Fix Python – Regular expression matching a multiline block of text

Question

Asked By – Jan

I’m having a bit of trouble getting a Python regex to work when matching against text that spans multiple lines. The example text is (‘\n’ is a newline)

some Varying TEXT\n
\n
DSJFKDAFJKDAFJDSAKFJADSFLKDLAFKDSAF\n
[more of the above, ending with a newline]\n
[yep, there is a variable number of lines here]\n
\n
(repeat the above a few hundred times).

I’d like to capture two things: the ‘some_Varying_TEXT’ part, and all of the lines of uppercase text that comes two lines below it in one capture (i can strip out the newline characters later).
I’ve tried with a few approaches:

re.compile(r"^>(\w+)$$([.$]+)^$", re.MULTILINE) # try to capture both parts
re.compile(r"(^[^>][\w\s]+)$", re.MULTILINE|re.DOTALL) # just textlines

and a lot of variations hereof with no luck. The last one seems to match the lines of text one by one, which is not what I really want. I can catch the first part, no problem, but I can’t seem to catch the 4-5 lines of uppercase text.
I’d like match.group(1) to be some_Varying_Text and group(2) to be line1+line2+line3+etc until the empty line is encountered.

If anyone’s curious, its supposed to be a sequence of aminoacids that make up a protein.

Now we will see solution for issue: Regular expression matching a multiline block of text


Answer

Try this:

re.compile(r"^(.+)\n((?:\n.+)+)", re.MULTILINE)

I think your biggest problem is that you’re expecting the ^ and $ anchors to match linefeeds, but they don’t. In multiline mode, ^ matches the position immediately following a newline and $ matches the position immediately preceding a newline.

Be aware, too, that a newline can consist of a linefeed (\n), a carriage-return (\r), or a carriage-return+linefeed (\r\n). If you aren’t certain that your target text uses only linefeeds, you should use this more inclusive version of the regex:

re.compile(r"^(.+)(?:\n|\r\n?)((?:(?:\n|\r\n?).+)+)", re.MULTILINE)

BTW, you don’t want to use the DOTALL modifier here; you’re relying on the fact that the dot matches everything except newlines.

This question is answered By – Alan Moore

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