Enumerate Possible Matches of Regular Expression in Java

穿精又带淫゛_ 提交于 2019-12-04 19:33:33


I want to enumerate all the possible values of a finite regular expression in Java for testing purposes.

For some context, I have a regular expression that I'm using to match allowable color values in words. Here's a shortened version of it as an example:

(white|black)|((light|dark) )?(red|green|blue|gray)

I wanted to create a unit test that would enumerate all these values and pass each of them to my utility class which produces a Color object from these, that way if I change the regular expression, my unit tests will fail if an error occurs (i.e. the new color value is unsupported).

I know enumeration is possible, of course (see this question), but is there an existing library for Java which will enumerate all the possible matches for a regex?

Edit: I've implemented a library that does this. See my answer below for links.


You are right, didn't find such a tool online as well but you can try Xeger from google

it can create a random matching string from a regexp, and with some code tweaking might do what you want. generation a random match:

String regex = "[ab]{4,6}c";
Xeger generator = new Xeger(regex);
String result = generator.generate();
assert result.matches(regex);

Xeger code is very simple, it consists of 2 files which contain 5 methods between them..
it uses dk.brics.automaton to conver the regex to an automaton, then goes over the automaton transitions making random choices in every node.

the main function is generate:

   private void generate(StringBuilder builder, State state) {
    List<Transition> transitions = state.getSortedTransitions(true);
    if (transitions.size() == 0) {
        assert state.isAccept();
    int nroptions = state.isAccept() ? transitions.size() : transitions.size() - 1;
    int option = XegerUtils.getRandomInt(0, nroptions, random);
    if (state.isAccept() && option == 0) {          // 0 is considered stop
    // Moving on to next transition
    Transition transition = transitions.get(option - (state.isAccept() ? 1 : 0));
    appendChoice(builder, transition);
    generate(builder, transition.getDest());

you can see that in order to change it so you get all possible matches, you need to iterate over all possible combinations in every possible node (like incrementing a multi digit counter) you will need a hash to prevent loops, but that shouldn't take more than 5 senconds to code..

i would also suggest first checking that the regex is actually finate, by checking that it doesn't have *,+ and other symbols that make this action impossible (just to make this a complete tool for reuse)...


For future browsers coming to this question, I wrote a library that uses dk.brics.automaton using a similar approach to Xeger from the accepted answer and published it. You can find it:

  • On GitHub
  • On the project site
  • In Maven Central

To add it as a dependency:




compile 'com.navigamez:greex:1.0'

Sample Code

Using this question as an example:

GreexGenerator generator = new GreexGenerator("(white|black)|((light|dark) )?(red|green|blue|gray)");
List<String> matches = generator.generateAll();
System.out.println(matches.size()); // "14"