Regular Expressions In MS SQL Server using CLR

In this post I'll show just how easy it is to make your SQL Server 2005 database support Regular Expressions through what is known as SQL CLR

Just Fire up Visual Studio and create a new library project (I called it TextFunctions)

Add a new Class and Call it Regular Expressions and simply paste in the following Code:

using Microsoft.SqlServer.Server;
using System.Text.RegularExpressions;
using System.Data.SqlTypes;

    public class RegularExpressions
        [Microsoft.SqlServer.Server.SqlFunction(IsDeterministic=true, IsPrecise=true)]
        public static SqlBoolean RegExMatch(SqlString input, SqlString pattern)
            if (input.IsNull || pattern.IsNull) //nulls dont qualify for a match
                return SqlBoolean.False;
            //Use the static IsMatch method. This is more performant than creating a 
            // new instance of Regex as the static method also caches the last expressions we used. 
            return Regex.IsMatch(input.Value, pattern.Value, RegexOptions.IgnoreCase);

        [Microsoft.SqlServer.Server.SqlFunction(IsDeterministic = true, IsPrecise = true)]
        public static SqlString RegExReplace(SqlString input, SqlString pattern, SqlString replacement)
            if (input.IsNull || pattern.IsNull || replacement.IsNull)
                return SqlString.Null;

            return new SqlString(Regex.Replace(input.Value, pattern.Value, replacement.Value, RegexOptions.IgnoreCase));

In this example we have two functions: one to Match a Regular expression pattern and one to perform a Replace based on a regular expression pattern.

To enable our SQL Server database to make use of the above functions we need to follow the steps below:

  • Compile the library for Release
  • CLR Enable Sql Server with:
sp_configure 'clr enabled', 1

Reference the assembly and register the functions:

CREATE ASSEMBLY TextFunctions FROM 'c:\Development\Testing\CLR\TextFunctions\bin\Release\TextFunctions.dll'
CREATE Function RegExMatch(@Input NVARCHAR(512),@Pattern NVARCHAR(127))
EXTERNAL NAME TextFunctions.RegularExpressions.RegExMatch
CREATE Function RegExReplace(@Input NVARCHAR(512),@Pattern NVARCHAR(127), @Replacement NVARCHAR(512))
EXTERNAL NAME TextFunctions.RegularExpressions.RegExReplace

Now we're ready to put our new functions to the test:


select dbo.RegExMatch('','^[A-Z0-9._%+-]+@[A-Z0-9.-]+\.[A-Z]{2,6}$')
--Verifies an email address

SELECT dbo.RegExMatch('12354', '\d')
--Verifies number Returns 1

SELECT dbo.RegExReplace('Poem Title (Author)', '.*?\((.*?)\).*', '$1')
-- Returns the match within the parenthesis, returns: Author (Useful for splitting one column in two)

SELECT EmailAddress, dbo.RegExMatch(EmailAddress,'^[A-Z0-9._%+-]+@[A-Z0-9.-]+\.[A-Z]{2,6}$') 
FROM Users 
--Checks your users table for Invalid Email addresses, 
--at the top of the results all users with invalid email addresses


Regular expressions can come in really handy especially in data cleansing/transformation operations in your database.

Here are some further pointers to boost creativity with regular expressions:

Email Validation with Regular Expressions
Regular Expressions Cheat Sheet
RegExLib - Library of Regular Expressions for .Net

Comments (5) -

9/11/2008 11:39:17 AM #

Tom Allington

OK, what TYPE of Project library in VS2005?
For Visual C#, I have Windows App, Windows Control Lib, Device App, ASP.NET Web Service App, Class Library, Console App, ASP.NET Web App.

Thx for knowing that I've only used VS2005 to create Windows Apps and ASP.NET Web Apps.

Tom Allington

9/20/2008 4:29:44 AM #

Jeff Atwood

Hi Tasos,

This was VERY helpful! Thank you for posting it! Regex in the database FTW!!


Jeff Atwood

9/30/2008 1:07:59 PM #


Class Library is the project you are looking for

Thanks for the positive feedback! It is VERY encouraging to read this from you! I will try to keep my sparse posts going Smile


10/4/2008 12:58:29 PM #

Thank you!


10/4/2008 1:04:55 PM #

Regular Expressions in MS SQL Server with CLR

CCook's Blog

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