How to extract content between two delimiters in PHP

Posted on August 29, 2008, under PHP 


Here’s a function which is useful when you need to extract some content between two delimiters. For instance you need to extract content using a robot that connects to a page.

Credits: Bit Repository

function extract_unit($string, $start, $end)
$pos = stripos($string, $start);

$str = substr($string, $pos);

$str_two = substr($str, strlen($start));

$second_pos = stripos($str_two, $end);

$str_three = substr($str_two, 0, $second_pos);

$unit = trim($str_three); // remove whitespaces

return $unit;

This is an usage example of this function:

$text = 'PHP is an acronym for "PHP: Hypertext Preprocessor".';

$unit = extract_unit($text, 'an', 'for');

// Outputs: acronym
echo $unit;

How it works?

First, we use stripos() to determine the numeric position of the first occurrence of needle in the haystack string. In our example, there are 7 characters from the beginning of the string until ‘an’.

$pos = stripos($string, $start);

Now, we will use this information to get the content of $string, from the $pos character until the last one:

an acronym for “PHP: Hypertext Preprocessor”.

$str = substr($string, $pos);

Remove ‘an’ from the recently created string:

acronym for “PHP: Hypertext Preprocessor”.

$str_two = substr($str, strlen($start));

Determine the number of characters from the beginning of $str_two until ‘for’ (9 in this case):

$second_pos = stripos($str_two, $end);

Now use this number to get the content from the beginning of the string until ‘for’:

$str_three = substr($str_two, 0, $second_pos);

The last variable would be equal with ‘ acronym ‘. Eventually, let’s strip the whitespaces from the beginning and ending of the string:


$unit = trim($str_three); // remove whitespaces

If you have any comments, suggestions regarding this snippet please post them.

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