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Wildcard string compare (globbing)

, 15 Feb 2005
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Matches a string against a wildcard string such as "*.*" or "bl?h.*" etc. This is good for file globbing or to match hostmasks.


This is a fast, lightweight, and simple pattern matching function.

if (wildcmp("bl?h.*", "blah.jpg")) {
  //we have a match!
} else {
  //no match =(


int wildcmp(const char *wild, const char *string) {
  // Written by Jack Handy - <A href=""></A>
  const char *cp = NULL, *mp = NULL;

  while ((*string) && (*wild != '*')) {
    if ((*wild != *string) && (*wild != '?')) {
      return 0;

  while (*string) {
    if (*wild == '*') {
      if (!*++wild) {
        return 1;
      mp = wild;
      cp = string+1;
    } else if ((*wild == *string) || (*wild == '?')) {
    } else {
      wild = mp;
      string = cp++;

  while (*wild == '*') {
  return !*wild;


This article has no explicit license attached to it but may contain usage terms in the article text or the download files themselves. If in doubt please contact the author via the discussion board below.

A list of licenses authors might use can be found here


About the Author

Jack Handy
Web Developer
United States United States
No Biography provided

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Comments and Discussions

GeneralC# version Pin
Sancy26-Oct-04 7:23
memberSancy26-Oct-04 7:23 
GeneralRe: C# version Pin
Psyk6621-Dec-04 4:39
sussPsyk6621-Dec-04 4:39 
GeneralRe: C# version Pin
Ionut FIlip22-Feb-05 7:15
memberIonut FIlip22-Feb-05 7:15 
GeneralRe: C# version Pin
robagar3-Apr-06 17:58
memberrobagar3-Apr-06 17:58 
GeneralRe: C# version Pin
Sancy5-Jun-06 17:01
memberSancy5-Jun-06 17:01 
GeneralConvert to java base on C# version [modified, better look :~ ] Pin
quangtin321-Mar-08 22:13
memberquangtin321-Mar-08 22:13 
GeneralRe: C# version - an error! Pin
Mark T.4-Jul-08 15:37
memberMark T.4-Jul-08 15:37 
GeneralRe: C# version Pin
williamhix17-Oct-08 23:28
memberwilliamhix17-Oct-08 23:28 
GeneralMany thanks, with 1 small gripe .. Pin
David Patrick29-Sep-04 9:41
memberDavid Patrick29-Sep-04 9:41 
GeneralRe: Many thanks, with 1 small gripe .. Pin
Jack Handy6-Oct-04 9:13
memberJack Handy6-Oct-04 9:13 
GeneralRe: Many thanks, with 1 small gripe .. Pin
Vic Mackey16-Oct-04 20:33
memberVic Mackey16-Oct-04 20:33 
GeneralRe: Many thanks, with 1 small gripe .. Pin
Voja Intermajstor25-Nov-04 0:26
memberVoja Intermajstor25-Nov-04 0:26 
GeneralNice code... Pin
voja2125-Aug-04 3:30
membervoja2125-Aug-04 3:30 
GeneralSlight efficiency improvement Pin
Bill Buklis9-Jul-04 7:53
memberBill Buklis9-Jul-04 7:53 
GeneralRe: Slight efficiency improvement Pin
Bill Buklis9-Jul-04 8:19
memberBill Buklis9-Jul-04 8:19 
QuestionPathMatchSpec (shlwapi.h)? Pin
peterchen28-Jun-04 7:56
memberpeterchen28-Jun-04 7:56 
AnswerRe: PathMatchSpec (shlwapi.h)? Pin
Jack Handy13-Feb-05 10:56
memberJack Handy13-Feb-05 10:56 
peterchen wrote:
Just a thought:
the PathMatchSpec SLWU API could provide similar. I guess it does have some differences (e.g. allowing to specify multiple specs, separated by semicolon), but it might be a simple alternative for many similar tasks.

The wildcmp() function is meant to be lightweight and fast.

If the extra functionality of multple specs is needed and you don't want to parse the input yourself then you can go ahead and use the PathMatchSpec() API.

Just make sure you don't mind these limitations:

1. Adding another dependancy to your executable by including the lib
2. Not portable (wildcmp() compiles fine under unix)
3. More memory overhead (larger code footprint)
4. The horrible slowness

I have ran some benchmarks and pasted the results below. I can provide the .cpp file for the benchmarks if anyone is interested.


10MM iterations.
Compiled as a console app using vc6 in release mode with /O2 optimization.
Ran on a pM 1.7ghz

"C:\\T*s*.t?t", "C:\\Test\\File.txt"
PathMatchSpec MATCH => 20.5090s
wildcmp MATCH => 1.0320s

"C:\\T*s*.t??t", "C:\\Test\\File.txt"
PathMatchSpec NO MATCH => 45.7760s
wildcmp NO MATCH => 0.8910s

There are 10 types of people in this world, those that understand binary and those who don't.

