Create complex RegExps more easily

When I was writing my linear-gradient() to -webkit-gradient() converter, I knew in advance that I would have to use a quite large regular expression to validate and parse the input. Such a regex would be incredibly hard to read and fix potential issues, so I tried to find a way to cut the process down in reusable parts.

Turns out JavaScript regular expression objects have a .source property that can be used in the RegExp constructor to create a new RegExp out of another one. So I wrote a new function that takes a string with identifiers for regexp replacements in {{ and }} and replaces them with the corresponding sub-regexps, taken from an object literal as a second argument:

 * Create complex regexps in an easy to read way
 * @param str {String} Final regex with {{id}} for replacements
 * @param replacements {Object} Object with the replacements
 * @param flags {String} Just like the flags argument in the RegExp constructor
RegExp.create = function(str, replacements, flags) {
	for(var id in replacements) {
		var replacement = replacements[id],
			idRegExp = RegExp('{{' + id + '}}', 'gi');

		if(replacement.source) {
			replacement = replacement.source.replace(/^\^|\$$/g, '');

		// Don't add extra parentheses if they already exist
		str = str.replace(RegExp('\\(' + idRegExp.source + '\\)', 'gi'), '(' + replacement + ')');

		str = str.replace(idRegExp, '(?:' + replacement + ')');

	return RegExp(str, flags);

If you don’t like adding a function to the RegExp object, you can name it however you want. Here’s how I used it for my linear-gradient() parser:

self.regex = {};

self.regex.number = /^-?[0-9]*\.?[0-9]+$/;
self.regex.keyword = /^(?:top\s+|bottom\s+)?(?:right|left)|(?:right\s+|left\s+)?(?:top|bottom)$/;

self.regex.direction = RegExp.create('^(?:{{keyword}}|{{number}}deg|0)$', {
	keyword: self.regex.keyword,
	number: self.regex.number 

self.regex.color = RegExp.create('(?:{{keyword}}|{{func}}|{{hex}})', {
	keyword: /^(?:red|tan|grey|gray|lime|navy|blue|teal|aqua|cyan|gold|peru|pink|plum|snow|[a-z]{5,20})$/,
	func: RegExp.create('^(?:rgb|hsl)a?\\((?:\\s*{{number}}%?\\s*,?\\s*){3,4}\\)$', {
		number: self.regex.number
	hex: /^#(?:[0-9a-f]{1,2}){3}$/

self.regex.percentage = RegExp.create('^(?:{{number}}%|0)$', {
	number: self.regex.number

self.regex.length = RegExp.create('{{number}}{{unit}}|0', {
	number: self.regex.number,
	unit: /%|px|mm|cm|in|em|rem|en|ex|ch|vm|vw|vh/

self.regex.colorStop = RegExp.create('{{color}}\\s*{{length}}?', {
	color: self.regex.color,
	length: self.regex.length
}, 'g');

self.regex.linearGradient = RegExp.create('^linear-gradient\\(\\s*(?:({{direction}})\\s*,)?\\s*({{colorstop}}\\s*(?:,\\s*{{colorstop}}\\s*)+)\\)$', {
	direction: self.regex.direction,
	colorStop: self.regex.colorStop
}, 'i');

(self in this case was a local variable, not the window object)