Web technologies/2014-2015/Laboratory 5

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Parsing XML documents

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An important issue when dealing with XML is parsing the documents. There are several parser types including:

  • DOM parsers:
    • allow the navigation of the XML document as it were a tree.
    • the main drawback is that the document needs to be completely loaded into memory before actually parsing it.
    • DOM documents can be either created by parsing an XML file, or by users which want to create an XML file programmatic.
  • SAX parsers:
    • event-driven API in which the XML document is read sequentially by using callbacks that are triggered when different element types are meet.
    • overcomes the DOM’s memory problem, and is fast and efficient at reading files sequentially.
    • its problem comes from the fact that it is quite difficult to read random information from inside an XML file.
  • FlexML parsers:
    • follow the SAX approach and rely on events during the parsing process.
    • it does not constitute a parsing library by itself, but instead it converts the DTD file into a parser specification usable with the classical Flex parser generator.
  • Pull parsers:
    • use an iterator design pattern in order to sequentially read various XML items such as elements, attributes or data.
    • this method allows the programmer to write recursive-descent parsers:
      • applications in which the structure of the code that handles the parsing looks like the XML they process.
      • examples of parsers from this category include: StAX13, and the .NET System.Xml.XmlReader.
  • Non-extractive parsers:
    • a new technology in which the object oriented modeling of the XML is replaced with 64-bit Virtual Token Descriptors.
    • one of the most expressive parser belonging to this category is VTD-XML.

Note: We will use the Apache Xerxes library for these exercises. You can find more information here.

SAX (Simple API for XML) is a serial access XML parser. A SAX parser can be found in the Xerces library found here.

The following fragment of code shows how we could use SAX to parse an XML document:

Using Xerces with Java

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import org.xml.sax.*;
import org.xml.sax.helpers.XMLReaderFactory;
import java.io.IOException;

public class SAXExample {

	public static void main(String[] args) throws IOException {
		try {
			XMLReader parser = XMLReaderFactory.createXMLReader();
			ContentHandler handler = new TextExtractor();

			System.out.println(args[0] + " is well-formed.");
		catch (SAXException e) {
			System.out.println(args[0] + " is not well-formed.");

import org.xml.sax.*;
import java.io.*;

public class TextExtractor implements ContentHandler {
	public TextExtractor() { }
	// Handle the #PCDATA i.e. the text nodes
	public void characters(char[] text, int start, int length) throws SAXException {
		System.out.println("Found text node: ");
		System.out.println(new String(text).substring(start, start+length)); 		
	public void setDocumentLocator(Locator locator) {}
	// Handles the start of a document event.
	public void startDocument() {
		System.out.println("Entering document");
	// Handles the end of a document event.
	public void endDocument() {
		System.out.println("Leaving document");
	// Handles the beginning of the scope of a prefix-URI Namespace mapping.
	public void startPrefixMapping(String prefix, String uri) {}
	// Handles the ending of the scope of a prefix-URI Namespace mapping.
	public void endPrefixMapping(String prefix) {}
	// Triggers each time a start element is found.
	public void startElement(String namespaceURI, String localName,	String qualifiedName, Attributes atts) {
		System.out.println("Found element: " + localName);

		for (int i=0; i<atts.getLength(); i++) {
			System.out.println("Found attribute: " + atts.getLocalName(i) + " with value: " + atts.getValue(i));
	// Triggers each time an end element is found.
	public void endElement(String namespaceURI, String localName, String qualifiedName) {
		System.out.println("Leaving element: " + localName);
	// Handles white characters.
	public void ignorableWhitespace(char[] text, int start, int length) throws SAXException {}
	// Handles the processing instruction. For example it can be called xml with version=1.0 and a certain encoding.
	public void processingInstruction(String target, String data){}
	// Handles a skipped entity.
	public void skippedEntity(String name) {}

Using Python3

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from xml.sax import handler, make_parser, SAXParseException

class MyHandler(handler.ContentHandler):
    def __init__(self):
    def startDocument(self):
        print('Entering document')

    def endDocument(self):
        print('Leaving document')      

    def startElement(self, name, attrs):
        print(f'Found element: {name}')
        for attr_name, value in attrs.items():
            print(f'Found attribute: {attr_name} with value: {value}')

    def endElement(self, name):
        print(f'Leaving element: {name}')

    def characters(self, content):
        print(f'Found text node: {content}')

    def ignorableWhitespace(self, content):
    def processingInstruction(self, target, data):

    parser = make_parser()
    print('The document is well formed')
except SAXParseException:
    print('The document is not well formed')


SAX Tutorial

Python3 SAX documentation

DOM (Document Object Model) is a convention for representing XML documents. A DOM parser can be found in the Xerces library found here.

