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Under The Microscope - XML

So you've already seen how Perl and PHP handle XML data. But you're a Real Programmer, and Real Programmers don't waste time with scripting languages. Nope, you need something a little more powerful, something with more horsepower under the hood. Something written in Java. Something like Xerces.

TABLE OF CONTENTS:
  1. XML Parsing With SAX and Xerces (part 1)
  2. Playing The SAX
  3. Reaching For The Nailgun
  4. Under The Microscope
  5. Sweeping Up The Mess
  6. Diving Deeper
By: icarus, (c) Melonfire
Rating: starstarstarstarstar / 16
January 28, 2002

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Let's take a closer look at the code from the previous example:

import org.apache.xerces.parsers.SAXParser; import org.xml.sax.*; import java.io.*;
Here, I've imported all the classes required to execute the application. First come the classes for the Xerces SAX parser, followed by other classes related to and required for SAX processing and the core Java classes for file I/O and error handling.

Along with the set of classes that define the parser, the SAX API also comes equipped with a set of useful interfaces. The one used here is the ContentHandler interface, which defines the callback functions and constants needed for SAX processing.

public class MyFirstSaxApp implements ContentHandler { // code here }
Next, a constructor is defined for the class (in case you don't know, a constructor is a method that is invoked automatically when you create an instance of the class).

// constructor public MyFirstSaxApp (String xmlFile) { // create a Xerces SAX parser SAXParser parser = new SAXParser(); // set the content handler parser.setContentHandler(this); // parse the document try { parser.parse(xmlFile); } catch (SAXException e) { System.err.println (e); } catch (IOException e) { System.err.println (e); } }
Once an instance of the parser has been created, the content handler for the parser needs to be defined with the setContentHandler() method. Since the SAXParser class itself implements the ContentHandler interface, it can be transparently used here.

Finally, the parse() method handles the actual parsing of the XML document - it accepts the file name as method argument. This method call is enclosed within a "try-catch" error handling block, in order to gracefully recover from errors. In this example, two types of errors have been accounted for: the SAXException error, which is raised when the SAX parser encounters a discrepancy in the XML document (for example, badly-nested tags), and the IOException error, which is raised when a file I/O error occurs.

That takes care of the main infrastructure code - but what about the callback functions themselves?

// call this when a start tag is found public void startElement (String uri, String local, String qName, Attributes atts) { System.out.println ("Found element: " + local); }
In this case, I've only defined a callback for opening elements. This callback function must be named startElement(); it's invoked whenever the parser encounters an opening XML element, and automatically receives the namespace URI, element name, fully qualified name and attributes of the element that triggers it. This data can then be processed and used in whatever manner you desire - over here, I'm simply printing it to the standard output device.

A number of other callbacks are also available - however, I've left them to their own devices here. These callbacks handle all the events that the SAX parser generates, providing a wrapper for processing XML documents, elements, character data, PIs and entities.

// the remaining callback handlers // they don't do anything right now...but keep reading! public void setDocumentLocator(Locator locator) {} public void startDocument() {} public void endDocument() {} public void characters(char[] text, int start, int length){} public void startPrefixMapping(String prefix, String uri) {} public void endPrefixMapping(String prefix) {} public void endElement(String namespaceURI, String localName, String qualifiedName) {} public void ignorableWhitespace(char[] text, int start, int length) throws SAXException {} public void processingInstruction(String target, String data){} public void skippedEntity(String name) {}
You may be wondering if you really need to define these, since their sum contribution to the functionality of this program is zero. The short answer is, yes, you do; since you're implementing an interface, you must include all the methods within it. If you don't, Java will barf all over your screen - try it and see for yourself!

Finally, the main() method sets the ball rolling, instantiating an instance of my user-defined class, with the argument entered by the user (the XML file location) as an input parameter.

// everything starts here public static void main (String[] args) { MyFirstSaxApp myFirstExample = new MyFirstSaxApp(args[0]); }
Next, let's look at streamlining this a little, with a slightly different technique.

 
 
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