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Walkthrough: Using SAX2 features with the Qt XML classes

This document assumes that you are familiar with namespaces in XML and the concept of a SAX2 parser. If features of SAX2 readers are new to you please read the feature section of the SAX2 document.

As a novice to the Qt XML classes it is advisable to have a look at the tiny SAX2 parser walkthrough before reading on.

This walkthrough covers two topics: First of all it shows how to set SAX2 features and secondly how to integrate the Qt XML functionality into a Qt GUI application.

The resulting application allows you to compare the output of the reader depending on how the two features http://xml.org/sax/features/namespace-prefixes and http://xml.org/sax/features/namespaces are set. To do this it shows tree views of the read XML file listing the qualified names of elements and attributes and the respective namespace URIs.

Setting features

Let's begin with the main program of the application. First the boring part: we include all the classes we need:

    #include "structureparser.h"
    #include <qapplication.h>
    #include <qfile.h>
    #include <qxml.h>
    #include <qlistview.h>
    #include <qgrid.h>
    #include <qmainwindow.h>
    #include <qlabel.h>

structureparser.h contains the API of the XML parser that we implement in structureparser.cpp.

    int main( int argc, char **argv )
        QApplication app( argc, argv );

As usual we then create a Qt application object and hand command line arguments over to it.

        QFile xmlFile( argc == 2 ? argv[1] : "fnord.xml" );

If the user runs the program with one filename as an argument we process this file, otherwise we use the fnord.xml file from the example directory for demonstration purposes.

        QXmlInputSource source( &xmlFile );

We use xmlFile as the XML Input Source...

        QXmlSimpleReader reader;

... and instantiate a reader object. Later we will manipulate its features and thus influence how the XML data are read.

        QGrid * container = new QGrid( 3 );

Now let's think about presenting the output: As described in the Qt SAX2 documentation there are three valid combinations of http://xml.org/sax/features/namespace-prefixes and http://xml.org/sax/features/namespaces: TRUE/TRUE, TRUE/FALSE and FALSE/TRUE. To show the relevant output side by side of each other and mark them with three labels makes up for a grid layout consisting of three columns (and thus two lines).

        QListView * nameSpace = new QListView( container, "table_namespace" );

The most natural way of presenting XML elements is in a tree. Thus we use a listview. Its name nameSpace indicates that this one will be used to present the combination of http://xml.org/sax/features/namespaces being TRUE and http://xml.org/sax/features/namespace-prefixes being FALSE -- the default configuration of a QXmlSimpleReader.

Being the first grid entry the nameSpace listview will appear in the upper left corner of the virtual grid.

        StructureParser * handler = new StructureParser( nameSpace );

Then we create a handler that deals with the XML data read by the reader. As the provided handler class QXmlDefaultHandler simply does nothing with the data from the reader, we can't use it right away. Instead we have to subclass our own StructureParser from it.

        reader.setContentHandler( handler );

The handler serves as content handler for the reader. Note that for simplicity reasons we don't register e.g. an error handler. Thus our program will not complain about for example missing closing tags in the parsed XML document.

        reader.parse( source );

Finally we parse the document with the reader's default feature settings.

        QListView * namespacePrefix = new QListView( container,
                                                     "table_namespace_prefix" );

Now we prepare for the parsing of the same XML input source with different reader settings. The output will be presented in a second QListView, namespacePrefix. As it is the second member of the container grid it will appear in the middle of the upper grid row.

        handler->setListView( namespacePrefix );

Then we ask the handler to present the data in the namespacePrefix listview.

        reader.setFeature( "http://xml.org/sax/features/namespace-prefixes",
                           TRUE );

Now we modify the behaviour of the reader and change http://xml.org/sax/features/namespace-prefixes from the default FALSE to TRUE. The http://xml.org/sax/features/namespaces feature has still its default setting TRUE.


We have to reset the input source to make the new parsing start from the beginning of the document again.

        reader.parse( source );

Finally we parse the XML file a second time with the changed reader settings (TRUE/TRUE).

        QListView * prefix = new QListView( container, "table_prefix");
        handler->setListView( prefix );
        reader.setFeature( "http://xml.org/sax/features/namespaces", FALSE );
        reader.parse( source );

Next we prepare and use the upper right listview to show the reader results with the feature setting http://xml.org/sax/features/namespaces FALSE and http://xml.org/sax/features/namespace-prefixes TRUE.

        // namespace label
        (void) new QLabel(
                 "http://xml.org/sax/features/namespaces: TRUE\n"
                 "http://xml.org/sax/features/namespace-prefixes: FALSE\n",
                 container );

        // namespace prefix label
        (void) new QLabel(
                 "http://xml.org/sax/features/namespaces: TRUE\n"
                 "http://xml.org/sax/features/namespace-prefixes: TRUE\n",
                 container );

        // prefix label
        (void) new QLabel(
                 "http://xml.org/sax/features/namespaces: FALSE\n"
                 "http://xml.org/sax/features/namespace-prefixes: TRUE\n",
                 container );

The second row of the container grid is filled with three labels denoting the reader settings that belong to the above listview.

        app.setMainWidget( container );
        return app.exec();

Same procedure as with every Qt GUI program: the grid serves as the main widget of our application and is shown. After that we enter the GUI's event loop.

