Syntax of the builtin regular expression library
No particular limit is imposed on the length of REs. Programs intended to be highly portable should not employ REs longer than 256 bytes, as a POSIX-compliant implementation can refuse to accept such REs.
The only feature of AREs that is actually incompatible with POSIX EREs is that does not lose its special significance inside bracket expressions. All other ARE features use syntax which is illegal or has undefined or unspecified effects in POSIX EREs; the *** syntax of directors likewise is outside the POSIX syntax for both BREs and EREs.
Many of the ARE extensions are borrowed from Perl, but some have been changed to clean them up, and a few Perl extensions are not present. Incompatibilities of note include `b', `B', the lack of special treatment for a trailing newline, the addition of complemented bracket expressions to the things affected by newline-sensitive matching, the restrictions on parentheses and back references in lookahead constraints, and the longest/shortest-match (rather than first-match) matching semantics.
The matching rules for REs containing both normal and non-greedy quantifiers have changed since early beta-test versions of this package. (The new rules are much simpler and cleaner, but don't work as hard at guessing the user's real intentions.)
Henry Spencer's original 1986 regexp package, still in widespread use, implemented an early version of today's EREs. There are four incompatibilities between regexp's near-EREs (`RREs' for short) and AREs. In roughly increasing order of significance: