1. Approach

Reading an XML file from texts is a simple process. The basics for that in my Java classes (vishiaBase.jar) contains all necessaries, especially the org.vishia.util.StringPartScan with its extension org.vishia.util.StringPartFromFileLines

Of course some special transliterations like &lt; for < should be known, and the principle of name spaces.

The essential reason for writing an own XML reader was: Selection of content from a given XML file. Some XML files, for example from Word & co but also Simulink (slx) contain too much stuff in there XML data. If only essential data should be read, the selection of the data should be done so early as possible.

The org.vishia.xmlReader.XmlJzReader selects the input data from a given XML file with a template, which as very similar to the given XML files. And this file contains also the destinations for the data, which are addressed by reflection.

This reader was written firstly in 2017/18, for using for Simulink slx files. But meanwhile it was using also for some professional projects and other XML files.

2. Principle

2.1. Read the text

A XML file is firstly a textual file. To get the information the frame syntax should be detected. This is <name>…​</name> for an xml element (may contain sub structures), <name attrib="value"…​. etc. as known. It means the start and end tag should be detected and the content between should be stored.

A XML specific problem is the replacement of specific characters. You cannot use a < in a text content of a XML node, because the < means start of an inner node. You cannot use " in attributes, it is the delimiter. But also special character of Coding should be replaced. The encoding of the whole XML textual file can be varied. UTF-8 is a standard, but also such as ISO-8859-x or US-ASCII with the advantage of exact one byte per character. Special character can be any time written as &#x4567; with its known code, also decimal, here hexadecimal. This needs a translation. This is not a problem of reading the file, on reading a correct XML such characters are not faulty used. It is a problem on storing the data: Instead &lt; a < should be stored. …​etc

2.2. Select node and attribute types in config.xml

If a node is detected after < the name of the node is read. Then this node name is checked whether it is specified in the given configuration file. If it isn’t so, this node and all sub nodes are ignored. The node structure from the sub nodes are detected, of course, but no data are stored for all.

Only for nodes which are specified in the config.xml file data are stored. This has the advantage that sophisticated XML files can be analyzed firstly in its essential data, secondly than enhanced with more interesting data. This approach accepts that the data from the XML file should be evaluated knowing its meaning, not only stored. That is a process of getting to know the meaning of the XML data.

Sometimes till often not all data should be used, and this data should not be stored.

Traditional the DOM and SAX model is familiar on reading XML. With DOM the whole XML file is stored in internal data, whereas SAX has a selection algorithm which data are stored how. This algorithm for SAX may be complex, hence often DOM will be used firstly. But with DOM the amount and selection of data is the problem.

The XmlJzReader can be seen as a SAX implementation. But the algorithm to proceed the data are not to write manually, they are a result of the config file. The user should only prepare a proper config file.

2.3. How to store the data

The path to store the data is given too in the config.xml file. It is given as textual path which is evaluated by the reflection capability of Java. It means it is not compiled, it is interpreted.

This has two disadvantages:

  • Calculation time: Reflection access is a search algorithm and need time for any storing process. But, of course, evaluating the text given path via reflection is done only on the first access to the given element. All following accesses uses the stored access path as reference respectively the found Reflection Method for immediately call with the given reference.

  • No checking of the expression while compile time. Errors in the expression are detected firstly on run time, as error "'Reflection …​ expression not found'". But this is a problem only on changing the config.xml file. The changes should be carefully done, including a test.

2.4. Name spaces

This is very simple. The namespace short designation should be replaced by the declared long designation. Only the long namespace should be used to determine elements and attributes. The short namespace designation is anytime valid only locally in a given XML file, though it seems to be the same for all.

It is a quest of simple replacement with a map.

2.5. Encoding

The encoding is written always in the head of a XML file. The head is firstly read with US-ASCII with only ~256 byte, search a encoding designation, and then read again completely with the given namespace.

But that is also a property of the org.vishia.util.StringPartFromFileLines .

2.6. Reading xml content in zip archives

Often files are stored as zip, and the zip contains some XML and more files. This is true for most of file types with extension '.*x', for example '.docx', '.slx'.

