When you’re scaling the north face of a complicated regular expression (well hopefully it’s more like a hill than Kilimanjaro, otherwise you’ve got problems), you need a good tool to help you along the way, a Sherpa to guide you and help carry your snacks.
I’ve tried several (free) regex tools, but none of the others compare to Expresso for usability, features, teaching the syntax, and a just plain cool name.
My favorite thing about Expresso is that it can teach you the syntax – all the way from basics through advanced structures – as you construct your regex. This makes it great for any level of developer.
Expresso is very helpful for building regular expressions in that you don’t have to know the exact syntax for each construct – you can use the dialogs to generate a lot of it for you! For example, if you need to insert a capture group that repeats zero or one time, just go to the ‘Groups’ tab, select the group type and repetition type, click insert, and you’ve on your way!
The best feature is the expression tree in the right pane – it breaks the regex into a hierarchical tree, and if you select a node it will also be highlighted in the regular expression, helping you to understand what each piece of syntax does.
When you’re done building your regex, of course you need to test it, and Expresso makes that easy as well. You can, among other things, run a validation on each line and see exactly which part of the line matches. It will also show you each match group.
So the next time you get that itch – I think I can solve that with a regex… just make sure you’ve got a good guide, and Expresso is the best I know of.