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Getting Started with XOM

November 27, 2002

Michael Fitzgerald

Elliotte Rusty Harold's new XML Object Model ( XOM) is a simple, tree-based API for XML, written in Java. XOM attempts to build on good ideas from other Java XML APIs -- SAX, DOM, and JDOM -- and to leave behind some of their frustrations. The result is a high-level open-source API that is easy to learn and use, assuming that you are already familiar with Java and XML.

Unlike SAX, XOM is written with classes instead of interfaces, making it more straightforward to use. With SAX you must first implement interfaces before you can get it to work. This work is eased somewhat by helper classes like DefaultHandler; but overall, interfaces make programming in SAX somewhat more complex, even though they also make SAX uniform and flexible. XOM's classes provide some flexibility by offering a number of check methods that may be overridden in subclasses.

XOM does not stand by itself. It depends on an underlying SAX parser, such as a recent version of Xerces, to handle well-formedness checking and validation. XOM provides a simple interface to a parser, in effect hiding code without much of a performance hit.

I like XOM for the same reasons I like RELAX NG: you can pick it up in a snap if you already have a reasonable familiarity with Java idioms. And, like RELAX NG, the more I use XOM, the more I like it. It is well considered and doesn't try to do everything or please everybody. For more information on XOM's relationship to other XML APIs, you can read a presentation that Elliotte gave at the New York XML SIG meeting on 17 September 2002.

On the other hand, if you are underwhelmed by XOM's simplicity, you can go back to your favorite old API or mix APIs, taking what you like from each. But if simplicity, openness, and ready availability are keys to the wide adoption of software, XOM has little problem measuring up to that standard.

Bear in mind that XOM is still a work in progress. This article only walks through part of the interface, but it should give you enough example code to get you well on your way.

The sample programs and documents discussed in this article are available for download in ZIP archive form. And you can read the Javadocs for nu.xom.* online.

To run the examples, your system must have:

  • Java version 1.2 or later. I have tested the examples with Java version 1.4 in a Windows 2000 environment.
  • Xerces version 2.1 or later. I have tested appropriate examples with Xerces 2.2.
  • The latest XOM JAR file. The latest version at this writing is xom-1.0d8.jar.

Parsing a Document with XOM

Create a working directory and unzip the program archive there. Copy the Xerces and XOM JAR files there, too. The program Wf.java checks a document for XML 1.0 well-formedness:



import java.io.IOException;

import nu.xom.Builder;

import nu.xom.Document;

import nu.xom.ParseException;



public class Wf {



    public static void main(String[] args)

        throws IOException, ParseException {



        Builder builder = new Builder();

        Document doc = builder.build(args[0]);

        System.out.println(doc.toXML());



    }



}

To compile the program, type the command:

javac -classpath xom.jar Wf.java

Use colons to separate the JAR files if you are working on a UNIX platform. The command line explicitly places the Xerces and XOM JARs on the classpath, making it evident what is going on. I've renamed the latest XOM JAR, from "xom-1.0d8.jar" to "xom.jar" for simplicity. After you successfully compile the program, you can run it by typing

java -cp .;xercesImpl.jar;xom.jar Wf file:///wrk/inst.xml

The fully qualified file path for the argument to Wf may work more reliably than the filename alone, depending on your platform. If the program runs successfully and inst.xml proves to be well-formed (it should), the program will echo the input and add an XML declaration:



<?xml version="1.0"?>

<instant>

 <date month="December" day="1" year="2002"/>

 <time hour="10" minute="17" second="33" zone="PST"/>

</instant>

Wf.java imports three XOM classes: nu.xom.Builder, nu.xom.Document, and nu.xom.ParseException. Builder creates a document object by reading an XML document. It can pick up the document from a file (as shown), a URL, or an input stream. Builder's build() method actually reads the document. Document represents the document, including its document element and prolog. XML output is delivered by Document's toXML() method, with help from System.out.println(). The entire document is echoed using this mechanism, with an XML declaration thrown in as part of the parcel.

The IOException and ParseException classes are checked and therefore required. They are declared the easy way in Wf.java, that is, with a throws keyword. Wf2.java uses a try/catch statement instead.

Validating a Document with XOM

With just a few changes, you can add validation support. In the following program (Val.java), notice three additions highlighted in bold.



import java.io.IOException;

import nu.xom.Builder;

import nu.xom.Document;

import nu.xom.ParseException;

import nu.xom.ValidityException;



public class Val {



    public static void main(String[] args)

        throws IOException, ParseException, ValidityException {



        Builder builder = new Builder(true);

        Document doc = builder.build(args[0]);

        System.out.println(doc.toXML());



    }



}

When you add true as an argument to the Builder constructor, you create a document object that is set for validation. When this is the case, you also need to check for validity exceptions by importing nu.xom.ValidityException and declaring it on main() or in a try/catch statement (see Val2.java).

