I read Introducing Regular Expressions by Michael Fitzgerald (O’Reilly Media) to gather deeper insights into the details behind regular expressions. Fitzgerald does not disappoint. The reader should sit back and prepare to drink from the fire hose as Fitzgerald drives through regular expressions in many of their entry level flavors and styles. Introducing Regular Expressions is not for the faint of heart as the reader must navigate lots of regex simulator tools and platforms in order to practice the examples that Fitzgerald fires at the reader without mercy.
If the reader is prepared for a no fluff introduction into regular expressions, then this book is for them. The reader must be prepared for the technical hurdles needed to execute the samples provided in the book. Fitzgerald has the reader execute regex in toolsets such as sed, grep, perl, Cygwin, vi, ack, vim, and even more regex simulation tools. The tool setups can quickly become a distraction to the reader as they spend more time bouncing between tools than actually understanding at depth the reasons behind the samples themselves. However, as long as the reader takes the time to work through the tools and samples, they will not only gain knowledge in regular expressions, but also many common toolsets. At its heart, this toolset requirement demonstrates to the astute reader an understanding that unlike many IT “languages” there is no single regular expression structure or behavior. Demonstrating that you may have to customize your use based on the tools you choose.
Overall, I’d recommend this book for two main reader types. The first is for the reader that is looking to understand the overall behaviors and traits of regular expressions without a 500 page manual with lots of fluff. The second is for the reader that has a basic understanding of regular expressions but would like a quick reference on why the expressions work the way they do in many cookbook and internet examples.
Disclaimer: I received a free electronic copy of this book as part of the O’Reilly Blogger Program