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Posted 1 May 2001

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;


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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 6:23
memberSancy26-Oct-04 6:23 
GeneralRe: C# version Pin
Psyk6621-Dec-04 3:39
sussPsyk6621-Dec-04 3:39 
GeneralRe: C# version Pin
Ionut FIlip22-Feb-05 6:15
memberIonut FIlip22-Feb-05 6:15 
GeneralRe: C# version Pin
robagar3-Apr-06 16:58
memberrobagar3-Apr-06 16:58 
GeneralRe: C# version Pin
Sancy5-Jun-06 16:01
memberSancy5-Jun-06 16:01 
GeneralConvert to java base on C# version [modified, better look :~ ] Pin
quangtin321-Mar-08 21:13
memberquangtin321-Mar-08 21:13 
GeneralRe: C# version - an error! Pin
Mark T.4-Jul-08 14:37
memberMark T.4-Jul-08 14:37 
Be aware that there is a bug in this C# version.
I am still working on figuring it out fully, but:

in this code segment
int cp=0;
int mp=0;
while (i < s.Length)
  if (j < pattern.Length && pattern[j] == '*')
    if ((j++)>=pattern.Length)
      return true;

Going into the final "if" line shown here, the maximum value that j may have is (pattern.length-1), due to the first "if" test. Then we see (j++) compared. But, the value of (j++) is the value of "j" BEFORE being incremented and thus is a maximum of (pattern.length-1) and is therefore NEVER >= pattern.length. Only after the if test is completed is j actually incremented.
So the following return is never taken.

Perhaps it can be fixed by changing j++ to ++j... but I can't tell that until I complete the analysis.

On a slightly different topic, I will state my opinion as a professional programmer. This demonstrates the extremely importance of EXTENSIVE COMMENTS in code explaining NOT what the code does, but "what the code is supposed to do" in each section. If such comments were in place, this would be an easy maintenance fix. Without them, I am having to analyze what the code DOES and, from that, try to discern what the programmer INTENDED the code to do. And, I have to consider all the possible wildcard permutations just like the original programmer did. I essentially have to reinvent the wheel... because the user manual is missing.

Everyone, especially Gurus, should put extensive comments in their code on "what it is intended to do". The only downside is lack of job security, because now someone other than you can fix the code. If you have that low of opinion of your worth to your employer, and are also lacking all compassion for others, then don't comment your code.
GeneralRe: C# version Pin
williamhix17-Oct-08 22:28
memberwilliamhix17-Oct-08 22:28 

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