Justin du Coeur (jducoeur) wrote,
Justin du Coeur

Delimiter matching in Perl?

Here's a question for the Perl and/or regexp experts in the audience; all help is solicited.

ProWiki has a query language built in. Simplifying greatly, the syntax looks like this:
{? [query terms] : [display results] ?}
This translates roughly as "for each page that matches the given query terms, show the display results, interpolating the properties of the page". That all works nicely, and is at the heart of what ProWiki does.

The problem is, I'd really like to be able to do this recursively. That is, I'd like to be able to construct a query like (to take today's example, one of many):
{?~Faction : %%Name%% -- {?~Character && Faction==%%PAGENAME%% : %%Name%% ?} ?}
That would translate as something like, "For each Faction, display the Faction's Name, and then for each Character in that Faction, display the Character's Name". Basically, nested foreach loops.

That's conceptually straightforward, but I'm stuck on how to parse it. ProWiki, being based on UseMod, uses Perl regex for its parsing. That mostly works fine, but I can't figure out how to get it to work recursively. I need to find the *matching* {? ?} pairs, extracting as plaintext any pairs that might be contained inside them. (The Perl code itself will then deal with the recursion into the plaintext subexpression.)

Can this be done straightforwardly in regex? It seems like a fairly common problem -- it's basically a fancy variant of parenthesis matching -- but I'm not hip enough to regex to see the answer. It's not simply a matter of matching first and last delimiters in the string, since a given page might contain several unrelated top-level expressions; therefore, I need to find the genuinely *matching* delimiters.

I know there are a bunch of Perl gurus out there, so if you can outline the solution to me (even the solution to the basic parenthesis-matching problem would probably show me how to do it), I'd be grateful. Thanks...
Tags: perl, programming, prowiki

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