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RegEx match open tags except XHTML self-contained tags


Question

I need to match all of these opening tags:

<p>
<a href="foo">

But not these:

<br />
<hr class="foo" />

I came up with this and wanted to make sure I've got it right. I am only capturing the a-z.

<([a-z]+) *[^/]*?>

I believe it says:

  • Find a less-than, then
  • Find (and capture) a-z one or more times, then
  • Find zero or more spaces, then
  • Find any character zero or more times, greedy, except /, then
  • Find a greater-than

Do I have that right? And more importantly, what do you think?

2012/05/26
1
1545
5/26/2012 8:37:05 PM

Accepted Answer

You can't parse [X]HTML with regex. Because HTML can't be parsed by regex. Regex is not a tool that can be used to correctly parse HTML. As I have answered in HTML-and-regex questions here so many times before, the use of regex will not allow you to consume HTML. Regular expressions are a tool that is insufficiently sophisticated to understand the constructs employed by HTML. HTML is not a regular language and hence cannot be parsed by regular expressions. Regex queries are not equipped to break down HTML into its meaningful parts. so many times but it is not getting to me. Even enhanced irregular regular expressions as used by Perl are not up to the task of parsing HTML. You will never make me crack. HTML is a language of sufficient complexity that it cannot be parsed by regular expressions. Even Jon Skeet cannot parse HTML using regular expressions. Every time you attempt to parse HTML with regular expressions, the unholy child weeps the blood of virgins, and Russian hackers pwn your webapp. Parsing HTML with regex summons tainted souls into the realm of the living. HTML and regex go together like love, marriage, and ritual infanticide. The <center> cannot hold it is too late. The force of regex and HTML together in the same conceptual space will destroy your mind like so much watery putty. If you parse HTML with regex you are giving in to Them and their blasphemous ways which doom us all to inhuman toil for the One whose Name cannot be expressed in the Basic Multilingual Plane, he comes. HTML-plus-regexp will liquify the n​erves of the sentient whilst you observe, your psyche withering in the onslaught of horror. Rege̿̔̉x-based HTML parsers are the cancer that is killing StackOverflow it is too late it is too late we cannot be saved the trangession of a chi͡ld ensures regex will consume all living tissue (except for HTML which it cannot, as previously prophesied) dear lord help us how can anyone survive this scourge using regex to parse HTML has doomed humanity to an eternity of dread torture and security holes using regex as a tool to process HTML establishes a breach between this world and the dread realm of c͒ͪo͛ͫrrupt entities (like SGML entities, but more corrupt) a mere glimpse of the world of reg​ex parsers for HTML will ins​tantly transport a programmer's consciousness into a world of ceaseless screaming, he comes, the pestilent slithy regex-infection wil​l devour your HT​ML parser, application and existence for all time like Visual Basic only worse he comes he comes do not fi​ght he com̡e̶s, ̕h̵i​s un̨ho͞ly radiańcé destro҉ying all enli̍̈́̂̈́ghtenment, HTML tags lea͠ki̧n͘g fr̶ǫm ̡yo​͟ur eye͢s̸ ̛l̕ik͏e liq​uid pain, the song of re̸gular exp​ression parsing will exti​nguish the voices of mor​tal man from the sp​here I can see it can you see ̲͚̖͔̙î̩́t̲͎̩̱͔́̋̀ it is beautiful t​he final snuffing of the lie​s of Man ALL IS LOŚ͖̩͇̗̪̏̈́T ALL I​S LOST the pon̷y he comes he c̶̮omes he comes the ich​or permeates all MY FACE MY FACE ᵒh god no NO NOO̼O​O NΘ stop the an​*̶͑̾̾​̅ͫ͏̙̤g͇̫͛͆̾ͫ̑͆l͖͉̗̩̳̟̍ͫͥͨe̠̅s ͎a̧͈͖r̽̾̈́͒͑e n​ot rè̑ͧ̌aͨl̘̝̙̃ͤ͂̾̆ ZA̡͊͠͝LGΌ ISͮ̂҉̯͈͕̹̘̱ TO͇̹̺ͅƝ̴ȳ̳ TH̘Ë͖́̉ ͠P̯͍̭O̚​N̐Y̡ H̸̡̪̯ͨ͊̽̅̾̎Ȩ̬̩̾͛ͪ̈́̀́͘ ̶̧̨̱̹̭̯ͧ̾ͬC̷̙̲̝͖ͭ̏ͥͮ͟Oͮ͏̮̪̝͍M̲̖͊̒ͪͩͬ̚̚͜Ȇ̴̟̟͙̞ͩ͌͝S̨̥̫͎̭ͯ̿̔̀ͅ


Have you tried using an XML parser instead?