The handler API

Let's have a brief look at the API of our handler class StructureParser:

    #include <qxml.h>
    #include <qptrstack.h>

    class QListView;
    class QListViewItem;
    class QString;

    class StructureParser: public QXmlDefaultHandler

We derive it from the QXmlDefaultHandler class that implements a handler that simply does nothing.

        StructureParser( QListView * );

This makes it easy for us to implement only the functionality we in fact need. In our case this is the constructor that takes a QListView as an argument,

        bool startElement( const QString&, const QString&, const QString& ,
                           const QXmlAttributes& );

the function to execute at the occurrence of element start tags (inherited from QXmlContentHandler), and

        bool endElement( const QString&, const QString&, const QString& );

the code to run when an end tag occurs.

All we have to implement so far is content handling.

        void setListView( QListView * );

In addition we have a function that selects a listview for the output.

        QPtrStack<QListViewItem> stack;

Keep in mind that we write a SAX2 parser that doesn't have an object model to keep all elements and attributes in memory. To display the elements and attributes in a tree like structure we must however keep track of all elements that haven't been closed yet.

To do this we use a LIFO stack of QListItems. An element will be added to the stack when its start tag appears and removed as soon as its end tag is parsed.

        QListView * table;

Apart from this we define a member variable that contains the currently used listview.

The handler itself

Now that we defined the API we have to implement the relevant functions.

    #include "structureparser.h"

    #include <qstring.h>
    #include <qlistview.h>

    StructureParser::StructureParser( QListView * t )
                    : QXmlDefaultHandler()

First we have the constructor that takes a listview pointer as its argument.

        setListView( t );

All we have to do here is to prepare the argument QListView before usage. This we do with the setListView() function.

    void StructureParser::setListView( QListView * t )
        table = t;

First we store the argument away.

        table->setSorting( -1 );

We want the elements to be listed as they appear in the document -- and not for example sorted alphabetically. That's why we switch off sorting at all.

        table->addColumn( "Qualified name" );
        table->addColumn( "Namespace" );

The listview now consists of two columns: one for the element's or attribute's qualified names and one for their namespace URIs. Columns are added from left to right and with the title as an argument.

Now let's deal with XML content handling.

    bool StructureParser::startElement( const QString& namespaceURI,
                                        const QString& ,
                                        const QString& qName,
                                        const QXmlAttributes& attributes)

When we come across the start tag of an element the handler does the real work. Although startElement is called with four arguments we keep track of only three: the namespace URI of the element, its qualified name and its attributes. If an element has no namespace assigned or if the feature settings of the reader don't provide the handler with namespace URIs at all namespaceURI contains an empty string.

Note that we don't assign a variable to the second argument -- we're simply not interested in the local name of the element.

        QListViewItem * element;

Whenever an element occurs we want to show it in the listview. Therefore we define a QListViewItem variable.

        if ( ! stack.isEmpty() ){
            QListViewItem *lastChild = stack.top()->firstChild();

As long as the element stack isn't empty the current element is a child of the topmost (last unclosed) element on the stack. Thus we create a new QListViewItem as a child of QPtrStack::stack.top() with the new element's qualified name in the first column and the according namespace URI (or nothing) in the second one.

The QListViewItem is usally inserted as the first child. This means that we would get the elements in reverse order. So we first search for the last child of the QPtrStack::stack.top() element and insert it after this element.

In a valid XML document this applies to all elements except the document root.

            if ( lastChild ) {
                while ( lastChild->nextSibling() )
                    lastChild = lastChild->nextSibling();
            element = new QListViewItem( stack.top(), lastChild, qName, namespaceURI );
        } else {
            element = new QListViewItem( table, qName, namespaceURI );

The root element we have to handle separately because it is the first element to go onto the QListViewItem stack. Its listview item is therefore a direct child of the table listview itself.

        stack.push( element );

Now we put the element's listview item on top of the stack.

        element->setOpen( TRUE );

By default a QListView presents all of its nodes closed. The user may then click on the + icon to see the child entries.

We however want to see the entire element tree at once when we run the program. Therefore we open each listview item manually.

        if ( attributes.length() > 0 ) {

What do we do if an element has attributes?

            for ( int i = 0 ; i < attributes.length(); i++ ) {
                new QListViewItem( element, attributes.qName(i), attributes.uri(i) );

For each of them we create a new listview item to present the attribute's qualified name and the relevant namespace URI (or nothing). Obviously attribute is a child of the current element.

        return TRUE;

To prevent the reader from throwing an error we have to return TRUE when we successfully dealt with an element's start tag.

    bool StructureParser::endElement( const QString&, const QString&,
                                      const QString& )

Whenever we come across an element's closing tag we have to remove its listview item from the stack as it can't have children any longer.

        return TRUE;

And so we're done.

See also Step-by-step Examples.

Copyright © 2002 TrolltechTrademarks
Qt version 3.1.1