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Little Java Regex Cookbook

Regular expressions, or short "regex", are a pattern of characters and metacharacters that can be used for matching strings. For example, the pattern "gr[ae]y" matches both the strings "gray" and "grey".

While regular expressions are an integral part of other popular languages, they have been introduced to the Java world rather late with the release of Java 1.4 in 2002. Perl, certainly the mother language of modern regexes, already turned 15 that year.

Regexes are sometimes hard to understand, but once you got the hang of them, they will soon become your weapon of choice when you have to deal with texts.

In this article, I focus on Java code patterns for common scenarios. If you have never heard of regular expressions before, the Wikipedia article and the Pattern JavaDoc are good starting points. The Regex Crossword site is a great place for working out your regex muscles.

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Stream trouble

I just had a stream of objects I wanted to sort and convert to a list. Optionally it should also be limited to a maximum number of entries. Piece of cake with Java 8:

Stream<T> stream =;
if (max >= 0) {
List<T> result = stream.collect(Collectors.toList());

Or so I thought... The code above throws an IllegalStateException at runtime, stating that the "stream has already been operated upon or closed".

The cause should be obvious. However it took me a while to find it, so I am posting it in case other people (possibly you when you came here via search engine) get stuck at the same place. Stream operations are very likely to return a different Stream object. The limit() method is such an example. In my code above, limit() operates on the stream and returns a limited stream. However I just throw away the returned stream and invoke collect() on the original stream, which was now already operated upon.

The solution is simple:

if (max >= 0) {
  stream = stream.limit(max);