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The PostgreSQL 9.0 Reference Manual - Volume 1A - SQL Language Reference
by The PostgreSQL Global Development Group
Paperback (6"x9"), 454 pages
ISBN 9781906966041
RRP £14.95 ($19.95)

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7.7.3.2 Bracket Expressions

A bracket expression is a list of characters enclosed in []. It normally matches any single character from the list (but see below). If the list begins with ^, it matches any single character not from the rest of the list. If two characters in the list are separated by -, this is shorthand for the full range of characters between those two (inclusive) in the collating sequence, e.g., [0-9] in ASCII matches any decimal digit. It is illegal for two ranges to share an endpoint, e.g., a-c-e. Ranges are very collating-sequence-dependent, so portable programs should avoid relying on them.

To include a literal ] in the list, make it the first character (after ^, if that is used). To include a literal -, make it the first or last character, or the second endpoint of a range. To use a literal - as the first endpoint of a range, enclose it in [. and .] to make it a collating element (see below). With the exception of these characters, some combinations using [ (see next paragraphs), and escapes (AREs only), all other special characters lose their special significance within a bracket expression. In particular, \ is not special when following ERE or BRE rules, though it is special (as introducing an escape) in AREs.

Within a bracket expression, a collating element (a character, a multiple-character sequence that collates as if it were a single character, or a collating-sequence name for either) enclosed in [. and .] stands for the sequence of characters of that collating element. The sequence is treated as a single element of the bracket expression's list. This allows a bracket expression containing a multiple-character collating element to match more than one character, e.g., if the collating sequence includes a ch collating element, then the RE [[.ch.]]*c matches the first five characters of chchcc.

Note: PostgreSQL currently does not support multi-character collating elements. This information describes possible future behavior.

Within a bracket expression, a collating element enclosed in [= and =] is an equivalence class, standing for the sequences of characters of all collating elements equivalent to that one, including itself. (If there are no other equivalent collating elements, the treatment is as if the enclosing delimiters were [. and .].) For example, if o and ^ are the members of an equivalence class, then [[=o=]], [[=^=]], and [o^] are all synonymous. An equivalence class cannot be an endpoint of a range.

Within a bracket expression, the name of a character class enclosed in [: and :] stands for the list of all characters belonging to that class. Standard character class names are: alnum, alpha, blank, cntrl, digit, graph, lower, print, punct, space, upper, xdigit. These stand for the character classes defined in ctype(3). A locale can provide others. A character class cannot be used as an endpoint of a range.

There are two special cases of bracket expressions: the bracket expressions [[:<:]] and [[:>:]] are constraints, matching empty strings at the beginning and end of a word respectively. A word is defined as a sequence of word characters that is neither preceded nor followed by word characters. A word character is an alnum character (as defined by ctype(3)) or an underscore. This is an extension, compatible with but not specified by POSIX 1003.2, and should be used with caution in software intended to be portable to other systems. The constraint escapes described below are usually preferable; they are no more standard, but are easier to type.

ISBN 9781906966041The PostgreSQL 9.0 Reference Manual - Volume 1A - SQL Language ReferenceSee the print edition