The unzip capabilities of Java ('java.util.zip.*') is combined with the 'XmlJzReader', that’s all. The XmlJzReader.readZipXml(…​) do so. Also an opened zip can be evaluated with XmlJzReader.readXml(InputStream, …​)

3. Example for config.xml file, how to get

Look on a simple given XML file, src/test/files/xmlReader/bom_exmpl.xml:

<?xml version="1.0" encoding="ISO-8859-1"?>
<BillOfMaterial xmlns:bom="www.vishia.org/XmlSeqWriter/ExampleBom">
  <bom:entry bom:part="R" bom:value="3k3" bom:footprint="1206" bom:ordernumber="123456-789" bom:count="23">some resistors</bom:entry>
  <bom:entry bom:part="R" bom:value="490 Ohm" bom:footprint="1206" bom:ordernumber="123433-789" bom:count="5">some other resisitors
verbose description</bom:entry>
  <bom:entry bom:part="C" bom:value="4n7" bom:footprint="1206" bom:ordernumber="123abc-789" bom:count="17"></bom:entry>

You can have also a complicated XML content. In all cases you can analyze this file:

//from source: src/test/java/org/vishia/xmlReader/test/Test_XmlJzReaderSimpleExmpl.java
  static void analyzeXmlCfg_BomExmpl() {
    File fXmlIn = new File("src/test/files/xmlReader/bom_exmpl.xml").getAbsoluteFile();
    File fCfgOut = new File(Arguments.replaceEnv("$(TMP)/test_vishiaBase/Test_XmlJzReader/bom_cfg.xml"));
    XmlJzCfgAnalyzer analyzer = new XmlJzCfgAnalyzer();
    try {
    } catch (IOException e) {
      // TODO: handle exception

The analyzer.readXmlStruct(fXmlIn) is the essential one. It reads the XML file, looks which elements are contained, detects elements which are contained more as one and sum all inner elements, then write the extracted content. It is stored in src/test/files/xmlReader/bom_cfg.xml:

<?xml version="1.0" encoding="UTF-8"?>
<!-- written with org.vishia.xmlSimple.SimpleXmlOutputter -->
<xmlinput:root xmlns:xmlinput="www.vishia.org/XmlReader-xmlinput" >
  <xmlinput:cfg xmlinput:data="!new_root()"  xmlinput:class="root" >
    <BillOfMaterial xmlinput:data="!new_BillOfMaterial()"  xmlinput:class="BillOfMaterial"  xmlns:bom="www.vishia.org/XmlSeqWriter/ExampleBom" >
      <bom:entry bom:count="!@bom_count"  bom:footprint="!@bom_footprint"  bom:ordernumber="!@bom_ordernumber"  bom:part="!@bom_part"  bom:value="!@bom_value"  xmlinput:list=""  xmlinput:data="!new_bom_entry(bom_count,bom_footprint,bom_ordernumber,bom_part,bom_value)"  xmlinput:class="bom_entry" >!set_text(text)</bom:entry>

As you see it is similar the input file. Elements which occur more as one are written here one time, but with the hint, use a list: xmlinput:list="" (scroll right above to see it).

  • All elements with the name space of xmlinput are hints how elememts should be processed.

  • Instead the values there are hints how to store the data. For example bom:count="!@bom_count" determines that the value of this attribute is stored in a temporary bom_count variable which is then used to create the element with

 xmlinput:data="!new_bom_entry(bom_count,bom_footprint,bom_ordernumber,bom_part,bom_value)"  xmlinput:class="bom_entry"

It means in the current storage class an operation new_bom_entry should be existing which is used to create the instance for an entry and store it in the given list. The XmlJzReader evaluates this information using Reflection in Java.

The text of the entry is stored calling set_text(text) which should be given as an operation of the created data (output of new_bom_entry).

This is the template to process any XML file with this structure.

You can change this gotten config.xml for your own, use other operations to store, and especially remove elements or attributes which are not needed. If the XmlJzReader finds data which are not contained in the config, it skipped over it.

