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Expressions

Author:Dirk Tilger
Contact:dirk at MIRIUP.DE
Author:Umberto Nicoletti
Contact:umberto.nicoletti at gmail.com
Revision:$Revision$
Date:$Date$
Last Updated:2011/06/30

Introduction

As of version 6.0, expressions are used in four places:

  • In LAYER FILTER to specify the features of the dataset that are to be included in the layer.
  • In CLASS EXPRESSION to specify to which features of the dataset the CLASS applies to.
  • In CLASS TEXT to specify text for labeling features.
  • In STYLE GEOMTRANSFORM.

String quotation

Strings can be quoted using single or double quotes:

'This is a string'
"And this is also a string"

Quotes escaping in strings

Note

Quotes escaping is not supported in MapServer versions lower than 5.0.

Starting with MapServer 5.0, if your dataset contains double-quotes, you can use a C-like escape sequence:

"National \"hero\" statue"

To escape a single quote use the following sequence instead:

"National \'hero\' statue"

Starting with MapServer 6.0 you don’t need to escape single quotes within double qouted strings and you don’t need to escape double quotes within single quoted strings. In 6.0 you can also write the string as follows:

'National "hero" statue'
...

To escape a single quote use the following sequence instead:

"National 'hero' statue"

Using attributes

Attribute values can be referenced in the Map file and used in expressions. Attribute references are case sensitive and can be used in the following types of expressions:

Referencing an attribute is done by enclosing the attribute name in square brackets, like this: [ATTRIBUTENAME]. Then, every occurrence of “[ATTRIBUTENAME]” will be replaced by the actual value of the attribute “ATTRIBUTENAME”.

Example: The data set of our layer has the attribute “BUILDING_NAME”. We want the value of this attribute to appear inside a string. This can be accomplished as follows (single or double qoutes):

'The [BUILDING_NAME] building'

For the building which has its BUILDING_NAME attribute set to “Historical Museum”, the resulting string is:

'The Historical Museum building'

For Raster Data layers special attributes have been defined that can be used for classification, for example:

  • [PIXEL] ... will become the pixel value as number
  • [RED], [GREEN], [BLUE] ... will become the color value for the red, green and blue component in the pixel value, respectively.

Character encoding

With MapServer there is no way to specify the character encoding of the mapfile or the layer data sources, so MapServer can’t do the character encoding translation. If the character encoding of the data source is not the same as the character encoding of the map file, they could be converted to a common encoding.

Expression Types

Expression are used to match attribute values with certain logical checks. There are three different types of expressions you can use with MapServer:

  • String comparisons: A single attribute is compared with a string value.
  • Regular expressions: A single attribute is matched with a regular expression.
  • Logical “MapServer expressions”: One or more attributes are compared using logical expressions.

String comparison (equality)

String comparison means, as the name suggests, that attribute values are checked if they are equal to some value. String comparisons are the simplest form of MapServer expressions and the fastest option.

To use a string comparison for filtering a LAYER, both FILTERITEM and FILTER must be set. FILTERITEM is set to the attribute name. FILTER is set to the value for comparison. The same rule applies to CLASSITEM in the LAYER object and EXPRESSION in the CLASS object.

Example for a simple string comparison filter

FILTER "2005"
FILTERITEM "year"

would match all records that have the attribute “year” set to “2005”. The rendered map would appear as if the dataset would only contain those items that have the “year” set to “2005”.

Similarly, a classification for the items matched above would be done by setting the CLASSITEM in the LAYER and the EXPRESSION in the CLASS:

LAYER
    NAME "example"
    CLASSITEM "year"
    ...
    CLASS
        NAME "year-2005"
        EXPRESSION "2005"
        ...
    END
END

For reasons explained later, the values for both CLASSITEM and FILTERITEM should start with neither a ‘/’ nor a ‘(‘ character.

