API gsub

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string.gsub(s, pattern, replace [, n])
gsub(s, pattern, replace [, n])

This is a very powerful function and can be used in multiple ways. Used simply it can replace all instances of the pattern provided with the replacement. A pair of values is returned, the modified string and the number of substitutions made. The optional fourth argument n can be used to limit the number of substitutions made:

> = string.gsub("Hello banana", "banana", "Lua user")
Hello Lua user  1
> = string.gsub("banana", "a", "A", 2)  -- limit substitutions made to 2
bAnAna  2

If a capture is used this can be referenced in the replacement string using the notation %capture_index, e.g.,

> = string.gsub("banana", "(an)", "%1-")    -- capture any occurrences of "an" and replace with inserted trailing dashes
ban-an-a        2
> = string.gsub("banana", "a(n)", "a(%1)")  -- place parentheses around each "n" which follows an "a"
ba(n)a(n)a      2
> = string.gsub("banana", "(a)(n)", "%2%1") -- reverse any occurrences of "an"
bnanaa  2

If the replacement is a function, not a string, the arguments passed to the function are any captures that are made. If the function returns a string, the value returned is substituted back into the string. Just like string.find() we can use regular expressions to search in strings. Patterns are covered in the Patterns Tutorial on Lua-Users.org, and HOWTO: Use Pattern Matching.

> = string.gsub("Hello Lua user", "(%w+)", print)  -- print any words found
> = string.gsub("Hello Lua user", "(%w+)", function(w) return string.len(w) end) -- replace each word with that word's length
5 3 4   3
> = string.gsub("banana", "(a)", string.upper)                                   -- make all occurrences of "a" uppercase
bAnAnA  3
> = string.gsub("banana", "(a)(n)", function(a,b) return b..a end)               -- reverse any occurrences of "an"
bnanaa  2