HFS: File masks

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What is it?

A file mask denotes a set of files. It is usually something like this: *.jpg;*.gif. This example denotes any jpeg and gif files.

How does it work?

The example above shows a double file mask. It has two atoms separated by the semicolon: *.jpg and *.gif. The semicolon is used to merge multiple masks: it is a special character. There are only three special characters in file masks: ; * and ?.

The star (*)

The star (also called "asterisk") stands for any string of characters. If the mask contains only the star, it matches ANY file.

If you put an A before the star A*, it matches any file starting with an A.

If you put an A after the star *A, it matches any file ending with an A.

A*B matches any file starting with an A and ending with a B. The example above shows *.jpg : it matches any file ending with .jpg (that is, jpeg images). jpeg files are relatively unusual because they sometimes end with .jpeg and more rarely with .jpe . (The part of a filename that comes after the period is called the file "extension", and is normally limited to three characters.) You could use the mask .jp* to match all types of jpeg files.

The star also matches the null string: A*.jpg matches files like A1.jpg , Adfgg.jpg but also A.jpg.

The question mark (?)

This stands for a single character. Something like A?B matches any filename that is three characters long and starts with an A and ends with a B. The length is fixed to three characters because ? can be replaced by only one character. Thus the ? does not match the null string as the * does.