Regular expression comparison

Regular expressions are a standard text pattern matching mechanism from the Unix world. The functionality of regular expression matching is provided by the operating system on UNIX systems and therefore slightly operating system dependent. However, their minimum set of features are those defined by the POSIX standard. The documentation of the particular regular expression library is usually in the “regex” manual page (“man regex”) on Unix systems.

Regular expression with MapServer work similarly to string comparison, but allow more complex operation. They are slower than pure string comparisons, but might be still faster than logical expression. As for string comparison, when using a regular expressions, FILTERITEM (LAYER FILTER) or CLASSITEM (CLASS EXPRESSION) has to be defined if the items are not included in the LAYER FILTER or CLASS EXPRESSION.

A regular expression typically consists of characters with special meanings and characters that are interpreted as they are. Alphanumeric characters (A-Z, a-z and 0-9) are taken as they are. Characters with special meanings are:

  • . will match a single character.
  • [ and ] are used for grouping. For example [A-Z] would match the characters A,B,C,...,X,Y,Z.
  • {, }, and * are used to specify how often something should match.
  • ^ matches the beginning, $ matches the end of the value.
  • The backslash \ is used to take away the special meaning. For example \$ would match the dollar sign.

MapServer supports two regex operators:

  • ~ case sensitive regular expression
  • ~* case insensitive regular expression

The following LAYER configuration would have all records rendered on the map that have “hotel” in the attribute named “placename”

LAYER
    NAME 'regexp-example'
    FILTERITEM 'placename'
    FILTER /hotel/
    ...
END

Note

For FILTER, the regular expression is case-sensitive, thus records having “Hotel” in them would not have matched.

Example: Match records that have a value from 2000 to 2010 in the attribute “year”:

FILTERITEM "year"
FILTER /^20[0-9][0-9]/

Example: Match all the records that are either purely numerical or empty

FILTER /^[0-9]*$/

Example: Match all the features where the name attribute ends with “by”, “BY”, “By” or “bY” (case insensitive matching):

EXPRESSION ('[name]' ~* 'by$')

Example: Match all the features where the rdname attribute starts with “Main”.

LAYER
...
CLASSITEM 'rdname'
CLASS

  EXPRESSION /^Main.*$/

Note

If you experience frequently segmentation faults when working with MapServer and regular expressions, it might be that your current working environment is linked against more than one regular expression library. This can happen when MapServer is linked with components that bring their own copy, like the Apache httpd or PHP. In these cases the author has made best experiences with making all those components using the regular expression library of the operating system (i.e. the one in libc). That involved editing the build files of some of the components, however.

List expressions

New in version 6.4.

List expressions (see rfc95) are a performant way to compare a string attribute to a list of multiple possible values. Their behavior duplicates the existing regex or mapserver expressions, however they are significantly more performant. To activate them enclose a comma separated list of values between {}, without adding quotes or extra spaces.

LAYER
    NAME 'list-example'
    CLASSITEM 'roadtype'
    ...
    CLASS
      EXPRESSION {motorway,trunk}
      #equivalent to regex EXPRESSION /motorway|trunk/
      #equivalent to mapserver EXPRESSION ("[roadtype]" IN "motorway,trunk")
      ...
    END
    CLASS
      EXPRESSION {primary,secondary}
      ...
    END
END

Warning

List expressions do not support quote escaping, or attribute values that contain a comma in them.

“MapServer expressions”

MapServer expressions are the most complex and depending how they are written can become quite slow. They can match any of the attributes and thus allow filtering and classification depending on more than one attribute. Besides pure logical operations there are also expressions that allow certain arithmetic, string and time operations.

To be able to use a MapServer expression for a FILTER or EXPRESSION value, the expression has to finally become a logical value.

Logical expressions

Syntactically, a logical expression is everything encapsulated in round brackets. Logical expressions take logical values as their input and return logical values. A logical expression is either ‘true’ or ‘false’.

