Presentation of XML Commands

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version 2004.1 (Modified)

4th Dimension includes a set of commands used for parsing objects containing XML (eXtensible Markup Language) data.

About the XML language

The XML language is a data exchange standard. It is based on the use of tags and enables precise description of the data exchanged as well as their structure. XML files are Text format files; their content is parsed by the applications importing the data. Many applications now support this format.

For more information about XML, refer, for instance, to the and sites.

For XML support, 4th Dimension uses a library named Xerces.dll developed by the Apache Foundation company. 4th Dimension supports XML version 1.0.

Note: 4th Dimension allows direct importing and exporting of data in XML format using the import/export editor.

DOM commands and SAX commands

4th Dimension offers two separate sets of XML commands, prefixed DOM and SAX.

What are DOM and SAX ?

DOM (Document Object Model) and SAX (Simple API XML) are two different parsing modes for XML documents.

The DOM mode parses an XML source and builds its structure (its "tree") in memory. Because of this, access to each element of the source is extremely fast. However, since the entire tree structure is stored in memory, the processing of large XML documents may lead to the memory capacity being exceeded and thus provoke errors.

The SAX mode does not build a tree structure in memory. In this mode, "events" (such as the start and end of an element) are generated when parsing the source. This mode lets you parse XML documents of any size, regardless of the amount of memory available.

For more information on XML standards, consult the following sites: and

Creating, opening and closing XML documents via DOM

Objects created, modified or parsed by the 4D DOM commands can be text, URLs, documents or BLOBs. The DOM commands used for opening XML objects in 4th Dimension are DOM Parse XML source and DOM Parse XML variable.

Many commands then let you read, parse and write the elements and attributes. Errors are recovered using the GET XML ERROR command (common to both XML standards).

The DOM CLOSE XML command lets you close the source in the end.

Creating, opening and closing XML documents via SAX

The SAX commands work with the standard document references of 4th Dimension (DocRef, Time type reference). It is therefore possible to use these commands jointly with the 4D commands used to manage documents, such as SEND PACKET or Append document.

The creation and opening of XML documents by programming is carried out using the Create document and Open document commands. Subsequently, the use of an XML command with these documents will cause the automatic implementation of XML mechanisms such as encoding. For instance, the <?xml version="1.0" encoding="… encodage …" standalone = "no "?> header will be written automatically in the document.

Note: Documents read by SAX commands must be opened in read-only mode by the Open document command. This avoids any conflict between 4th Dimension and the Xerces library when you open "standard" and XML documents simultaneously. If you execute a SAX parsing command with a document open in read-write mode, an alert message is displayed and parsing is impossible.

Closing an XML document must be carried out using the CLOSE DOCUMENT command. If any XML elements were open, they will be closed automatically.

Use of XPath notation (DOM)

Three DOM commands (DOM Create XML element, DOM Find XML element and DOM SET XML ELEMENT VALUE) accept XPath notation for accessing XML elements.

XPath notation comes from the XPath language, designed to navigate within XML structures. It allows the setting of elements directly within an XML structure via a "pathname" type syntax, without necessarily having to indicate the complete pathname in order to reach it. For example, given the following structure:

            <Elem3 Font=Verdana  Size=10> </Elem3>

XPath notation allows you to access element 3 using the /RootElement/Elem1/Elem2/Elem3 syntax.

4th Dimension also accepts indexed XPath elements using the Element[ElementNum] syntax. For example, given the following structure:


XPath notation allows you to access the "ccc" value using the /RootElement/Elem1/Elem2[3] syntax.

For an illustration of XPath notation, please refer to the examples in the DOM Create XML element and DOM Find XML element commands.

XSL transformations management

4th Dimension supports the application of XSL style sheets (eXtended Stylesheet Language). The XSL language allows you to modify the tags of an XML document.

The XSL language features two different aspects:

Formatting: It allows you to apply style and display rules to XML elements, similar to CSS (Cascading StyleSheet) in HTML.

Transformations: It allows you to change XML tags to a different tag system, for example, HTML. This function is known as XSLT. An XSL style sheet can totally reorganize the XML elements of a document by selecting them then transforming them into other elements. This function is useful, for example, for synchronizing a set of dissimilar documents.

Note: 4th Dimension uses the Xalan-C_1_6_0.dll library to perform XSL transformations. Xalan is a freeware XSLT processor. For more information, please visit

XSL style sheets are text documents (with .xsl extensions) generated manually or using specialized applications. The XSL language features various elements and functions that allow you to perform any type of dynamic transformation. For more information on this language, please visit (for example).

4th Dimension allows you to transform an XML document using an existing XSL style sheet (APPLY XSLT TRANSFORMATION command). Also, 4th Dimension allows you to modify XSL style sheet parameters on the fly using the SET XSLT PARAMETER command.

Note: An option in the export dialog box lets you use an XSL style sheet when exporting XML and thus generate a transformed XML document.


The XML language uses a number of specific terms and acronyms. This non-exhaustive list details the main XML concepts used by the commands and functions of 4th Dimension.

Attribute: an XML sub-tag associated with an element. An attribute always contains a name and a value (see diagram below).

Child: In an XML structure, an element in a level directly below another.

DTD: Document Type Declaration The DTD records the set of specific rules and properties that the XML must follow. These rules define, more particularly, the name and content of each tag as well as its context. This formalization of the elements can be used to check whether an XML document is in compliance (in which case, it is declared "valid").

The DTD may be included in the XML document (internal DTD) or in a separate document (external DTD). Note that the DTD is not mandatory.

Element: an XML tag. An element always contains a name and a value. Optionally, an element may contain attributes (see diagram).

ElementRef: XML reference used by the 4D XML commands to specify an XML structure. This reference is made up of 8 coded characters in hexadecimal form, which means it consists of 16 characters.

Parent: In an XML structure, an element in a level directly above another.

Parsing, parser: The act of analyzing the contents of a structured object in order to extract useful information. The commands of the "XML" theme are used to parse the contents of any XML objects.

Root: An element located at the first level of an XML structure.

Sibling: In an XML structure, an element at the same level as another.

Structure XML: structured XML object. This object can be a document, a variable, or an element.

Validation: An XML document is "validated" by the parser when it is "well-formed" and in compliance with the DTD specifications. See also Well-formed.

Well-formed: An XML document is declared "well-formed" by the parser when it complies with the generic XML specifications. See also Validation.

XML: eXtensible Markup Language. A computerized data exchange standard enabling the transfer of data as well as their structure. The XML language is based on the use of tags and a specific syntax, in keeping with the HTML language. However, unlike the latter, the XML language allows the definition of customized tags.

XSL: eXtensible Stylesheet Language. A language permitting the definition of style sheets used to process and display the contents of an XSL document.

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