Important: The analyzer.readXmlStruct(fXmlIn) should not be seen as 'Code generator' from given XML files to the config file, without change of the generated code and with currently re-generation. Instead, it should be seen as generation of a first start config.xml with following manual adaption, and maybe regeneration on changed situations with merging the new result with the old one.

The config file is similar a schema about the content of an XML file. But it does not follow the Xschema strategy. If you create the config file from one example of a user’s file and this file does not contain all possibilities, which you may need, you should use another file too and merge all.

Now you need only destination class definitions to store the data …​.

4. Example storage class for data, how to get

As well as from given XML input files the config.xml can be generated, from a given config.xml the proper Java Class can be generated which stores all data and support all operations which are listed in the config.xml file.

As also for generation config.xml from given XML data, this can be seen as generation of the first version of the Java Class which is furthermore manually maintained, maybe with re-generation and merge. But it is more near to the config.xml file, therefore, manual maintenance is not so obvious but possible.

The problem of generation and maintenance is: There may be requests to process the data immediately in the calling (generated) operations which are not substantiated in the config.xml file itself.

Look on the example for bom_cfg.xml from chapter above. The following statements create a proper Java class:

//from source: src/test/java/org/vishia/xmlReader/test/Test_XmlJzReaderSimpleExmpl.java
  static void genJavaClasses() {
    String[] args = 
      { "-cfg:src/test/files/xmlReader/bom_cfg.xml"
      , "-dirJava:" + Arguments.replaceEnv("$(TMP)/test_vishiaBase/Test_XmlJzReader/Java")
      , "-pkg:org.vishia.xmlReader.test"
      , "-class:ClassForBom"

This is the same as java.exe invocation from command line. The arguments are explained on empty call of this main:

  • -cfg: determines any valid config file, automatic created and/or manually changed.

  • -dirJava: is the output directory for the generation. Usual you should not override your pre-generated and maybe manually changed Java classes, instead you should generate to a temporary directory as here shown, and then compare and merge it.

  • -pkg: and -class: are the package path and class name.

The generation looks like (only excerp, the full classes are part of the test environment on src/test/java in the cmpnJava_vishiaBase githul archive and downloads):

/**This file is generated by genJavaOut.jzTc script. */
public class ClassForBom {
    protected BillOfMaterial billOfMaterial;
    /**Access to parse result.*/
    public BillOfMaterial get_BillOfMaterial() { return billOfMaterial; }

  /**Class for Component BillOfMaterial. */
  public static class BillOfMaterial {
    protected List<Bom_entry> bom_entry;
    /**Access to parse result, get the elements of the container bom_entry*/
    public Iterable<Bom_entry> get_bom_entry() { return bom_entry; }
    /**Access to parse result, get the size of the container bom_entry.*/
    public int getSize_bom_entry() { return bom_entry ==null ? 0 : bom_entry.size(); }

  /**Class for Component Bom_entry. */
  public static class Bom_entry {
    protected String bom_count;
    protected String bom_footprint;
    /**Access to parse result.*/
    public String get_bom_count() { return bom_count; }
    /**Access to parse result.*/
    public String get_bom_footprint() { return bom_footprint; }

Additionally a derived class is generated which contains only write operations:

/**This file is generated by genJavaOut.jzTc script.
 * It is the derived class to write Zbnf result. */
public class ClassForBom_Zbnf extends ClassForBom{
  /**Class for Component BillOfMaterial.*/
  public static class BillOfMaterial_Zbnf extends ClassForBom.BillOfMaterial {

    /**create and add routine for the list component <Bom_entry?bom_entry>. */
    public Bom_entry_Zbnf new_bom_entry() {
      Bom_entry_Zbnf val = new Bom_entry_Zbnf();
      if(super.bom_entry==null) { super.bom_entry = new LinkedList<Bom_entry>(); }
      return val;

    /**Creates an instance for the Xml data storage with default attibutes. &lt;Bom_entry?bom_entry&gt;  */
    public Bom_entry_Zbnf new_bom_entry(String bom_count, String bom_footprint, String bom_ordernumber, String bom_part, String bom_value ) {
      Bom_entry_Zbnf val = new Bom_entry_Zbnf();
      val.bom_count = bom_count;
      val.bom_footprint = bom_footprint;
      val.bom_ordernumber = bom_ordernumber;
      val.bom_part = bom_part;
      val.bom_value = bom_value;
      if(super.bom_entry==null) { super.bom_entry = new LinkedList<Bom_entry>(); }
      return val; //Note: needs the derived Zbnf-Type.

