Processing XML files

XML files are a great way to store hierarchal information; so are the databases. And with SQLITE3, you can embed the databases inside your application. So which one to choose? Not at all easy to answer! This all depends on what you need. If you have and embedded system, then having sqlite will have so that you need not use XML parsing libraries (which should be quite large vis a vis sqlite. Although I am not quite sure about the sizes of various XML libraries.)

It is recommended that when XML files are small (upto 1-2 MB), they outperform any database. We can parse XML and store it in memory. Searching this in-memory-representation is much faster than querying databases. When XML files are very large then we may consider using database such as sqlite. For more discussion see this question.

If we have chosen the XML to store our information, then we may also at look the languages in which XMLs are relatively easy to handle. I found JAVA (openjdk) to be very prolific with  XML. Have a look at XML-Schema and how easy it is to parse an XML file to Java objects (it is easy once you have become familiar with XML-Schema). There are some tools to generate this schema automatically such as trang and to generate JAVA classes automatically such as xjc. But do not rely on these tools only. Learn to hand-code the schema. It’ll save to a lot of time later.

If you need to search XML files, then I’d recommend XPath. DOM is also good and would beat XPath in terms of speed. DOM is lower level and should be much faster than XPath. DOM and XPath are specifications and you need to find a good implementation before comparing them. You should ask or browse stackoverflow.com before making a decision.

Python is also a great candidate for parsing XML files. In fact, Python is a very prolific language and if you are looking for an easy and powerful language then Python is for you (Of course, no one can beat C as far as performance is concerned).

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About Dilawar

Graduate Student at National Center for Biological Sciences, Bangalore.
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One Response to Processing XML files

  1. Pingback: Debugging with ncurses-based console « Dilawar's Notes

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