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2020/06/20
4414
6/20/2020 9:12:55 AM


I think the flaw here is that HTML is a Chomsky Type 2 grammar (context free grammar) and a regular expression is a Chomsky Type 3 grammar (regular grammar). Since a Type 2 grammar is fundamentally more complex than a Type 3 grammar (see the Chomsky hierarchy), it is mathematically impossible to parse XML with a regular expression.

But many will try, and some will even claim success - but until others find the fault and totally mess you up.

2020/08/14

Don't listen to these guys. You totally can parse context-free grammars with regex if you break the task into smaller pieces. You can generate the correct pattern with a script that does each of these in order:

  1. Solve the Halting Problem.
  2. Square a circle.
  3. Work out the Traveling Salesman Problem in O(log n) or less. If it's any more than that, you'll run out of RAM and the engine will hang.
  4. The pattern will be pretty big, so make sure you have an algorithm that losslessly compresses random data.
  5. Almost there - just divide the whole thing by zero. Easy-peasy.

I haven't quite finished the last part myself, but I know I'm getting close. It keeps throwing CthulhuRlyehWgahnaglFhtagnExceptions for some reason, so I'm going to port it to VB 6 and use On Error Resume Next. I'll update with the code once I investigate this strange door that just opened in the wall. Hmm.

P.S. Pierre de Fermat also figured out how to do it, but the margin he was writing in wasn't big enough for the code.

2018/08/30

Disclaimer: use a parser if you have the option. That said...

This is the regex I use (!) to match HTML tags:

<(?:"[^"]*"['"]*|'[^']*'['"]*|[^'">])+>

It may not be perfect, but I ran this code through a lot of HTML. Note that it even catches strange things like <a name="badgenerator"">, which show up on the web.

I guess to make it not match self contained tags, you'd either want to use Kobi's negative look-behind:

<(?:"[^"]*"['"]*|'[^']*'['"]*|[^'">])+(?<!/\s*)>

or just combine if and if not.

To downvoters: This is working code from an actual product. I doubt anyone reading this page will get the impression that it is socially acceptable to use regexes on HTML.

Caveat: I should note that this regex still breaks down in the presence of CDATA blocks, comments, and script and style elements. Good news is, you can get rid of those using a regex...

2017/05/23

There are people that will tell you that the Earth is round (or perhaps that the Earth is an oblate spheroid if they want to use strange words). They are lying.

There are people that will tell you that Regular Expressions shouldn't be recursive. They are limiting you. They need to subjugate you, and they do it by keeping you in ignorance.

You can live in their reality or take the red pill.

Like Lord Marshal (is he a relative of the Marshal .NET class?), I have seen the Underverse Stack Based Regex-Verse and returned with powers knowledge you can't imagine. Yes, I think there were an Old One or two protecting them, but they were watching football on the TV, so it wasn't difficult.

I think the XML case is quite simple. The RegEx (in the .NET syntax), deflated and coded in base64 to make it easier to comprehend by your feeble mind, should be something like this:
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The options to set is RegexOptions.ExplicitCapture. The capture group you are looking for is ELEMENTNAME. If the capture group ERROR is not empty then there was a parsing error and the Regex stopped.

If you have problems reconverting it to a human-readable regex, this should help:

static string FromBase64(string str)
{
    byte[] byteArray = Convert.FromBase64String(str);

    using (var msIn = new MemoryStream(byteArray))
    using (var msOut = new MemoryStream()) {
        using (var ds = new DeflateStream(msIn, CompressionMode.Decompress)) {
            ds.CopyTo(msOut);
        }

        return Encoding.UTF8.GetString(msOut.ToArray());
    }
}

If you are unsure, no, I'm NOT kidding (but perhaps I'm lying). It WILL work. I've built tons of unit tests to test it, and I have even used (part of) the conformance tests. It's a tokenizer, not a full-blown parser, so it will only split the XML into its component tokens. It won't parse/integrate DTDs.

Oh... if you want the source code of the regex, with some auxiliary methods:

regex to tokenize an xml or the full plain regex

2020/08/14

In shell, you can parse HTML using sed:

  1. Turing.sed
  2. Write HTML parser (homework)
  3. ???
  4. Profit!

Related (why you shouldn't use regex match):

2019/04/23

Source: https://stackoverflow.com/questions/1732348
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