching process, but does ensure that callouts such as the example
       above are obeyed.


       During matching, when PCRE reaches a callout point, the external
       function defined by pcre_callout or pcre[16|32]_callout is called (if
       it is set). This applies to both normal and DFA matching. The only
       argument to the callout function is a pointer to a pcre_callout or
       pcre[16|32]_callout block. These structures contains the following

         int           version;
         int           callout_number;
         int          *offset_vector;
         const char   *subject;           (8-bit version)
         PCRE_SPTR16   subject;           (16-bit version)
         PCRE_SPTR32   subject;           (32-bit version)
         int           subject_length;
         int           start_match;
         int           current_position;
         int           capture_top;
         int           capture_last;
         void         *callout_data;
         int           pattern_position;
         int           next_item_length;
         const unsigned char *mark;       (8-bit version)
         const PCRE_UCHAR16  *mark;       (16-bit version)
         const PCRE_UCHAR32  *mark;       (32-bit version)

       The version field is an integer containing the version number of the
       block format. The initial version was 0; the current version is 2.
       The version number will change again in future if additional fields
       are added, but the intention is never to remove any of the existing

       The callout_number field contains the number of the callout, as
       compiled into the pattern (that is, the number after ?C for manual
       callouts, and 255 for automatically generated callouts).

       The offset_vector field is a pointer to the vector of offsets that
       was passed by the caller to the matching function. When pcre_exec()
       or pcre[16|32]_exec() is used, the contents can be inspected, in
       order to extract substrings that have been matched so far, in the
       same way as for extracting substrings after a match has completed.
       For the DFA matching functions, this field is not useful.

       The subject and subject_length fields contain copies of the values
       that were passed to the matching function.

       The start_match field normally contains the offset within the subject
       at which the current match attempt started. However, if the escape
       sequence \K has been encountered, this value is changed to reflect
       the modified starting point. If the pattern is not anchored, the
       callout function may be called several times from the same point in
       the pattern for different starting points in the subject.

       The current_position field contains the offset within the subject of
       the current match pointer.

       When the pcre_exec() or pcre[16|32]_exec() is used, the capture_top
       field contains one more than the number of the highest numbered
       captured substring so far. If no substrings have been captured, the
       value of capture_top is one. This is always the case when the DFA
       functions are used, because they do not support captured substrings.

       The capture_last field contains the number of the most recently
       captured substring. However, when a recursion exits, the value
       reverts to what it was outside the recursion, as do the values of all
       captured substrings. If no substrings have been captured, the value
       of capture_last is -1. This is always the case for the DFA matching

       The callout_data field contains a value that is passed to a matching
       function specifically so that it can be passed back in callouts. It
       is passed in the callout_data field of a pcre_extra or
       pcre[16|32]_extra data structure. If no such data was passed, the
       value of callout_data in a callout block is NULL. There is a
       description of the pcre_extra structure in the pcreapi documentation.

       The pattern_position field is present from version 1 of the callout
       structure. It contains the offset to the next item to be matched in
       the pattern string.

       The next_item_length field is present from version 1 of the callout
       structure. It contains the length of the next item to be matched in
       the pattern string. When the callout immediately precedes an
       alternation bar, a closing parenthesis, or the end of the pattern,
       the length is zero. When the callout precedes an opening parenthesis,
       the length is that of the entire subpattern.

       The pattern_position and next_item_length fields are intended to help
       in distinguishing between different automatic callouts, which all
       have the same callout number. However, they are set for all callouts.

       The mark field is present from version 2 of the callout structure. In
       callouts from pcre_exec() or pcre[16|32]_exec() it contains a pointer
       to the zero-terminated name of the most recently passed (*MARK),
       (*PRUNE), or (*THEN) item in the match, or NULL if no such items have
       been passed. Instances of (*PRUNE) or (*THEN) without a name do not
       obliterate a previous (*MARK). In callouts from the DFA matching
       functions this field always contains NULL.

RETURN VALUES         top

       The external callout function returns an integer to PCRE. If the
       value is zero, matching proceeds as normal. If the value is greater
       than zero, matching fails at the current point, but the testing of
       other matching possibilities goes ahead, just as if a lookahead
       assertion had failed. If the value is less than zero, the match is
       abandoned, the matching function returns the negative value.

       Negative values should normally be chosen from the set of
       PCRE_ERROR_xxx values. In particular, PCRE_ERROR_NOMATCH forces a
       standard "no match" failure.  The error number PCRE_ERROR_CALLOUT is
       reserved for use by callout functions; it will never be used by PCRE

AUTHOR         top

       Philip Hazel
       University Computing Service
       Cambridge CB2 3QH, England.

REVISION         top

       Last updated: 12 November 2013
       Copyright (c) 1997-2013 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 
       ⟨http://www.pcre.org/⟩.  If you have a bug report for this manual
       page, see ⟨http://bugs.exim.org/enter_bug.cgi?product=PCRE⟩.  This
       page was obtained from the tarball pcre-8.44.tar.gz fetched from
       ⟨ftp://ftp.csx.cam.ac.uk/pub/software/programming/pcre/⟩ on
       2020-09-18.  If you discover any rendering problems in this HTML ver‐
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       information in this COLOPHON (which is not part of the original man‐
       ual page), send a mail to man-pages@man7.org

PCRE 8.34                     12 November 2013                PCRECALLOUT(3)

Pages that refer to this page: pcretest(1)pcreapi(3)pcrepattern(3)pcresyntax(3)