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In the field of information technology, a wildcard is an alphanumeric character that is used to stand in for one or more various characters in a string of characters. Some wildcard characters stand in for only one character, while other wildcards stand in for almost any number of characters.
Commonly used wildcards that stand in for one character include the question mark (?) and the dot (.). (In computer-speak it's usually called a "dot," but yes, it's the same character as the "period" or "full-stop" punctuation marks.)
- For example, the string wom?n or wom.n would match with "woman" and "women" (and actually any similar string with any character in its fourth position, such as "womin" or "wom3n").
The most commonly used wildcard that stands in for almost any number (including zero) of multiple characters is the star (*). (Again, in computer-speak, the character is usually called a "star," but in other contexts it is called an "asterisk.")
- For example, the string tim* would match with "tim," "time," "timber," "timothy," etc.
The exact wildcards that can be used in a given situation depend on the exact system with which you are interacting.
At DP, the . wildcard is widely used by post-processors in regular expressions (also known as regexes). The * wildcard is widely used in project and username searches. In addition, the * is frequently used as a shortcut to specify multiple items, such as the string F* being used to indicate that the reference applies to both the F1 and F2 rounds.