Table-driven text munging in PowerShell

In my previous post, I mentioned formatting C++ code as HTML by doing some regular expression substitutions. I often need to write something that carries out a list of pattern substitutions, so I decided to rewrite the previous script to read a list of patterns from a file. Another advantage of putting the list of substitutions in an external file is that the same file could be used from scripts written in other languages.

Here’s the code:

param($regex_file)

$lines = get-content $regex_file

$a = get-clipboard

foreach( $line in $lines )
{
    $line = ($line.trim() -replace "s+", " ")
    $pair = $line.split(" ", [StringSplitOptions]::RemoveEmptyEntries)
    $a = $a -replace $pair
}

out-clipboard $a

The part of the script that is unique to formatting C++ as HTML is moved to a separate file, say cpp2html.txt, that is pass in as an argument to the script.

&  &
<  &lt;
>  &gt;
"  &quot;
'  &#39;

Now I could use the same PowerShell script for any sort of task that boils down to a list of pattern replacements. (Often this kind of rough translation does not have to be done perfectly. It only has to be done well enough to reduce the amount of left over manual work to an acceptable level. You start with a small list of patterns and add more patterns until it’s less work to do the remaining work by hand than to make the script smarter.)

Note that the order of the lines in the file can be important. Substitutions are done from the top of the list down. In the example above, we want to first convert & to &amp; then convert < to &lt;. Otherwise, < would first become &lt; and then become &amp;lt;.

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