Both classes can also be used if the data come from the Zbnf_Parser.html. Because the Zbnf parser was the first one which uses the concept, the writer classes have the _Zbnf suffix.

This class offers an example where a manually change may be sensible: The element bom_count is a number. It may be stored in the data better as int value than as String. The conversion from the read text value (from XML, also from ZBNF) can be done immediately in this shown constructor. The user receives immediately this count as expected in integer. Also the names can/may be changed. The prefix bom_ comes from the name space in XML. The formal generation should regard it, but the user data do not need it. The names can be changed both in the confix.xml as also in the Java operations and data. It is better for the application to understand. The both worlds: gather and store data, and evaluate data, comes together here, it is the interface or border of both and can be proper adapted.

5. Example for parsing with config.xml and storage class

The example is contained in

//from source: src/test/java/org/vishia/xmlReader/test/Test_XmlJzReaderSimpleExmpl.java
  static void readTheBom() {
    XmlJzReader xmlReader = new XmlJzReader();
    try {
      XmlCfg cfg = xmlReader.readCfg(new File("src/test/files/xmlReader/bom_cfg.xml"));
      ClassForBom data = new ClassForBom_Zbnf();
      xmlReader.readXml(new File("src/test/files/xmlReader/bom_exmpl.xml"), data, cfg);
      System.out.println(data.get_BillOfMaterial().toString()); //set breakpoint here to view data
    } catch (IOException e) {

With one given instance of XmlJzReader it is possible to read more as one file, but with the given XmlJzReader.readCfg(…​) operation. or also with XmlJzReader.readCfgFromJar(…​). The last one is a typical operation because the config.xml file is often stored with given content inside a jar.

The Output data class data for the read XML data should be proper to the cfg.xml file, see chapter above. Here it is the generated class from the config.xml, as shown in chapter above. But the class can be tuned with more capability, so long as it matches to the config.xml. This class is associated to the root element of the read xml file, and, depending on the config.xml, also for further content. But usual referred sub instances are created for child nodes.

The XmlJzReader.readXml(file, dataOut) operation reads a XML file with the given config.xml and stores the result to dataOut. This is the usual used operation for XML files. Some more variants are given, read from a opened java.io.InputStream, from a java.io.Reader, from a zip file or some more, see chapter All operation variants to read XML data

6. Detail explanation of config.xml

The config.xml file has the key position of the XmlJzReader both for interpretation of the XML file content and for storing the data.

All identifier in upper case are placeholder for user identification.

It starts always with the root node:

<?xml version="1.0" encoding="utf-8"?>
<xmlinput:root xmlns:xmlinput="www.vishia.org/XmlReader-xmlinput">

6.1. subtree (similar as a sub routine)

The root node can contain some:

  <xmlinput:subtree xmlinput:name="SUBTREE_NAME">

This sub tree can contain the configuration of any part of an XML file which is inserted with:

  <ANY_TAG xmlinput:subtree="SUBTREE_NAME" xmlinput:data="!OPER_FOR_DATA()"/>

Subtrees can be used similar a subroutine call in a programming language either if a long nested structure should be broken in parts, or especially if the same XML tree structure is used on different positions.

The operation to create the data is associated on the subtree invocation. So on different positions different data can be created (which are of course similar because the sub tree internal data should match). - Usual using derived classes for the instances or usual really the same classes. But also the calling environment may be different, so differet creation routines are necessary.

