The London Perl and Raku Workshop takes place on 26th Oct 2024. If your company depends on Perl, please consider sponsoring and/or attending.


Regexp::Wildcards - Converts wildcard expressions to Perl regular expressions.


Version 1.05


    use Regexp::Wildcards;

    my $rw = Regexp::Wildcards->new(type => 'unix');

    my $re;
    $re = $rw->convert('a{b?,c}*');          # Do it Unix shell style.
    $re = $rw->convert('a?,b*',   'win32');  # Do it Windows shell style.
    $re = $rw->convert('*{x,y}?', 'jokers'); # Process the jokers and
                                             # escape the rest.
    $re = $rw->convert('%a_c%',   'sql');    # Turn SQL wildcards into
                                             # regexps.

    $rw = Regexp::Wildcards->new(
     do      => [ qw<jokers brackets> ], # Do jokers and brackets.
     capture => [ qw<any greedy> ],      # Capture *'s greedily.

    $rw->do(add => 'groups');            # Don't escape groups.
    $rw->capture(rem => [ qw<greedy> ]); # Actually we want non-greedy
                                         # matches.
    $re = $rw->convert('*a{,(b)?}?c*');  # '(.*?)a(?:|(b).).c(.*?)'
    $rw->capture();                      # No more captures.


In many situations, users may want to specify patterns to match but don't need the full power of regexps. Wildcards make one of those sets of simplified rules. This module converts wildcard expressions to Perl regular expressions, so that you can use them for matching.

It handles the * and ? jokers, as well as Unix bracketed alternatives {,}, but also % and _ SQL wildcards. If required, it can also keep original (...) groups or ^ and $ anchors. Backspace (\) is used as an escape character.

Typesets that mimic the behaviour of Windows and Unix shells are also provided.



    my $rw = Regexp::Wildcards->new(do => $what, capture => $capture);
    my $rw = Regexp::Wildcards->new(type => $type, capture => $capture);

Constructs a new Regexp::Wildcard object.

do lists all features that should be enabled when converting wildcards to regexps. Refer to "do" for details on what can be passed in $what.

The type specifies a predefined set of do features to use. See "type" for details on which types are valid. The do option overrides type.

capture lists which atoms should be capturing. Refer to "capture" for more details.


    $rw->do(set => $c1);
    $rw->do(add => $c2);
    $rw->do(rem => $c3);

Specifies the list of metacharacters to convert or to prevent for escaping. They fit into six classes :

  • 'jokers'

    Converts ? to . and * to .*.

        'a**\\*b??\\?c' ==> 'a.*\\*b..\\?c'
  • 'sql'

    Converts _ to . and % to .*.

        'a%%\\%b__\\_c' ==> 'a.*\\%b..\\_c'
  • 'commas'

    Converts all , to | and puts the complete resulting regular expression inside (?: ... ).

        'a,b{c,d},e' ==> '(?:a|b\\{c|d\\}|e)'
  • 'brackets'

    Converts all matching { ... , ... } brackets to (?: ... | ... ) alternations. If some brackets are unbalanced, it tries to substitute as many of them as possible, and then escape the remaining unmatched { and }. Commas outside of any bracket-delimited block are also escaped.

        'a,b{c,d},e'    ==> 'a\\,b(?:c|d)\\,e'
        '{a\\{b,c}d,e}' ==> '(?:a\\{b|c)d\\,e\\}'
        '{a{b,c\\}d,e}' ==> '\\{a\\{b\\,c\\}d\\,e\\}'
  • 'groups'

    Keeps the parenthesis ( ... ) of the original string without escaping them. Currently, no check is done to ensure that the parenthesis are matching.

        'a(b(c))d\\(\\)' ==> (no change)
  • 'anchors'

    Prevents the beginning-of-line ^ and end-of-line $ anchors to be escaped. Since [...] character class are currently escaped, a ^ will always be interpreted as beginning-of-line.

        'a^b$c' ==> (no change)

Each $c can be any of :

  • A hash reference, with wanted metacharacter group names (described above) as keys and booleans as values ;

  • An array reference containing the list of wanted metacharacter classes ;

  • A plain scalar, when only one group is required.

When set is present, the classes given as its value replace the current object options. Then the add classes are added, and the rem classes removed.

Passing a sole scalar $what is equivalent as passing set => $what. No argument means set => [ ].

    $rw->do(set => 'jokers');           # Only translate jokers.
    $rw->do('jokers');                  # Same.
    $rw->do(add => [ qw<sql commas> ]); # Translate also SQL and commas.
    $rw->do(rem => 'jokers');           # Specifying both 'sql' and
                                        # 'jokers' is useless.
    $rw->do();                          # Translate nothing.

The do method returns the Regexp::Wildcards object.



Notifies to convert the metacharacters that corresponds to the predefined type $type. $type can be any of :

  • 'jokers', 'sql', 'commas', 'brackets'

    Singleton types that enable the corresponding do classes.

  • 'unix'

    Covers typical Unix shell globbing features (effectively 'jokers' and 'brackets').

  • $^O values for common Unix systems

    Wrap to 'unix' (see perlport for the list).

  • undef

    Defaults to 'unix'.

  • 'win32'

    Covers typical Windows shell globbing features (effectively 'jokers' and 'commas').

  • 'dos', 'os2', 'MSWin32', 'cygwin'

    Wrap to 'win32'.

In particular, you can usually pass $^O as the $type and get the corresponding shell behaviour.

    $rw->type('win32'); # Set type to win32.
    $rw->type($^O);     # Set type to unix on Unices and win32 on Windows
    $rw->type();        # Set type to unix.

The type method returns the Regexp::Wildcards object.


    $rw->capture(set => $c1);
    $rw->capture(add => $c2);
    $rw->capture(rem => $c3);

Specifies the list of atoms to capture. This method works like "do", except that the classes are different :

  • 'single'

    Captures all unescaped "exactly one" metacharacters, i.e. ? for wildcards or _ for SQL.

        'a???b\\??' ==> 'a(.)(.)(.)b\\?(.)'
        'a___b\\__' ==> 'a(.)(.)(.)b\\_(.)'
  • 'any'

    Captures all unescaped "any" metacharacters, i.e. * for wildcards or % for SQL.

        'a***b\\**' ==> 'a(.*)b\\*(.*)'
        'a%%%b\\%%' ==> 'a(.*)b\\%(.*)'
  • 'greedy'

    When used in conjunction with 'any', it makes the 'any' captures greedy (by default they are not).

        'a***b\\**' ==> 'a(.*?)b\\*(.*?)'
        'a%%%b\\%%' ==> 'a(.*?)b\\%(.*?)'
  • 'brackets'

    Capture matching { ... , ... } alternations.

        'a{b\\},\\{c}' ==> 'a(b\\}|\\{c)'
    $rw->capture(set => 'single');           # Only capture "exactly one"
                                             # metacharacters.
    $rw->capture('single');                  # Same.
    $rw->capture(add => [ qw<any greedy> ]); # Also greedily capture
                                             # "any" metacharacters.
    $rw->capture(rem => 'greedy');           # No more greed please.
    $rw->capture();                          # Capture nothing.

The capture method returns the Regexp::Wildcards object.


    my $rx = $rw->convert($wc);
    my $rx = $rw->convert($wc, $type);

Converts the wildcard expression $wc into a regular expression according to the options stored into the Regexp::Wildcards object, or to $type if it's supplied. It successively escapes all unprotected regexp special characters that doesn't hold any meaning for wildcards, then replace 'jokers', 'sql' and 'commas' or 'brackets' (depending on the "do" or "type" options), all of this by applying the 'capture' rules specified in the constructor or by "capture".


An object module shouldn't export any function, and so does this one.


Carp (core module since perl 5), Scalar::Util, Text::Balanced (since 5.7.3).


This module does not implement the strange behaviours of Windows shell that result from the special handling of the three last characters (for the file extension). For example, Windows XP shell matches *a like .*a, *a? like .*a.?, *a?? like .*a.{0,2} and so on.




Vincent Pit, <perl at>,

You can contact me by mail or on (vincent).


Please report any bugs or feature requests to bug-regexp-wildcards at, or through the web interface at I will be notified, and then you'll automatically be notified of progress on your bug as I make changes.


You can find documentation for this module with the perldoc command.

    perldoc Regexp::Wildcards

Tests code coverage report is available at


Copyright 2007,2008,2009,2013 Vincent Pit, all rights reserved.

This program is free software; you can redistribute it and/or modify it under the same terms as Perl itself.