A simple check whether a string contains a substring matching our regular expression is not the only thing we can do with a Matcherobject. It also provides us with additional information about matches, which is essential in some tasks.

Getting match results

As you know, the find method of Matcher can check whether a substring of a string matches the pattern. Here is an example.

String javaText = "Java supports regular expressions. LET'S USE JAVA!!!";

Pattern javaPattern = Pattern.compile("java", Pattern.CASE_INSENSITIVE);
Matcher matcher = javaPattern.matcher(javaText);

System.out.println(matcher.find()); // prints "true"

When find() method returns true it is possible to get some info about the substring matching the pattern. start() and end() return the starting and the last indices of the match respectively, while group() returns the matching substring itself.

System.out.println(matcher.start()); // 0, the starting index of match
System.out.println(matcher.end());   // 4, the index following the last index of match
System.out.println(matcher.group()); // "Java", a substring that matches the pattern

There is a special classMatchResult that comprises all this information about the match:

MatchResult result = matcher.toMatchResult(); // a special object containing match results
        
System.out.println(result.start()); // 0
System.out.println(result.end());   // 4
System.out.println(result.group()); // "Java"

Be careful, if you invoke the methods startendgroup before invokingfind() method or in case it was invoked and returned false, they will throw IllegalStateException. To avoid the exception, you should always check the boolean result of find() before invoking these methods.

if (matcher.find()) {
    System.out.println(matcher.start());
    System.out.println(matcher.end());
    System.out.println(matcher.group());
} else {
    System.out.println("No matches found");
}

This code prints “No matches found” if the find method returns false. It also makes sure that start()end()group() are invoked only after the find() method.

Iterating over multiple matches

Sometimes more than one substring matches the same pattern. In the previous example, there are two suitable strings “Java” and “JAVA”, because the pattern is case insensitive. The find() method allows us to iterate in a loop over all substrings that match the pattern.

String javaText = "Java supports regular expressions. LET'S USE JAVA!!!";

Pattern javaPattern = Pattern.compile("java", Pattern.CASE_INSENSITIVE);
Matcher matcher = javaPattern.matcher(javaText);

while (matcher.find()) {
    System.out.println("group: " + matcher.group() + ", start: " + matcher.start());
}

This code outputs the following lines:

group: Java, start: 0
group: JAVA, start: 45

The condition of the loop allows invokingstart() and group() only when the find() method returns true.

Conclusions

As you can see, Matcher saves all the necessary info about matches. We can learn where every matching substring starts and where it ends and how it looks like. Later this data can be saved in a MatchResult object.

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