DOM handles XML files as being made of the following types of nodes:

  • Document node
  • Element nodes
  • Attribute nodes
  • Leaf nodes:
    • Text nodes
    • Comment nodes
    • Processing instruction nodes
    • CDATA nodes
    • Entity reference nodes
    • Document type nodes
  • Non-tree nodes;

Using Xerces and Java:

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The following fragment of code shows how we could use DOM to traverse an XML tree:

import javax.xml.parsers.*;  // JAXP
import org.w3c.dom.Node;
import org.w3c.dom.NodeList;
import org.xml.sax.SAXException;
import java.io.IOException;

public class DOMExample {

	public static void main(String[] args) {
		DOMExample iterator = new DOMExample();
		try {
			// Use JAXP to find a parser
			DocumentBuilderFactory factory = DocumentBuilderFactory.newInstance();
			// Turn on namespace support
			DocumentBuilder parser = factory.newDocumentBuilder();
			// Read the entire document into memory
			Node document = parser.parse(args[0]); 
			// Process it starting at the root

		catch (SAXException e) {
			System.out.println(args[0] + " is not well-formed.");
		catch (IOException e) { 
		catch (ParserConfigurationException e) { 
			System.out.println("Could not locate a JAXP parser"); 
	public void followNode(Node node) throws IOException {
		// Print information on node.
		System.out.println("Node name:" + node.getNodeName());
		System.out.println("Node type:" + node.getNodeType());
		System.out.println("Node local name:" + node.getLocalName());
		System.out.println("Node value:" + node.getNodeValue());

		// Process the children.
		NodeList children = node.getChildNodes();
		for (int i = 0; i < children.getLength(); i++) {
			Node child = children.item(i);
			// Recursion on child.

DOM also allows users to create a new XML document or change the structure of an already existing one:

import java.io.IOException;
import javax.xml.parsers.DocumentBuilder;
import javax.xml.parsers.DocumentBuilderFactory;
import org.w3c.dom.Document;
import org.w3c.dom.Node;
import org.w3c.dom.Element;

public class DOMCreatorExample {

	public static void main(String[] av) throws IOException {
		DOMCreatorExample dc = new DOMCreatorExample();
		Document doc = dc.makeXML();

	public Document makeXML() {
		try {
			DocumentBuilderFactory fact = DocumentBuilderFactory.newInstance();
			DocumentBuilder parser = fact.newDocumentBuilder();
			Document doc = parser.newDocument();

			Node root = doc.createElement("books");

			Node book = doc.createElement("book");
			((Element) book).setAttribute("title", "Processing XML with Java");
			((Element) book).setAttribute("author", "Elliotte Rusty Harold");
			book.appendChild(doc.createTextNode("A complete tutorial about writing Java programs that read and write XML documents."));
			return doc;

		} catch (Exception ex) {
			return null;

Using Python3:

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import xml.dom.minidom as mdom

    dom = mdom.parse('queue.xml')
except Exception:
    print('Document is not well formed')

def follow_nodes(element):
    print(f'Node name: {element.nodeName}')
    print(f'Node type: {type(element)}')
        print(f'Node local name: {element.nodeLocalName}')
    except Exception:
    print(f'Node Value: {element.nodeValue}')

    for elem in element.childNodes:


To programmatically create an XML document using the xml.dom module:

import xml.dom.minidom as mdom

def create_xml():
    doc = mdom.Document()

    root = doc.createElement('books')

    book = doc.createElement('book')
    book.setAttribute('title', 'Processing XML with Java')
    book.setAttribute('author', 'Elliotte Rusty Harold')
    book.appendChild(doc.createTextNode("A complete tutorial about writing Java programs that read and write XML documents."));
    return root

with open('out.xml', 'w') as f:



[edit | edit source]
  • Parse the XML created in your assignment from Laboratory 3 using both SAX and DOM. Print out the parsing time of each method (hint: use System.currentTimeMillis() to get the start and end time).
  • Create the XML from your assignment in Laboratory 3 using DOM. Print the result to an XML file.
    • In order to save resulted xml to file you can use:
import javax.xml.transform.stream.StreamResult;
TransformerFactory transformerFactory = TransformerFactory.newInstance();
Transformer transformer = transformerFactory.newTransformer();
DOMSource source = new DOMSource(doc);
StreamResult result = new StreamResult(new File("<location/of/file>"));
transformer.transform(source, result);

Or you can use the writexml method from the minimal DOM implementation, minidom if you are using Python.

Gabriel Iuhasz, 2019-10-30, iuhasz.gabriel@e-uvt.ro