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Playing Chicken - XML

One of the fundamental constructs for XSL transformations and XML links, XPath is nonetheless one of the lesser lights of the XML universe. However, if you're serious about developing your XML skills, you need to know it inside out - and this tutorial has all you need to get started.

  1. XPath Basics
  2. Dog Days
  3. First Steps
  4. Revolving Around An Axis
  5. Proof Of The Pudding
  6. Playing Chicken
  7. Operating With Extreme Caution
  8. Be Cool
  9. The Next Step
By: Vikram Vaswani, (c) Melonfire
Rating: starstarstarstarstar / 6
August 15, 2001

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Let's try a slightly more complex example:

<?xml version="1.0"?>


<name>Chicken Tikka</name> <author>Anonymous</author> <date>1 June 1999</date>


<item> <desc>Boneless chicken breasts</desc> <quantity>2</quantity> </item>

<item> <desc>Chopped onions</desc> <quantity>2</quantity> </item>

<item> <desc>Ginger</desc> <quantity>1 tsp</quantity> </item>

<item> <desc>Garlic</desc> <quantity>1 tsp</quantity> </item>

<item> <desc>Red chili powder</desc> <quantity>1 tsp</quantity> </item>

<item> <desc>Coriander seeds</desc> <quantity>1 tsp</quantity> </item>

<item> <desc>Lime juice</desc> <quantity>2 tbsp</quantity> </item>

<item> <desc>Butter</desc> <quantity>1 tbsp</quantity> </item> </ingredients>


<process> <step>Cut chicken into cubes, wash and apply lime juice and salt</step> <step>Add ginger, garlic, chili, coriander and lime juice in a separate bowl</step> <step>Mix well, and add chicken to marinate for 3-4 hours</step> <step>Place chicken pieces on skewers and barbeque</step> <step>Remove, apply butter, and barbeque again until meat is tender</step> <step>Garnish with lemon and chopped onions</step> </process>


Now, if I wanted to get to the third ingredient, I would use the path


whish references the text string


Note the predicate used to get the third item in the list.

If I needed to get the number of servings, I could use




The // shortcut will select elements of that name anywhere below the current context node, and is equivalent to the "descendant-or-self" axis. So the path


would select all the "item" nodes in the document, while the path


would reference the "quantity" element under the seventh "item" element and the path


would reference the text node

2 tbsp

If I wanted to get really funky, I could use a different predicate to identify the appropriate node - the paths



//item[desc/text()='Lime juice']/quantity/text()

are equivalent.

More examples of this nature are available in the XPath specification at http://www.w3.org/TR/xpath.html

This article copyright Melonfire 2001. All rights reserved.

>>> More XML Articles          >>> More By Vikram Vaswani, (c) Melonfire

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