RegEx in SSMS: A gift for quick code

I had yet another example of how beautiful Regular Expressions can be in SQL coding today, and so I thought I’d share.

What I HAD was a set of DELETE statements that might or might not have been executed recently:

What I needed was to be able to check each one of those tables, and see if any of the should-be-deleted rows still exist. Of course, I can certainly type this all out by hand…

*Sigh*. I’m already  bored. And in reality, I had 45 of these statements, not 15. I’m not a big fan of repetitive, monkey-button work.

RegEx to the Rescue!

We can turn those statements into a formula, and do a replace-all! That’s what RegEx is great at. We can look at a string like that DELETE statement, and formulize it as pseudocode:

With just a little bit of know-how, turn this into a proper (SSMS flavor of) regular expression:

Here’s a quick key to these expressions:

  • ^ – start of line
  • {} – tagged expression
  • . – any character
  • * – one or more (in this case, one or more of “any character”)
  • $ – end of line

See? Direct translation! I’m strictly including start of line and end of line to be sure there’s no confusion whatever…I want this formula to apply to a single line of text.

Now, what I want to change each of these to is that IF EXISTS statement, which we can formulize like this:

Just a little more know-how, and we get this regular expression:

Here’s a quick key to these expressions:

  • \1 – First tagged expression (in this case, we’d tagged the characters between FROM and WHERE, which means we tagged the table name)
  • \2 – Second tagged expression (the letters between WHERE and end of line, the where clause)

Note that you don’t have to put the beginning of line/end of line markers as part of the Replace With text.

Here’s what all this looks like in SSMS. Remember to select “Use Regular Expressions” in the find and replace dialogue!

SSMS Find and Replace window with regular expressions

And here are the results of the replace all, which require just a touch of manual editing (notice the semicolon in the middle of the Table6 statement). A touch of manual editing is WAY better than typing out 45 of these statements by hand!

See there? If we know just a few symbols, and take it step-by-step, we can save ourselves a ton of time! And this is but one example of an infinite number of uses for RegEx in SSMS.

Watch our RegEx videos on, especially the session given at CACTUSS 2017!

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