6.2. The xmlinput:cfg node as main


is below the <xmlinput:root and beside the <xmlinput:subtree. It contains as sub nodes the expected nodes (tag names) of the XML files to read.

From the example above:

<xmlinput:root xmlns:xmlinput="www.vishia.org/XmlReader-xmlinput" >
  <xmlinput:cfg xmlinput:data="!new_root()"  xmlinput:class="root" >
    <BillOfMaterial xmlinput:data="!new_BillOfMaterial()"  xmlinput:class="BillOfMaterial"  xmlns:bom="www.vishia.org/XmlSeqWriter/ExampleBom" >
      <bom:entry bom:count="!@bom_count"  bom:footprint="!@bom_footprint"  bom:ordernumber="!@bom_ordernumber"  bom:part="!@bom_part"  bom:value="!@bom_value"  xmlinput:list=""  xmlinput:data="!new_bom_entry(bom_count,bom_footprint,bom_ordernumber,bom_part,bom_value)"  xmlinput:class="bom_entry" >!set_text(text)</bom:entry>

matches to a XML file:

<?xml version="1.0" encoding="ISO-8859-1"?>
<BillOfMaterial xmlns:bom="www.vishia.org/XmlSeqWriter/ExampleBom">
  <bom:entry bom:part="R" bom:value="3k3" bom:footprint="1206" bom:ordernumber="123456-789" bom:count="23">some resistors</bom:entry>

6.3. Sub nodes and attributes

The root node below <xmlinput:cfg> and any other node can contain sub nodes with given tag name. Then the occurrence of a node with this tag is accepted in the read XML file. The sub node definiton in the xmlCfg should contain a proper xmlinput:data="!…​" or ommit this as special case, see the next chapter.

All attribute values which are defined in the XmlCfg are used. Non defined attributes are ignored. See chapter [cfg_attrValue].

6.4. Sub nodes, decision using with specific attribute values

Sometimes nodes in an XML file have the same tag name but there are really different in the meaning of the data. Then often specific key attributes should control the usage of the data. This is also supported by the XmlJzReader:

Firstly you should define which attributes are used to check:

  <TAG ATTR1="!CHECK" />

Now this attribute type is used for checking. After them you can define some sub nodes with a specific value in the checked attributes:

  <TAG ATTR1="VALUE1" ..... > ..... </TAG>
  <TAG ATTR1="VALUE2" ..... > ..... </TAG>

Now you have two sub node variants for the configuration. Both sub node variants refer to the same TAG but they are independent. From the read XML file that sub node definition is used, which’s attribute value matches. If no attribute value is matching, this node is ignored by the XmlJzReader.

As example the configuration to read a part of a Simulink ( © Mathworks) slx file should be presented:

      <Line xmlinput:data="!addLine()">
        <P Name="!CHECK"/>
        <P Name="Name">!name</P>
        <P Name="ZOrder">!zorder</P>
        <P Name="Labels">!labels</P>
        <P Name="Src">!src</P>
        <P Name="Dst">!add_dst(text)</P>
        <Branch xmlinput:subtree="Branch" />

Here the properties of a line a not stored in attributes which may be expectable, instead, maybe for some reason, sub XML nodes all with the name <P are used. There is an association between name and value, the name determines the usage of the value. To evaluate this, the name sensitiveness is used here.

6.5. Data for a node

As already displayed above:


contains a reflection-evaluable expression (more exact evaluating by org.vishia.util.DataAccess used in the constructor DataPathElement("EXPRESSION", variables, null).

This EXPRESSION is executed in the data of the current (parent) node via reflection mechanism. For the root node the data instance is given from outside with invocation

xmljzReader.readXml( ..., data, ...);

The result of the EXPRESSION (value of a field, return value of an operation) is used as data for this node.

Same data from parent also for a sub node:

If you write xmlinput:data="!this" then the same instance is used for a sub node as for the parent node. This is sensible if a sub node can exists only one time and you will prevent a too much data nesting. But in this case you can omit this entry, it is the same (it means a child node, but not another instance for the data).