  • ( ( Expression1 ) AND ( Expression2 ) )

    ( ( Expression1 ) && ( Expression2 ) )

    returns true when both of the logical expressions (Expression1 and Expression2) are true.

  • ( ( Expression1 ) OR ( Expression2 ) )

    ( ( Expression1 ) || ( Expression2 ) )

    returns true when at least one of the logical expressions (Expression1 or Expression2) is true.

  • NOT ( Expression1 )

    ! ( Expression1 )

    returns true when Expression1 is false.

String expressions that return a logical value

Syntactically, a string is something encapsulated in single or double quotes.

  • ( “String1” eq “String2” )

    ( “String1” == “String2” ) - deprecated since 6.0

    ( “String1” = “String2” )

    returns true when the strings are equal. Case sensitive.

  • ( “String1” =* “String2” )

    returns true when the strings are equal. Case insensitive.

  • ( “String1” != “String2” )

    ( “String1” ne “String2” )

    returns true when the strings are not equal.

  • ( “String1” < “String2” )

    ( “String1” lt “String2” )

    returns true when “String1” is lexicographically smaller than “String2”

  • ( “String1” > “String2” )

    ( “String1” gt “String2” )

    returns true when “String1” is lexicographically larger than “String2”.

  • ( “String1” <= “String2” )

    ( “String1” le “String2” )

    returns true when “String1” is lexicographically smaller than or equal to “String2”

  • ( “String1” >= “String2” )

    ( “String1” ge “String2” )

    returns true when “String1” is lexicographically larger than or equal to “String2”.

  • ( “String1” IN “token1,token2,...,tokenN” )

    returns true when “String1” is equal to one of the given tokens.

    Note

    The separator for the tokens is the comma. That means that there can not be unnecessary white space in the list and that tokens that have commas in them cannot be compared.

  • ( “String1” ~ “regexp” )

    returns true when “String1” matches the regular expression “regexp”. This operation is identical to the regular expression matching described earlier.

  • ( “String1” ~* “regexp” )

    returns true when “String1” matches the regular expression “regexp” (case insensitive). This operation is identical to the regular expression matching described earlier.

Arithmetic expressions that return a logical value

The basic element for arithmetic operations is the number. Arithmetic operations that return numbers will be covered in the next section.

  • ( n1 eq n2 )

    ( n1 == n2 ) - deprecated since 6.0

    ( n1 = n2 )

    returns true when the numbers are equal.

  • ( n1 != n2 )

    ( n1 ne n2 )

    returns true when the numbers are not equal.

  • ( n1 < n2 )

    ( n1 lt n2 )

    returns true when n1 is smaller than n2.

  • ( n1 > n2 )

    ( n1 gt n2 )

    returns true when n1 is larger than n2.

  • ( n1 <= n2 )

    ( n1 le n2 )

    returns true when n1 is smaller than or equal to n2.

  • ( n1 >= n2 )

    ( n1 ge n2 )

    returns true when n1 is larger than or equal to n2.

  • ( n1 IN “number1,number2,...,numberN” )

    returns true when n1 is equal to one of the given numbers.

Spatial expressions that return a logical value (GEOS)

  • ( shape1 eq shape2 )

    returns true if shape1 and shape2 are equal

  • ( shape1 intersects shape2 )

    returns true if shape1 and shape2 intersect

    New in version 6.0.

  • ( shape1 disjoint shape2 )

    returns true if shape1 and shape2 are disjoint

    New in version 6.0.

  • ( shape1 touches shape2 )

    returns true if shape1 and shape2 touch

    New in version 6.0.

  • ( shape1 overlaps shape2 )

    returns true if shape1 and shape2 overlap

    New in version 6.0.

  • ( shape1 crosses shape2 )

    returns true if shape1 and shape2 cross

    New in version 6.0.

  • ( shape1 within shape2 )

    returns true if shape1 is within shape2

    New in version 6.0.

