3.4 Module-Level Functions

You don't have to produce a RegexObject and call its methods; the re module also provides top-level functions called match(), search(), sub(), and so forth. These functions take the same arguments as the corresponding RegexObject method, with the RE string added as the first argument, and still return either None or a MatchObject instance.

>>> print re.match(r'From\s+', 'Fromage amk')
>>> re.match(r'From\s+', 'From amk Thu May 14 19:12:10 1998')
<re.MatchObject instance at 80c5978>
Under the hood, these functions simply produce a RegexObject for you and call the appropriate method on it. They also store the compiled object in a cache, so future calls to them using the same RE are faster.

Should you use these module-level functions, or should you get the RegexObject and call its methods yourself? That choice depends on how frequently the RE will be used, and on your personal coding style. If a RE is being used at only one point in the code, then the module functions are probably more convenient. If a program contains a lot of regular expressions, or re-uses the same ones in several locations, then it might be worthwhile to collect all the definitions in the same place, in a section of code that compiles all the REs ahead of time. To take an example from the standard library, here's an extract from xmllib.py:

ref = re.compile( ... )
entityref = re.compile( ... )
charref = re.compile( ... )
starttagopen = re.compile( ... )
(I generally prefer to work with the compiled object, even for one-time uses, but few people will be as much of a purist about this as I am.)