Access existing data via reference:

Similar as this you can have a referred instance (already existing) for a sub node writing xmlinput:data="!REF" with this public field REF.

Calling an opertion with arguments for data creation or access:

Usual it is proper to invoke an operation because the operation can programmatically create, check etc. for example to create a container for the first occurrence of an element with further adding, or check somewhat other information. The operation can have parameter. That is tag for the tag name of this XML node and the content of special named attributes of this XML node. All attributes are gathered firstly before calling the xmlinput:data="!CREATE_OPER(ARG1, ARG2)" according the following schema:

 <TAG ATTR="!@ARG1" ATTR2="!@ARG2" xmlinput:data="!CREATE_OPER(ARG1, ARG2)" .....

For the argument variable the identifier after "!@ is relevant, not the attribute name. But usual both may be exact the same or similar.

The advantage of giving attribute values to the operation is: The operation can decide with this attribute values what to do. A second one: If a constructor is called (often so), then the attribute values can be stored as final values in the class. Using final designation has an advantage for software engineering. And last but not least: It can be checked the attribute values in their interrelations, can be calculate resulting values, and if necessary stored as private. An operation with values has more flexibility.

[#cfg_attrValue]_=== Store data of attributes

The attribute values can be either gather as argument values as shown above. Or it can be also written with an expression or operations to the data which are associated to the new node. This is of course the returned data from the xmlinput:data="!…​." access.

 <TAG ATTR="!EXPRESSION" ATTR2="!OPERATION(name, value)" xmlinput:data="!...." .....

The EXPRESSION presents the reference, where to store the data. This reference is evaluated via Reflection. It means it presents a java.lang.reflect.Field.

But if the EXPRESSION is an OPERATION(name, value) as shown for ATTR2 which uses the value as argument, then the return value of the OPERATION is not used. It can be void. Of course the value of the attribute (in the variable value) is already able to store in the OPERATION itself. The name argument is the name of the attribute given as written (with name space short form). It is optional. Also the tag can be used as argument. The type of this arguments in the OPERATION(…​) argument list have to be String.

If the OPERATION(…​) does not use the value argument and it returns a java.lang.reflect.Field then this field is used to store the attribute value, as also for a simple expression.

6.6. Store a text inside a XML node

Inside a XML node there can be sub nodes or free texts. They can be more as one text between some sub nodes. That order may be semantically important, but an order of the texts with sub nodes cannot be regarded formally in the config.xml.

Storing a text inside a node us describes similar as storing of values of attributes as:

 <TAG ... xmlinput:data="!...." >!EXPRESSION<SUBNODE...></TAG>
 <TAG ... xmlinput:data="!...." >!OPERATION(tag, text)<SUBNODE...></TAG>

It means the EXPRESSION or OPERATION(…​) is written in the config.xml as value inside the node (instead the expected text of a read xml).

This EXPRESSION or OPERATION(…​) is used for any text in the read xml and it is invoked in order of the read xml together with the order of sub nodes. It means, especially if an OPERATION(…​) is used, the operation can sort in the texts in the context also of the other sub nodes.

The argument text contains the text in this sub range (between the maybe existing sub nodes, not as a whole).

7. All operation variants to read XML data

There are some operations with and without immediately given configuration (XmlCfg) reading from a File, opened ressource and from a zip archive.

7.1. Reading with given XmlCfg

You need anyway an instance of org.vishia.xmlReader.XmlJzReader

An instance of The org.vishia.xmlReader.XmlCfg can be gotten with calling:

Both routines uses XML files, but one as really file, one as file in a jar. The result is a XmlCfg instance, which is also referenced in the XmlJzReader to use the reader with extra given cfg. But the reference as return value can also be stored as reference for your own.

Now you can invoke a XmlJzReader on demand with the different gotten configurations:

7.2. Reading with one time defined XmlCfg

The routines to define the configuration for the XmlJzReader instance are the same as to get a XmlCfg because the gotten configuration is referenced in the XmlJzReader instance.

Then you can invoke

That are the same operations as with given xmlCfg, only this argument is missed - because it is used from the internal stored last usage.