I'm fairly decent with regular expressions, but there's one situation that always struggles me, and that is: Give a match when a pattern does not exists in a search string.

Here's a bit of background information:

I use a program called Actual Tools Window Manager, and it allows to create rules based on individual windows. I can either specify the windows title as exact string, or use a regular expression to match.

My goal is to make this rule fire on any window that has a title that does not include a specific string. The regex is only one pattern, similar to the php function: preg_match.

I cannot work with capture groups and refer to a capture group (at least, I didn't get that to work).

As an example, lets say I want to make a rule that fires on everything except when cmd.exe is in the title.

I open a Command prompt so its likely the title will have: C:\Windows\System32\cmd.exe I want this window be excluded from my rule based om the presence of cmd.exe

I tried things like ^cmd.exe but that simply doesn't work.

Actual Tools uses a Perl Compatible Regular Expression library, so http://www.pcre.org/ should all be possible somehow.

How can I make a regex that matches OK if a certain string is not present, but FAIL if that string is present?


This regex does the job:



^               : begining of string
  (?:           : start non capture group
    (?!         : start negative lookahead
      cmd\.exe  : literally (you may add wordboundaries \bcmd\.exe\b if you don't want to match mycmd.exe)
    )           : end lookahead
    .           : 1 any character but newline
  )*            : end group, repeated 0 or more times
$               end of string


C:\Windows\System32\cmd.exe         --> Doesn't match
C:\Windows\System32\mycmd.exe       --> Doesn't match without wordboundaries, else Match
C:\Windows\System32\cmd             --> Match
C:\Windows\System32\exe             --> Match
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