How to remove HTML tags in C and C++ with RegEx

Regular expressions are a great tool for any programming language.

How to remove HTML tags in C and C++ with RegEx

The other day I saw a simple but interesting question on the internet. Someone posted wanting to know: โ€œHow to remove HTML tags in C?โ€ .

It quickly came to my mind RegEx, but with C++ .

If you understand Regular Expressions with C++ it is really very easy, just:

  • Include the <regex> header;
  • Inform the pattern of the regular expression;
  • And finally use the regex_replace() function to replace with the string you want.

In summary the code is this:

#include <iostream>
#include <regex>

int main(){
  std::string html = "<a href=\"\">This is a link</a>";
  std::regex tags("<[^>]*>");
  std::string remove{};
  std::cout << std::regex_replace(html, tags, remove) << '\n';
  return 0;

Probable output: This is a link

But in Linguagem C things are really not that easy.

Linguagem C

You can use regex.h in C, but it will only check for patterns, but the replacement will be up to you.

For example, checking if a given string has tags in it, we can use it like this:

#include <stdio.h>
#include <regex.h>

int main(){
  regex_t regex;
  int check_regex = regcomp(&regex, "<[^>]*>", REG_EXTENDED);

  check_regex = regexec(&regex, "<p>Tag</p>", 0, NULL, 0);
  !check_regex ? printf("Has tags!\n") : printf("It has no tags.\n");

  return 0;

Likely output: Has tags!

For more information access the POSIX page of the manual by the command:

man regex.h

Removing HTML TAGS in C

After you check if a given string has tags (saves processing) the next step is to remove the tags.

I came up with a solution of my own (and simple ๐Ÿ’ก ) that may be contested by C lovers, but it works ๐Ÿ˜Ž . The code itself is:

  • Include headers:
    • stdio.h to use printf;
    • string.h to use strlen;
    • and stdbool.h to use the bool type
  • Define a SIZE constant to optimize performance
  • Create a char * return function for redefining. And that function is as follows:
    • I inserted a for loop to go through the string according to the number of characters in it;
    • It checks if the opening character of the < tag was identified in the string;
    • If yes, it makes boolean variable tag as true
    • Then concatenate the character into a temporary output of the same size: out[SIZE];
    • And to continue adding, we change it to false only after identifying the > closing tag character.

The final code is:

#include <stdio.h>
#include <string.h>
#include <stdbool.h>
#define SIZE 4096

char * remove_tags(char string[]){
  bool tag = false;
  char out[SIZE];
  for(int i = 0; i < strlen(string); i++){
    if( string[i] == '<'){
      tag = true;
      strncat(out, &string[i], 1);
    if(string[i] == '>'){
      tag = false;
  string = out;
  return string;

int main(){
  char string[SIZE] = "<a href=\"\">This is a link</a>";
  printf("%s\n", remove_tags(string));
  return 0;

Probable output: This is a link

The right thing would be to allocate space on the heap, because a string that contains a document HTML can be huge. But for didactic purposes, and to understand the logic, itโ€™s a good size.

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