Regular expressions are one of the most widely-used programming tools in bioinformatics. Available in most major programming languages and as a key component of many other useful software tools (browsers, command-line utilities, text editors, web servers, etc.), they are powerful and efficient tools for analyzing and manipulating structured text-based data.

But to most programmers, regular expressions remain a riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma shrouded in line-noise. They seem hard to create, harder to use, and almost impossible to debug or maintain.