Let’s All Learn Regex

By Deane Barker on December 4, 2012

Here’s what ICT should really teach kids: how to do regular expressions: This article takes forever to get around to its point, but it’s a point I can support.  Learning regular expressions was hugely valuable for me as a developer, as an IT professional, and as a professional in general.

The reason technical people forget this is that once you know regexps, they become second nature. Any search that involves more than a few criteria is almost certainly easier to put into a regexp, even if your recollection of the specifics is fuzzy enough that you need to quickly look up some syntax online.

Knowing regexp can mean the difference between solving a problem in three steps and solving it in 3,000 steps. When you’re a nerd, you forget that the problems you solve with a couple keystrokes can take other people days of tedious, error-prone work to slog through.

Pattern recognition and matching in general is valuable, and goes far beyond computers.  The key: if more people knew regular expressions, more systems would support them. Regex support would be expected and natural.  The computing world would be a better place.

Do the world a favor, get the O’Reilly book and just start reading.  (I just noticed that this has been in publication since 1997.  Gotta be one of the older O’Reilly titles.)