Compile this program and then run it against instant.xml with this command:

java -cp .;xercesImpl.jar;xom.jar Val file:///wrk/instant.xml

The document is validated against the DTD asserted in the document type declaration, intant.dtd:

<!ELEMENT instant (date, time)>

<!ELEMENT date EMPTY>

<!ATTLIST date month NMTOKEN #REQUIRED

               day NMTOKEN #REQUIRED

               year NMTOKEN #REQUIRED>

<!ELEMENT time EMPTY>

<!ATTLIST time hour NMTOKEN #REQUIRED

               minute NMTOKEN #REQUIRED

               second NMTOKEN #REQUIRED

               zone NMTOKEN #REQUIRED>

When running Val.class, success is indicated when the program echoes its input:



<?xml version="1.0"?>

<!DOCTYPE instant SYSTEM "instant.dtd">

<instant>

 <date month="December" day="1" year="2002"/>

 <time hour="10" minute="17" second="33" zone="PST"/>

</instant>

Adding Elements and Attributes

Suppose you picked up a copy of inst.xml and you wanted to add an element with an attribute to it? The program AddUtc.java does just that (note changes in bold):

import java.io.IOException;

import nu.xom.Attribute;

import nu.xom.Builder;

import nu.xom.Document;

import nu.xom.Element;

import nu.xom.ParseException;



public class AddUtc {



    public static void main(String[] args)

        throws IOException, ParseException {



        Builder builder = new Builder();

        Document doc = builder.build("inst.xml");

        Element root = doc.getRootElement();

        Element utc = new Element("utc");

        Attribute att = new Attribute("offset", "-08:00");

        utc.addAttribute(att);

        root.insertChild(0, "\n ");

        root.insertChild(1, utc);

        root.removeChild(4);

        root.removeChild(4);

        System.out.println(doc.toXML());



    }



}

This program imports the Element and Attribute classes from the nu.xom package. Instead of using a command line argument to pick up a file to parse, it is hardcoded to grab inst.xml. It uses the getRootElement() method from the Document class to determine the document element of inst.xml.

A utc element is created along with an offset attribute using the Attribute class. The addAttribute() method from Element adds this attribute to the utc element. Calling insertChild() inserts a text child at position 0, immediately after the root element time. Following that, insertChild() places the utc element at position 1.

The code also removes the time element (and preceding whitespace) by using the removeChild() method twice with the same argument value. (The argument represents a node position.) After XOM removes the first node (two contiguous whitespace characters), the following node (the time element) moves up in the tree to the position previously occupied by the whitespace.

The result looks like this (utc.xml):



<?xml version="1.0"?>

<instant>

 <utc offset="-08:00" />

 <date month="December" day="1" year="2002" />

</instant>

Serializing Output

You can use the Serializer class to encode output, format it, or send it to a file, among other things. The Time.java program shows you how to do this.



import java.io.FileOutputStream;

import java.io.IOException;

import nu.xom.Attribute;

import nu.xom.Builder;

import nu.xom.Element;

import nu.xom.Document;

import nu.xom.Serializer;

import nu.xom.ParseException;



public class Time {



    public static void main(String[] args)

        throws IOException, ParseException {



        Builder builder = new Builder();

        Document doc = builder.build("inst.xml");

        Element root = doc.getRootElement();

        Element utc = new Element("utc");

        Attribute att = new Attribute("offset", "-08:00");

        utc.addAttribute(att);

        root.insertChild(0, "\n ");

        root.insertChild(1, utc);

        root.removeChild(4);

        root.removeChild(4);



        Element time = new Element("time");    

        Element hr = new Element("hour");

        time.appendChild(hr);

        hr.appendChild("10");

        Element min = new Element("minute");

        time.appendChild(min);

        min.appendChild("17");

        Element sec = new Element("second");

        time.appendChild(sec);

        sec.appendChild("33");

        Element zone = new Element("zone");

        time.appendChild(zone);

        zone.appendChild("PST");

        root.appendChild(time);



        FileOutputStream out = new FileOutputStream("inst-new.xml");

        Serializer ser = new Serializer(out, "ISO-8859-1");

        ser.setIndent(1);

        ser.write(doc);



    }



}

The program creates five elements and appends these nodes after the last remaining child of instant, which happens to be the date element (the old time element having been removed). The FileOutputStream is also imported and an output file is created (inst-new.xml). The constructor for Serializer specifies an output stream and a character encoding (ISO-8859-1). Serializer also supports encoding for UTF-8, UTF-16, ISO-10646-USC-2, and ISO-8859-2 through ISO-8859-16. The setIndent() method indents child nodes by a line feed plus one space character. The write() method writes the document to the file inst-new.xml:



<?xml version="1.0" encoding="ISO-8859-1"?>

<instant> 

 <utc offset="-08:00"/> 

 <date month="December" day="1" year="2002"/> 

 <time>

  <hour>10</hour>

  <minute>17</minute>

  <second>33</second>

  <zone>PST</zone>

 </time>

</instant>

Without Serializer, the output of the new elements would appear without indentation, as in time2.xml (see Time2.java):



<?xml version="1.0"?>

<instant>

 <utc offset="-08:00" />

 <date month="December" day="1" year="2002" />

<time><hour>10</hour><minute>17</minute><second>33</second>

<zone>PST</zone></time></instant>

You could also send the new XML document to standard output instead of a file (see the Serializer constructor in Time3.java).

One More Program

This last program, Final.java, adds several other common structures to the XML document:



import java.io.FileOutputStream;

import java.io.IOException;

import nu.xom.Attribute;

import nu.xom.Builder;

import nu.xom.Comment;

import nu.xom.DocType;

import nu.xom.Element;

import nu.xom.Document;

import nu.xom.Serializer;

import nu.xom.Text;

import nu.xom.ProcessingInstruction;

import nu.xom.ParseException;



public class Final {



    public static void main(String[] args)

        throws IOException, ParseException {



        Builder builder = new Builder();

        Document doc = builder.build("inst.xml");

        Element root = doc.getRootElement();



        DocType dtd = new DocType("instant", "final.dtd");

        ProcessingInstruction pi =

            new ProcessingInstruction("xml-stylesheet",

                "href=\"final.xsl\" type=\"text/xsl\"");

        doc.insertChild(0, dtd);

        doc.insertChild(1, pi);



        Element utc = new Element("utc", "http://www.wyeast.net/utc");

        Comment gmt = new Comment(" Greenwich Mean Time ");

        Attribute att = new Attribute("offset", "-08:00");

        utc.addAttribute(att);

        root.insertChild(0, "\n ");

        root.insertChild(1, gmt);

        root.insertChild(2, "\n ");

        root.insertChild(3, utc);

        root.removeChild(6);

        root.removeChild(6);



        Element time = new Element("time");    

        Element hr = new Element("hour");

        time.appendChild(hr);

        Text h = new Text("11");

        h.setData("10");

        hr.appendChild(h);

        Element min = new Element("minute");

        time.appendChild(min);

        min.appendChild("17");

        Element sec = new Element("second");

        time.appendChild(sec);

        sec.appendChild("33");

        Element zone = new Element("zone", "urn:wyeast-net:utc");

        zone.setNamespaceURI("http://www.wyeast.net/utc");

        time.appendChild(zone);

        zone.appendChild("PST");

        root.appendChild(time);



        FileOutputStream out = new FileOutputStream("final.xml");

        Serializer ser = new Serializer(out, "UTF-8");

        ser.setIndent(3);

        ser.write(doc);



    } 

}

This program creates both a document type declaration and a processing instruction, then inserts them into the prolog of the final.xml. A namespace is declared for the utc element and a comment is inserted just above it. The text child or content of the hour element is set with the Text class; then it's changed with the setData() method of Text. Another namespace is set for zone in its Element constructor and then altered with the setNamespaceURI() method.

Here is the file that this program outputs:



<?xml version="1.0" encoding="UTF-8"?>

<!DOCTYPE instant SYSTEM "final.dtd">

<?xml-stylesheet href="final.xsl" type="text/xsl"?>

<instant>

   <!-- Greenwich Mean Time -->

   <utc xmlns="http://www.wyeast.net/utc" offset="-08:00"/>

   <date month="December" day="1" year="2002"/> 

   <time>

      <hour>10</hour>

      <minute>17</minute>

      <second>33</second>

      <zone xmlns="http://www.wyeast.net/utc">PST</zone>

   </time>

</instant>

Wrapping Up

It's worth noting that XOM avoids convenience methods like the plague. But it is flexible enough to allows users to write their own methods in subclasses. XOM also has several other packages, which I haven't discussed in this article: nu.com.canonical, a serializer for outputting canonical XML; nu.xom.xslt, supporting XSLT transformations for TrAX-aware processors, such as Saxon; and nu.xom.xinclude, an implementation of XML Inclusions.

I've found XOM to be simple and straightforward. It offers me a lot of functionality without much fuss. If you have any suggestions for XOM's development, contribute them by subscribing to the XOM-interest mailing list.