I am writing a regular expression for parsing PHP annotations in a flexible way. I'd like to accomplish all the goals listed above with one single expression. So I would appreciate any suggestions about the quality of it (in terms of corner cases, performance, best practices and correctness).

PCRE expression:

(?:\s | $|\))/gsxmu

Goals of the regular expression:

  • List all annotations with their values
  • Values can be multi-lined and have markup (html, json or markdown)
  • The initial space + * of each line should be removed from the value
  • Many annotations can be in the same line
  • Annotation names can be namespaced

Sample PHPDoc string:

 * Description
 * @Tag name name @annotation beee @aaf dsfsd fgdg
 * @Tag name name {"json":"dfsf"}
 * @Tag asdasd <html> #markdown ==markdown== __markdown__
 * - markdown
 * > mark 1
 * @Annotation()
 * @Tag name name @annotation beee @aaf dsfsd fgdg <markdown> #markdown ==markdown==
 * @a() @b("name") @c()
 * @Annotation\Name("var1()", "var2") @n("name()_name")
 * @Annotation(["var1", "var2"], "var3")
 * @Annotation\Filter\Name(["var1", "var2"], "var3", {"var4": "var5"})
 * @Annotation(
 *    ["GET", "POST"]
   ) @Name({"name": "Tomas"})
 * @Tag name name

Expected result:


      'name' => 'Tag',
      'value' => 'name name'
      'name' => 'annotation',
      'value' => 'bee'
      'name' => 'aaf',
      'value' => 'dsfsd fgdg'
  // ... and so on... (see live example)

A live demo can be found here.

  • \$\begingroup\$ Why is \R there? \$\endgroup\$
    – hjpotter92
    Sep 27, 2015 at 4:31

1 Answer 1

  1. If you're using it in a PHP code, you are not restricted to using / as the pattern delimiter. Using any other character, such as ~ or % frees you of using \/ everywhere, thereby shortening it.
  2. I don't know what \R is meant to do there, but I think it was supposed to be \r. If so, you do not need it at all.
  3. For the annotation name parameter match, you can just specify that it start with a \w character, followed by a lazy match on [\w\\] character set. Even using [\w\\]+ as the name parameter would not be wrong.
  4. When inside a character set, you absolutely do not need to escape any characters other than the closing square bracket (]) and the exponent (^) if it is the first character. You can move the hyphen (-) to either the beginning or the end. So, the whole value group reduces to


    PS: You might need to escape at most one of ' or " depending on how you are using the pattern in your code.

  5. In the above, it appears you want to match everything except the next @ character, so; [^@]* would be my next suggestion.
  6. Towards the end of you pattern, you have: (?:\s | $|\)) which could become: (?:\s+|$|\)) or simply (?:\s+|\)) since you would not be needing the anchor at all.
  7. You are not counting on a string like:

    @name    (something)

    where, you receive name and \s\s\s(something as resulting value (\s is space literal). This can be kept under check by setting \s*\(? instead of (?:\s|\(). This might also not be the intended behaviour from the user, which is why I kept this suggestion at the end.

[*\s]* # multiple space or asterisk characters
@ # followed by the @ sign which
(?P<name>[\w\\]+) # has a string of \w or \ characters following it
\s*\(? # separated by spaces and maybe opening parenthesis
  (?P<value> # store the value attached to the named annotation
      [^@]* # value is made of enlisted characters
      [^*\s/)] # but does not end with
  )? # the value is optional parameter
(?:\s|$|\)) # succeded by one of these

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