I need to split a command like:

r'  "C:\Program Files (x86)\myeditor" "$FILEPATH" -n$LINENO "c:\Program Files" -f$FILENAME -aArg2'`


['"C:\\Program Files (x86)\\myeditor"',
 '"c:\\Program Files"',

That is, I want to split by spaces, but avoid splitting the elements in double-quotes.

I have this code:

import re

s = r'  "C:\Program Files (x86)\myeditor" "$FILEPATH" -n$LINENO "c:\Program Files" -f$FILENAME -aArg2'

start = end = 0
split = []

for elem in re.findall('".*?"', s):
    end = s.find(elem)
    start = end + len(elem)

split = [elem.strip() for elem in split]
split = list(filter(None, split))

It works, but I'm wondering if there's some more elegant/shorter/more readable way to do that in Python(3) ?

  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ Already answered: stackoverflow.com/q/366202/823470 \$\endgroup\$
    – tar
    Apr 6, 2018 at 14:58
  • 2
    \$\begingroup\$ @tar That answer is on Java and some complex regexes. I think that shlex + copying doublequotes is a more pythonic and sensible approach, as it follows line of thinking "use the standard library if it does the job". \$\endgroup\$ Apr 7, 2018 at 11:56

2 Answers 2


The best way to do what you want with the standard library would be shlex.split():

>>> import shlex
>>> s = r'  "C:\Program Files (x86)\myeditor" "$FILEPATH" -n$LINENO "c:\Program Files" -f$FILENAME -aArg2'
>>> shlex.split(s)
['C:\\Program Files (x86)\\myeditor', '$FILEPATH', '-n$LINENO', 'c:\\Program Files', '-f$FILENAME', '-aArg2']

Note that the quotes are not retained.


You could use a different regex:

import re

s = r'  "C:\Program Files (x86)\myeditor" "$FILEPATH" -n$LINENO "c:\Program Files" -f$FILENAME -aArg2'

pattern = re.compile(r"((\"[^\"]+\")|(-[^\s]+))")

for m in re.finditer(pattern, s):

This regex will match either an item enclosed by double quotes (") or an item prepended with a dash (-).

However this might be harder to read/grasp and I'm also not sure if this is considered pythonic as it's the Perl way of doing things so take this with a grain of salt.


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