Reading and Writing XML Files

Writing XML Files :

Okay lets see how we can write XML files. Writing and Reading Xml files are most important because sometimes they can also be used as a database. Lets see how we can write and read xml files. 

Typically, you use an XmlTextWriter if you need to write XML as raw data without the overhead of a DOM. The XmlTextWriter is an implementation of the XmlWriter class that provides the API which writes XML to file, stream, or a TextWriter. This class provides numerous validation and checking rules to ensure that the XML being written is well formed. When certain violations occur, exceptions are thrown and these exceptions should be handled. The XmlTextWriter has different constructors, each of which specifies a different type of the location to which to write the XML data. This sample uses the constructor that writes XML to a file. In particular, the following sample code constructs an XmlTextWriter with a string representing the file location for the newbooks.xml file.

XmlTextWriter myXmlTextWriter = new XmlTextWriter (“newbooks.xml”, null);
C# Code:
myXmlTextWriter.Formatting = Formatting.Indented;
myXmlTextWriter.WriteDocType(“bookstore”, null, “books.dtd”, null);
myXmlTextWriter.WriteComment(“This file represents another fragment of a book store inventory database”);
myXmlTextWriter.WriteStartElement(“book”, null);
myXmlTextWriter.WriteElementString(“title”, null, “The Autobiography of Mark Twain”);
myXmlTextWriter.WriteStartElement(“Author”, null);
myXmlTextWriter.WriteElementString(“first-name”, “Mark”);
myXmlTextWriter.WriteElementString(“last-name”, “Twain”);
myXmlTextWriter.WriteElementString(“price”, “7.99″);
//Write the XML to file and close the myXmlTextWriter

   In creating this element, the preceding sample code also shows how, for each XML node type, there is corresponding XML write method. For example, writing an element calls the WriteElementString method and writing an attribute calls the WriteAttributeString method. For nested levels, you use the WriteStartElement / WriteEndElement pair and, for more complex attribute creation, you can use the WriteStartAttribute / WriteEndAttribute pair.

   When writing XML, notice how the sample code writes the XML declaration with the version “1.0″ using the WriteStartDocument method. If you want the writer to check that the document is well formed (XML declaration first, DOCTYPE in prolog, only one root level element, and so on), you must call this optional WriteStartDocument method before calling any other write method. Next, the code calls the WriteDocType method to writes the document type with the name “bookstore”. The third parameter in the call to the WriteDocType specifies that the writer is to write SYSTEM “books.dtd”. By writing this, the XML file indicates that there is an external DTD to validate against.

    Finally, the sample code calls the Flush method to persist the XML data to a file before calling the Close method. (While this sample only really requires the Close method, there are occasions where the XML generated needs to be persisted and the writer reused.)

   To check the output from the XmlTextWriter, perform a round trip test by reading in the generated file with an XmlTextReader to validate that the XML is well formed.

Reading Xml Files :  

XmlReader class is the API that provides XML parsing, the XmlTextReader is the implementation designed to handle byte streams.

Typically, you use the XmlTextReader if you need to access the XML as raw data without the overhead of a DOM. Not having to access the DOM results in a faster way to reading XML. For example, an XML document could have a header section used for routing the document for processing elsewhere. The XmlTextReader has different constructors to specify the location of the XML data. This sample loads XML from the books.xml file, as shown in the following code.

XmlTextReader reader = new XmlTextReader (“books.xml”);
Once loaded, the XmlTextReader moves across the XML data by using the Read method sequentially retrieving the next record from the document. The Read method returns false if there are no more records.
while (reader.Read())
// Do some work here on the data


   To process the XML data, each record has a node type that can be determined from the NodeType property. After the NodeType enumeration returns the node type, the sample tests the node type to see whether it is either an element or document type. If the node is either one of these two types, the sample processes the node using the Name and Value properties to display details about the node. The Name property returns the node name (for instance, the element and attribute names, while the Value property returns the node value (node text) of the current node (record).

while (reader.Read())
switch (reader.NodeType)
case XmlNodeType.Element: // The node is an Element
Console.Write(“<” + reader.Name);
while (reader.MoveToNextAttribute()) // Read attributes
Console.Write(” ” + reader.Name + “=’” + reader.Value + “‘”);
case XmlNodeType.DocumentType: // The node is a DocumentType
Console.WriteLine(NodeType + “<” + reader.Name + “>” + reader.Value);


   The XmlNodeType returned depends on the XmlReader class being used. For example, the XmlTextReader class never returns an XmlNodeType that is a Document, DocumentFragment, Entity, EndEntity and Notation node. See the .NET Framework Class Library for details on what XmlNodeType are returned by each XmlReader class.

Read more on Reading and Writing Text Files and Reading and Writing Binary Files.

I hope you like the article, happy coding !