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5.1 Character Class

A bracket expression is a list of characters enclosed by `[' and `]'. It matches any single character in that list; if the first character of the list is the caret `^', then it matches any character not in the list. For example, the regular expression `[0123456789]' matches any single digit.

Within a bracket expression, a range expression consists of two characters separated by a hyphen. It matches any single character that sorts between the two characters, inclusive, using the locale's collating sequence and character set. For example, in the default C locale, `[a-d]' is equivalent to `[abcd]'. Many locales sort characters in dictionary order, and in these locales `[a-d]' is typically not equivalent to `[abcd]'; it might be equivalent to `[aBbCcDd]', for example. To obtain the traditional interpretation of bracket expressions, you can use the C locale by setting the LC_ALL environment variable to the value `C'.

Finally, certain named classes of characters are predefined within bracket expressions, as follows. Their interpretation depends on the LC_CTYPE locale; the interpretation below is that of the C locale, which is the default if no LC_CTYPE locale is specified.

`[:alnum:]'
Alphanumeric characters: `[:alpha:]' and `[:digit:]'.

`[:alpha:]'
Alphabetic characters: `[:lower:]' and `[:upper:]'.

`[:blank:]'
Blank characters: space and tab.

`[:cntrl:]'
Control characters. In ASCII, these characters have octal codes 000 through 037, and 177 (DEL). In other character sets, these are the equivalent characters, if any.

`[:digit:]'
Digits: 0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9.

`[:graph:]'
Graphical characters: `[:alnum:]' and `[:punct:]'.

`[:lower:]'
Lower-case letters: a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t u v w x y z.

`[:print:]'
Printable characters: `[:alnum:]', `[:punct:]', and space.

`[:punct:]'
Punctuation characters: ! " # $ % & ' ( ) * + , - . / : ; < = > ? @ [ \ ] ^ _ ` { | } ~.

`[:space:]'
Space characters: tab, newline, vertical tab, form feed, carriage return, and space.

`[:upper:]'
Upper-case letters: A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z.

`[:xdigit:]'
Hexadecimal digits: 0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 A B C D E F a b c d e f.

For example, `[[:alnum:]]' means `[0-9A-Za-z]', except the latter depends upon the C locale and the ASCII character encoding, whereas the former is independent of locale and character set. (Note that the brackets in these class names are part of the symbolic names, and must be included in addition to the brackets delimiting the bracket list.)

Most metacharacters lose their special meaning inside lists.

`]'
ends the list if it's not the first list item. So, if you want to make the `]' character a list item, you must put it first.

`[.'
represents the open collating symbol.

`.]'
represents the close collating symbol.

`[='
represents the open equivalence class.

`=]'
represents the close equivalence class.

`[:'
represents the open character class followed by a valid character class name.

`:]'
represents the close character class followed by a valid character class name.

`-'
represents the range if it's not first or last in a list or the ending point of a range.

`^'
represents the characters not in the list. If you want to make the `^' character a list item, place it anywhere but first.


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