Just a Theory

By David E. Wheeler

Posts about DBD::SQLite

Add Regular Expression Operator to SQLite

As I discussed a couple of months ago, DBD::SQLite exposes the SQLite sqlite3_create_function() API for adding Pure-Perl functions and aggregates to SQLite on a per-connection basis. This is cool, but in perusing the SQLite expression documentation, I came across this gem:

The REGEXP operator is a special syntax for the regexp() user function. No regexp() user function is defined by default and so use of the REGEXP operator will normally result in an error message. If a user-defined function named “regexp” is defined at run-time, that function will be called in order to implement the REGEXP operator.

Well hell! I thought. I can do that!

In a brief search, I could find no further documentation of this feature, but all it took was a little experimentation to figure it out. The regexp() function should expect two arguments. The first is the regular expression, and the second is the value to match. So it can be added to DBD::SQLite like this:

$dbh = DBI->connect('dbi:SQLite:dbfile=test.db');
$dbh->func('regexp', 2, sub {
    my ($regex, $string) = @_;
    return $string =~ /$regex/;
}, 'create_function');

Yep, that’s it! Now, I have my own module for handling database connections, and I wanted to make sure that all of my custom functions are always present, every time I connect to the database. In a mod_perl environment, you can end up with a lot of connections, and a single process has the potential disconnect and reconnect more than once (due to exceptions thrown by the database and whatnot). The easiest way to ensure that the functions are always there as soon as you connect and every time you connect, I learned thanks to a tip from Tim Bunce, is to subclass the DBI and implement a connected() method. Here’s what it looks like:

package MyApp::SQLite;
use base 'DBI';

package MyApp::SQLite::st;
use base 'DBI::st';

package MyApp::SQLite::db;
use base 'DBI::db';

sub connected {
    my $dbh = shift;
    # Add regexp function.
    $dbh->func('regexp', 2, sub {
        my ($regex, $string) = @_;
        return $string =~ /$regex/;
    }, 'create_function');

So how does this work? Here’s a quick app I wrote to demonstrate the use of the REGEXP expression in SQLite using Perl regular expressions:

#!/usr/bin/perl -w

use strict;

my $dbfile = shift || die "Usage: $0 db_file\n";
my $dbh = MyApp::SQLite->connect(
    "dbi:SQLite:dbname=$dbfile", '', '',
        RaiseError  => 1,
        PrintError  => 0,

    $dbh->do('DROP TABLE try');

$dbh->do('CREATE TABLE try (a TEXT)');

my $ins = $dbh->prepare('INSERT INTO try (a) VALUES (?)');
for my $val (qw(foo bar bat woo oop craw)) {

my $sel = $dbh->prepare('SELECT a FROM try WHERE a REGEXP ?');

for my $regex (qw( ^b a w?oop?)) {
    print "'$regex' matches:\n  ";
    print join "\n  " =>
        @{ $dbh->selectcol_arrayref($sel, undef, $regex) };
    print "\n\n";

This script outputs:

'^b' matches:

'a' matches:

'w?oop?' matches:

Pretty slick, no? I wonder if it’d make sense for DBD::SQLite to add the regexp() function itself, in C, using the Perl API, so that it’s just always available to DBD::SQLite apps?

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