pcre from the ver. 5.3 is a part of core PHP, any function exported from .so can't work wih faster than core function
The functions provided by this extension check whether a character or string falls into a certain character class according to the current locale (see also setlocale()).
When called with an integer argument these functions behave exactly like their C counterparts from ctype.h. It means that if you pass an integer smaller than 256 it will use the ASCII value of it to see if it fits in the specified range (digits are in 0x30-0x39). If the number is between -128 and -1 inclusive then 256 will be added and the check will be done on that.
When called with a string argument they will check
every character in the string and will only return
TRUE if every character in the string matches the
requested criteria. When called with an empty string
the result will always be
TRUE in PHP < 5.1 and
FALSE since 5.1.
Passing anything else but a string or integer will
It should be noted that ctype functions are always preferred over regular expressions, and even to some equivalent "str_*" and "is_*" functions. This is because of the fact that ctype uses a native C library and thus processes significantly faster.
These functions are not related to the Python "ctypes" library at all. The extension name stems from the ctype.h C header file that their C equivalents are defined in.
This extension also predates Python "ctypes" so any confusion caused by this naming is hardly our fault ...