Linux Fu: Regular Expressions

If you consider yourself a good cook, you may or may not know how to make a souffle or baklava. But there are certain things you probably do know how to do that form the basis of many recipes. For example, you can probably boil water, crack an egg, and brown meat. With Linux or Unix systems, you can make the same observation. You might not know how to set up a Wayland server or write a kernel module. But there are certain core skills like file manipulation and editing that will serve you no matter what you do. One of the pervasive skills that often gives people trouble is regular expressions. Many programs use these as a way to specify search patterns, usually in text strings such as files.

If you aren’t comfortable with regular expressions, that’s easy to fix. They aren’t that hard to learn and there are some great tools to help you. Many tools use regular expressions and the core syntax is the same. The source of confusion is that the details beyond core syntax have variations.

Let’s look at the foundation you need to understand regular expression well.

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Crosswords Help You Learn Regular Expressions

Regular expressions might seem arcane, but if you do any kind of software, they are a powerful hacker tool. Obviously, if you are writing software or using tools like grep, awk, sed, Perl, or just about any programming language, regular expressions can simplify many tasks. Even if you don’t need them directly, regular expression searches can help you analyze source code, search through net lists, or even analyze data captured from sensors.

If you’ve been using regular expressions for a long time, they aren’t very hard. But learning them for the first time can be tedious. Unless you try your hand at regular expression crosswords. The clues are regular expressions and the rows and columns all have to match the corresponding regular expressions.

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Rename files en masse in Windows

Bulk Rename Utility

Everybody hates it when they have to rename a fileset to fit a new naming scheme. Instead of doing it the hard way and writing a one-time script to go through and rename everything, check out Bulk Rename Utility from [Jim Willsher]. It provides you with a multitude of methods to take care of business and allows you do pick your favorite method, be it regular expressions, simple finding and replacing, prefix/suffix modification, or a combination of many more.

However, if the sheer amount of options available overwhelms you or if you just want an easier way to do things, check out A.F.5 from [Alex Fauland]. A.F.5 offers features like adding a counter to your filenames, change file attributes, and save your rename settings out to a file for repeat use.