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REGEXP_LIKE Behavior

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Often, the biggest problem with regular expressions is that those who use them sometimes don’t use them correctly. A great example occurs in the Oracle Database with the REGEXP_LIKE function. For example, some developer use the following to validate whether a string is a number but it only validates whether the first character is a number.

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DECLARE
  lv_input  VARCHAR2(100);
BEGIN
  /* Assign input value. */
  lv_input := '&input';
 
  /* Check for numeric string. */
  IF REGEXP_LIKE(lv_input,'[[:digit:]]') THEN
    dbms_output.put_line('It''s a number.');
  ELSE
    dbms_output.put_line('It''s a string.');
  END IF;
END;
/

When they test numbers it appears to works, it even appears to work when the test string start with number, but it fails with any string that starts with a character. That’s because the REGEXP_LIKE function on line 8 only checks the first character, but the following checks all the characters in the string.

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  IF REGEXP_LIKE(lv_inputs(i),'[[:digit:]]{'||LENGTH(lv_inputs(i))||'}') THEN

You can also fix it with the following non-Posix solution:

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  IF REGEXP_LIKE(lv_input,'[[0-9]]') THEN

You can add a collection to the program and use it to test single-digit, double-digit, and string with a leading integer. Save the program as test.sql and you can test three conditions with one call.

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DECLARE
  /* Declare the local collection type. */
  TYPE inputs IS TABLE OF VARCHAR2(100);
 
  /* Declare a local variable of the collection type. */
  lv_inputs  INPUTS;
BEGIN
  /* Assign the inputs to the collection variable. */
  lv_inputs := inputs('&1','&2','&3');
 
  /* Read through the collection and print whether it's an number or string. */
  FOR i IN 1..lv_inputs.COUNT LOOP
    IF REGEXP_LIKE(lv_inputs(i),'[[:digit:]]{'||LENGTH(lv_inputs(i))||',}') THEN
      dbms_output.put_line('It''s a number.');
    ELSE
      dbms_output.put_line('It''s a string.');
    END IF;
  END LOOP;
END;
/

You can run the test.sql program like this:

SQL> @test.sql 1 12 1a

It prints:

It's a number.
It's a number.
It's a string.

As always, I hope this helps those looking for a solution.

Written by maclochlainn

September 30th, 2015 at 7:23 pm

One Response to 'REGEXP_LIKE Behavior'

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  1. How about more complex regex?

    Marcos

    29 Oct 15 at 11:35 pm

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