How To Use Regular Expressions (Regex)

“Some people, when confronted with a problem, think ‘I know, I’ll use regular expressions.’ Now they have two problems.” – Jamie Zawinski

Every now and then I have some requirements where it entails parsing some data where I need to use some form of Regular Expression(regex), it is a syntax to use to search for patterns in a string or sets of strings. At first, the syntax looks intimidating and most people would shy away and resort to writing some functions to solve the issue.

Learning regex is a must-have skill to have as it can be applied to a wide range of tasks that needs some sort of search or parsing and is widely available in most programming languages, works on shells, text editors and IDEs, etc..). I use it most of the time when writing front end Javascript validation and backend logic in Apex NodeJS, Java/Groovy , Swift and Python

I created this cheat sheet that covers the basics and some handy tips.


The search pattern is normally delimited by two slash characters /abc/. At the end we can specify a combination of the following flags.

  • g (global) – Don’t return after the first match
  • m (multi-line) – ^ and $ match start/end of line
  • i (insensitive) case insensitive match
  • x (extended) ignore whitespace
  • X (eXtra) disallow meaningless escape
  • s (single line) dot matches new line
  • u (unicode) match with full unicode
  • U (Ungreedy) make quantifiers lazy
  • A (Anchored) anchor to start of pattern
  • J (Jchanged) allow duplicate subpattern names
  • D (Dollar end only) $ matches only end pattern



Or and Brackets

When inside bracket expressions all special character rules do not apply. E.g. \ to escape a character does not apply

Character Classes

In order to be taken literally, you must escape the characters ^.[$()|*+?{\with a backslash \ as they have special meaning.


Greedy and Lazy Quantifiers

The quantifiers ( * + {}) are greedy operators, so they expand the match as far as they can through the provided text.


Back References – \1

Look-ahead and Look-behind

Top Regular Expressions


As we’ve learned regex is so powerful and its’s application is wide. Listed below some of few things you can do with regex within your project.

  • input and data validation –
    • validate user input in forms
    • validate data before applying logic or saving to database
    • validating JSON schema
  • replacing values – replace specific data in a string
  • text parsing – eg. retrieve only bits of data from a string or URL or delimiters
  • string replacement – eg on some IDE you can find and replace a string, use regex to search for particular patterns
  • web scraping – look for specific patterns for data to scrape

Sample Codes

Apex class that implements removal of white space not found in quotes

Python script that crawls pages that matches the pattern.

And finally, as a takeaway just learn the syntax and hack away.

How to Create a Generic Class for Mocking REST Callouts for Unit Test

I’m starting a new habit of posting regularly on my blog every week. I’ll be kicking it off with tips for creating a generic class or a mocking factory for mocking calls to an external third-party service.

Why do we need to do a mock?

When running unit tests the platform does not allow to do a callout to external dependencies. To test our code base we would need to mock the response as if calling the third party dependency.

By mocking we focus on the code being tested, isolating it from the state and behavior of the external system. The dependencies are simulated and the output state can be controlled.

To start we create a class that implements the HttpCalloutMock. This class enables sending a fake response when doing HTTP callouts. When our code makes a callout, the response will come from our HttpCalloutMock class.

When creating the class we define the constructor and parameters. We can make it generic and serve as a mock factory. Instead of writing several mock classes for every type of response, we only write it once which promotes code reusability best practices. And during unit testing, we define the mock response on the fly.

Here is our sample class which implements the HttpCalloutMock.

And if we have a class that does an HTTP Callout and we want to write a unit test for it. This is how it going to look like.

This is how we would create a unit test.

Key Takeaways

  • Use named credentials when possible when doing HTTP Callouts. Will talk about this more in the future.
  • When writing the unit test, the key is to call Test.setMock() which makes sure any callout from your code will return the Mock object.
  • Define the mock response on the fly to test different response.

Hope you find this useful. Stay tuned for more coding content and tips. If interested in the source code it is available in GitHub.

Salesforce Queueable Apex and Future annotations

Introduced for some time now particularly in Winter 15. Queueable Apex addresses some short coming of the @future methods. It’s an offspring of the marriage of @future methods and Batch Apex.

Queueable Apex allows you to submit jobs for asynchronous processing similar to future methods with the following additional benefits:

  • Non-primitive types – you can pass SObjects and custom apex types
  • Monitoring – you can monitor the job from the Apex jobs page in Setup or query the AsyncApexJob record
  • Chaining Jobs – create sequential jobs


How to use Queueable Apex:

  • Create a class that implements the Queueable interface
  • If you are going to make callouts you need to extend your implementation to Datatabase.AllowCallouts
  • To allow multiple primitive types, create a constructor and call the public void execute method.
  • To execute the class, call it from your logic
  • There you can chain jobs by calling another Queueable class on the execute method.

Things to note: This counts to your limit of 250 limits for asynchronous process per 24 hours.

Demystifying JSON Parsing In Apex

Learn by demystifying JSON parsing in Apex. You got back a JSON string either as a response from a REST service, passed through from your visual force page via remote action, or passed from your lighting component to your apex controller, now how do you parse this information? For simple JSON structures Salesforce can automatically parse them for you. There are tools online that would generate apex classes from the JSON string that would assist in parsing the JSON input.

It is good to get back to the basics and understand a little bit how the JSON string is structured and how the parsing is done.

What is JSON? JSON is the acronym of Javascript Object Notation and is a lightweight format that is used for data exchange between servers and modern applicationsIt is based on a subset of JavaScript language (the way objects are built in JavaScript).

Read the rest of this entry »

Reference the External ID on Lookup

This post shows you how you can reference another object through it’s external id. This is useful if you do not know the Salesforce ID but know the external ID.

Example: You have an external field on the Account object with an API named myExternal_Id__c. You have an account record named “Burlington Textile of America” and let’s give the external ID a value of “X123”.

The scenario is you want to create a contact record but do not know the account record id but know the external Id.

Check this snippet of apex code to accomplish this.

The same concept is applicable for JSON files

Master-Detail: Field is not writable error on Apex

I came upon this error when I am assigning the custom object to the master standard object.

Eg. accountId derived from a query

Then I get this error.

The fix was actually easy. I just rewrote it to assign the master id on instantiating the child object.

Hope somebody finds this useful.

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