Hi Joshua,

Thanks for bringing this topic up. It may help to outline why regular 
expressions were deferred until Swift 5. The work to create a regular 
expression type itself, and even to add a regex literal protocol, is fairly 
straightforward and probably could have been done in the Swift 4 timeframe 
(maybe by making NSRegularExpression a value type and refreshing its API), but 
there are other design aspects that we need to explore prior to that, many of 
which have compiler impact, or would need to factor in the underlying 
representation of string in order to be efficient, in order to make 
Swift-native regular expressions really great.

Right now, the top priority for Swift 5 is ABI stability, and String plays a 
fairly large part in that. We need to finalize the size of String (currently 3 
words, but 2 is the likely final size), implement the small string 
optimization, and decide which parts of String need to be fragile/inlineable 
and which need to be resilient.

Since ABI stability takes priority, this give us time in the mean-time to 
consider the broader design questions of what Swift-native regular expressions 
would look like. These design considerations probably need to come ahead of 
designing an API for specific types like a regex, matches etc.

Some examples of these kind of questions include:

What syntax changes to the usual form of regexes should be considered? For 
example, what should “.” mean in regular expressions? It would be out of 
keeping for it to mean a code unit, when applied to Swift.String. 
Alternatively, should regular expressions work on all the views? In which case, 
“.” could mean a grapheme when applied to String, but a code unit when applied 
to the UTF16 view.

How can let bindings work on capture groups i.e. rather than having named 
capture groups like in Perl, can we bind directly to variables in switches etc? 
Could types conform to a RegularExpressionCapturable that would consume part of 
the string and initialize self, so that you could capture not just Substring 
but any type? You can’t express this in the language today, and would need 
compiler integration. This integration could start more hard-coded in order to 
deliver value in the Swift 5 release, but hopefully be generalizable in later 
releases.

What other std lib APIs should be changed once we have regular expressions? For 
example, split ought to work with regexes e.g. let words = 
sentence.split(separator: /\w+/). How can this generalize to Collections where 
possible? E.g. [1,2,3,4].index(of: [2,3]) ought to work just as 
“abcd”.index(of: /bc/) should.

> On Aug 10, 2017, at 7:24 AM, Joshua Alvarado via swift-evolution 
> <swift-evolution@swift.org> wrote:
> 
> Hey everyone,
> 
> I would like to pitch an implementation of Regex in Swift and gather all of 
> your thoughts.
> 
> Motivation:
> In the String Manifesto for Swift 4, addressing regular expressions was not 
> in scope. Swift 5 would be a more fitting version to address the 
> implementation of Regex in Swift. NSRegularExpression is a suitable solution 
> for pattern matching but the API is in unfitting for the future direction of 
> Swift.
> 
> Implementation:
> The Regular expression API will be implemented by a Regex structure object 
> which is a regular expression that you can apply to Unicode strings. The 
> Regex struct will conform to the RegexProtocol, which is a type that can 
> represent a regular expression. ExpressibleByRegexLiteral will be used to 
> initialize a regex literal creating an easy to use syntax and a Match 
> structure will be used to represent a match found with a Regex.
> 
> Draft of implementation:
> 
> protocol ExpressibleByRegexLiteral {
>     associatedtype RegexLiteralType
> 
>     init(regexLiteral value: Self.RegexLiteralType)
> }
> 
> // Structure of information about a match of regex on a string
> struct Match {
>     var regex: Regex
>     var start: String.Index
>     var end: String.Index
> }
> 
> protocol RegexProtocol {
>     init(pattern: String) throws
> 
>     var pattern: String { get } // string representation of the pattern
>     func search(string: String) -> Bool // used to check if a match is found 
> at all in the string
>     func match(string: String) -> [Match] // returns an array of all the 
> matches
>     func match(string: String, using: ((Match) -> Void)) // enmuerate over 
> matches
> }
> 
> struct Regex: RegexProtocol {
>     init(pattern: Regex, options: Regex.Options)
>     let options: [Regex.Options]
>     static let word: Regex // \w
>     // other useful regexes can be added as well
> }
> 
> // Examples
> 
> let regex = \[a-zA-Z]+\
> let matches = regex.match("Matching words in text.")
> 
> for match in matches {
>     print("Found a match at in string at \(match.start) to \(match.end)")
> }
> 
> let helloStr = "Hello world"
> 
> Regex.word.match(helloStr) { match in
>     print("Matched \(helloStr[match.start..<match.end])")
> }
>  
> Of course this is a scratch implementation I made but it is to open 
> discussion on the topic. I feel the Regex struct itself will need more 
> methods and variables such as for flags and number of groups. Please provide 
> feedback with improvements to the code, concerns on the topic, or just open 
> up discussion. Thank you!
> 
> Joshua Alvarado
> alvaradojosh...@gmail.com
> 
> _______________________________________________
> swift-evolution mailing list
> swift-evolution@swift.org
> https://lists.swift.org/mailman/listinfo/swift-evolution
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