  • ( shape1 contains shape2 )

    returns true if shape1 contains shape2

    New in version 6.0.

  • ( shape1 dwithin shape2 )

    returns true if the distance between shape1 and shape2 is equal to 0

    New in version 6.0.

  • ( shape1 beyond shape2 )

    returns true if the distance between shape1 and shape2 is greater than 0

    New in version 6.0.

String operations that return a string

  • “String1” + “String2’

    returns “String1String2”, that is, the two strings concatenated to each other.

Functions that return a string

  • tostring ( n1, “Format1” )

    uses “Format1” to format the number n1 (C style formatting - sprintf).

    New in version 6.0.

  • commify ( “String1” )

    adds thousands separators (commas) to a long number to make it more readable

    New in version 6.0.

String functions that return a number

  • length ( “String1” )

    returns the number of characters of “String1”

Arithmetic operations and functions that return a number

  • round ( n1 , n2 )

    returns n1 rounded to a multiple of n2: n2 * round(n1/n2)

    New in version 6.0.

  • n1 + n2

    returns the sum of n1 and n2

  • n1 - n2

    returns n2 subtracted from n1

  • n1 * n2

    returns n1 multiplicated with n2

  • n1 / n2>

    returns n1 divided by n2

  • -n1

    returns n1 negated

  • n1 ^ n2

    returns n1 to the power of n2

Note

When the numerical operations above are used like logical operations, the following rule applies: values equal to zero will be taken as ‘false’ and everything else will be ‘true’. That means the expression

( 6 + 5 )

would return true, but

( 5 - 5 )

would return false.

Spatial functions that return a number (GEOS)

  • area ( shape1 )

    returns the area of shape1

    New in version 6.0.

Spatial functions that return a shape (GEOS)

  • fromtext ( “String1” )

    returns the shape corresponding to String1 (WKT - well known text)

    fromText('POINT(500000 5000000)')
    

    New in version 6.0.

  • buffer (shape1 , n1 )

    returns the shape that results when shape1 is buffered with bufferdistance n1

    New in version 6.0.

  • difference ( shape1 , shape2 )

    returns the shape that results when the common area of shape1 and shape2 is subtracted from shape1

    New in version 6.0.

Temporal expressions

MapServer uses an internal time type to do comparison. To convert a string into this time type it will check the list below from the top and down to check if the specified time matches, and if so, it will do the conversion. The following are integer values: YYYY - year, MM - month, DD - date, hh - hours, mm - minutes, ss - seconds. The following are character elements of the format: - (dash) - date separator, : (colon) - time separator, T - marks the start of the time component (ISO 8601), space - marks the end of the date and start of the time component, Z - zulu time (0 UTC offset).

  • YYYY-MM-DDThh:mm:ssZ
  • YYYY-MM-DDThh:mm:ss
  • YYYY-MM-DD hh:mm:ss
  • YYYY-MM-DDThh:mm
  • YYYY-MM-DD hh:mm
  • YYYY-MM-DDThh
  • YYYY-MM-DD hh
  • YYYY-MM-DD
  • YYYY-MM
  • YYYY
  • Thh:mm:ssZ
  • Thh:mm:ss

For temporal values obtained this way, the following operations are supported:

  • ( t1 eq t2 )

    ( t1 == t2 ) - deprecated since 6.0

    ( t1 = t2 )

    returns true when the times are equal.

  • ( t1 != t2 )

    ( t1 ne t2 )

    returns true when the times are not equal.

  • ( t1 < t2 )

    ( t1 lt t2 )

    returns true when t1 is earlier than t2

  • ( t1 > t2 )

    ( t1 gt t2 )

    returns true when t1 is later than t2.

  • ( t1 <= t2 )

    ( t1 le t2 )

    returns true when t1 is earlier than or equal to t2

  • ( t1 >= t2 )

    ( t1 ge t2 )

    returns true when t1 is later than or equal to t2.