GeneralDoesnt seem to work well.. Pin
Bikram Singh13-May-04 2:56
sussBikram Singh13-May-04 2:56 
GeneralRe: Doesnt seem to work well.. Pin
Jack Handy21-Jun-04 10:13
memberJack Handy21-Jun-04 10:13 
GeneralCase Insensitive wildcmp Pin
Techiex16-Mar-04 10:36
memberTechiex16-Mar-04 10:36 
GeneralRe: Case Insensitive wildcmp Pin
Neville Franks16-Mar-04 10:52
memberNeville Franks16-Mar-04 10:52 
GeneralRe: Case Insensitive wildcmp Pin
Techiex23-Mar-04 10:33
memberTechiex23-Mar-04 10:33 
GeneralRe: Case Insensitive wildcmp Pin
DavidCrow23-Feb-05 3:24
memberDavidCrow23-Feb-05 3:24 
GeneralRe: Case Insensitive wildcmp Pin
Vic Mackey23-Feb-05 9:00
memberVic Mackey23-Feb-05 9:00 
GeneralRe: Case Insensitive wildcmp Pin
DavidCrow23-Feb-05 9:22
memberDavidCrow23-Feb-05 9:22 
GeneralRe: Case Insensitive wildcmp Pin
f_randy12-Jun-06 19:13
memberf_randy12-Jun-06 19:13 
GeneralExcellent code! Pin
Hans Dietrich16-Jul-03 20:40
memberHans Dietrich16-Jul-03 20:40 
Generalchecking for null Pin
Jack Handy13-Mar-03 21:38
memberJack Handy13-Mar-03 21:38 
GeneralRe: checking for null Pin
Anonymous15-Mar-03 21:10
sussAnonymous15-Mar-03 21:10 
GeneralRe: checking for null Pin
Jack Handy18-Mar-03 14:25
memberJack Handy18-Mar-03 14:25 
Generalgreat code, but ... Pin
Anonymous12-Mar-03 4:17
sussAnonymous12-Mar-03 4:17 
GeneralRe: great code, but ... Pin
Jack Handy13-Mar-03 21:34
memberJack Handy13-Mar-03 21:34 
GeneralRe: great code, but ... Pin
Anonymous15-Mar-03 21:08
sussAnonymous15-Mar-03 21:08 
GeneralRe: great code, but ... Pin
Jack Handy18-Mar-03 14:25
memberJack Handy18-Mar-03 14:25 
GeneralRe: great code, but ... Pin
Anonymous20-Mar-03 0:13
sussAnonymous20-Mar-03 0:13 
GeneralNice Pin
Chris Richardson16-Jan-03 11:58
memberChris Richardson16-Jan-03 11:58 
GeneralRe: Nice Pin
Jack Handy20-Jan-03 12:56
memberJack Handy20-Jan-03 12:56 
GeneralCool Code Pin
Anonymous6-Dec-02 12:09
sussAnonymous6-Dec-02 12:09 
GeneralRe: Cool Code Pin
hector santos1-Mar-03 2:53
memberhector santos1-Mar-03 2:53 
GeneralRe: Cool Code Pin
Kent C. Dorner2-Mar-03 6:32
sussKent C. Dorner2-Mar-03 6:32 
GeneralRe: Cool Code Pin
gebrudergrimm28-Dec-03 11:18
membergebrudergrimm28-Dec-03 11:18 
GeneralRe: Cool Code Pin
BrcKcc15-Jun-04 9:18
memberBrcKcc15-Jun-04 9:18 
GeneralYes man - you a really cool developer Pin
Stanislav Panasik23-Oct-02 20:06
memberStanislav Panasik23-Oct-02 20:06 
GeneralRe: Yes man - you a really cool developer Pin
Anonymous28-Mar-04 14:43
sussAnonymous28-Mar-04 14:43 
GeneralPseudo Code... Pin
blahblah18-Apr-02 11:45
memberblahblah18-Apr-02 11:45 
GeneralRe: Pseudo Code... PinPopular
Targys8-Jan-03 3:43
memberTargys8-Jan-03 3:43 
Generaltoo complicated Pin
The C++ Guru21-Mar-02 22:31
memberThe C++ Guru21-Mar-02 22:31 
GeneralRe: too complicated Pin
Big Spender22-Mar-02 1:23
memberBig Spender22-Mar-02 1:23 
GeneralRe: too complicated Pin
The C++ Guru22-Mar-02 1:34
memberThe C++ Guru22-Mar-02 1:34 
GeneralRe: too complicated Pin
Jack Handy22-Mar-02 16:23
memberJack Handy22-Mar-02 16:23 

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