DevDecoder.DynamicXml 1.0.6

.NET 6.0 .NET Standard 2.1
Install-Package DevDecoder.DynamicXml -Version 1.0.6
dotnet add package DevDecoder.DynamicXml --version 1.0.6
<PackageReference Include="DevDecoder.DynamicXml" Version="1.0.6" />
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paket add DevDecoder.DynamicXml --version 1.0.6
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#r "nuget: DevDecoder.DynamicXml, 1.0.6"
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// Install DevDecoder.DynamicXml as a Cake Addin
#addin nuget:?package=DevDecoder.DynamicXml&version=1.0.6

// Install DevDecoder.DynamicXml as a Cake Tool
#tool nuget:?package=DevDecoder.DynamicXml&version=1.0.6
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DynamicXml

Convenience extension method that converts any XObject into a dynamic for easy access, combined with a powerful XML filter.

Installation

The library is available via NuGet and is delivered via NuGet Package Manager:

Install-Package DevDecoder.DynamicXml

If you are targeting .NET Core, use the following command:

dotnet add package 
Install-Package DevDecoder.DynamicXml

Usage

To use include the NuGet in your solution and call the Filter(DynamicOptions?) extension method to filter XObjects, or the dynamic? ToDynamic(DynamicXOptions?) extension method on any XObject, to cast it to a dynamic, for easy access to related XObjects e.g.

// Load XML from embedded file.
XDocument xDocument;
using (var stream = Assembly.GetExecutingAssembly()
           .GetManifestResourceStream($"{this.GetType().Namespace}.Test.xml")!)
    xDocument = XDocument.Load(stream);
            
// Powerful XML filtering system to extract notes
// Here we write out all comments (separated by new-lines) in one step.
Console.WriteLine(string.Join(Environment.NewLine,
    xDocument.Filter(DXFilter.Descendants, DXComment.All())));

// Convert to dynamic object
var document = xDocument.ToDynamic();

// Get root element by name
var purchaseOrders = document.PurchaseOrders;

Example

This XML sample can be seen in full here, but is truncated for readability, further you can see the sample code here:

<?xml version="1.0" encoding="utf-8"?>
<PurchaseOrders>
    <PurchaseOrder PurchaseOrderNumber="99503" OrderDate="1999-10-20">
        <Address Type="Shipping">
            <Name>Ellen Adams</Name>
            <Street>123 Maple Street</Street>
            <City>Mill Valley</City>
            <State>CA</State>
            <Zip>10999</Zip>
            <Country>USA</Country>
        </Address>
        ...
        <DeliveryNotes>Please leave packages in shed by driveway.</DeliveryNotes>
        <Items>
            <Item PartNumber="872-AA">
                <ProductName>Lawnmower</ProductName>
                <Quantity>1</Quantity>
                <USPrice>148.95</USPrice>
                <Comment>Confirm this is electric</Comment>
            </Item>
            ...
        </Items>
    </PurchaseOrder>
    ...
</PurchaseOrders>

The following sample shows how to conveniently navigate the above XML (using the document created above):

// Get root
var purchaseOrders = document.PurchaseOrders;

// Enumerate over all child elements called `PurchaseOrder`
foreach (var order in purchaseOrders.PurchaseOrder())
{
    // We can cast directly to type (note this throws exception if we have bad data though
    // so it is usually safer to retrieve the string value and use a TryParse method or equivalent.
    int po = order.PurchaseOrderNumber;
    DateTime date = order.OrderDate;
    Console.WriteLine($"Order# {po} on {date}:");

    // Get the first DeliveryNote child node, if any.
    var deliveryNote = order.DeliveryNotes;

    // By default, if the node is missing we get a null back.
    if (deliveryNote is not null)
        // The default ToString() method of `DynamicXObject` casts to string, so for elements, attributes,
        // comments and text, it returns the inner value.
        Console.WriteLine($"  Note: {deliveryNote}");

    // We can also enumerate over Address nodes
    foreach (var address in order.Address())
    {
        Console.WriteLine($"  {address.Type} Address:");
        Console.WriteLine($"    {address.Name}");
        Console.WriteLine($"    {address.Street}");
        Console.WriteLine($"    {address.City}");
        Console.WriteLine($"    {address.State}");
        Console.WriteLine($"    {address.Zip}");
        Console.WriteLine($"    {address.Country}");
    }

    // If there is no Items node, `order.Items` will return `null` and the check will fail.
    // If there are any `Item` nodes, then the `?.Item()` will return an `IEnumerable<dynamic>`
    // the `is` check allows us to confirm this safely in one step, and also allows us to use LINQ operations
    // on the result (we can't use LINQ directly on the returned `dynamic` so the cast exposes the enumeration
    // first).
    if (order.Items?.Item() is IEnumerable<dynamic> items)
    {
        // Cast to array to prevent multiple enumeration, for performance, our dynamics dynamically enumerate.
        var itemsArr = items.ToArray();

        // Write out order summary
        Console.WriteLine(
            $"  {itemsArr.Length} item{(itemsArr.Length == 1 ? "" : "s")}" +
            // Note the `double` cast below will error if `USPrice` isn't a valid double.
            // A safer method would be to use a TryParse instead.
            $" Total: ${itemsArr.Aggregate(0D, (total, item) => total + (double) item.USPrice):F2}");

        // Iterate over each `Item` node
        foreach (var item in items) Console.WriteLine($"    {item.PartNumber} @ ${item.USPrice}");
    }

    Console.WriteLine("");
}

Dynamic members

The dynamic object exposes the following members (note they are not available until runtime, so do not appear in intelli-sense, etc.):

Properties

When you request a property, e.g. address.Name from the dynamic address it looks for Name in the following order:

  1. The first Attribute with a local name that matches, in which case the result is a dynamic XAttribute.
  2. The first child Element with a local name that matches, in which case the result is a dynamic XElement.
  3. Any field/property on the underlying XObject that matches, in which case the result is the same type as that property.

If it doesn't find any of the above, then the result depends on the PropertyResultIfNotFound option, but, by default is null. This means that searching for a missing attribute/element doesn't throw an exception by default.

Methods

When you invoke a method, with no arguments, from the dynamic it looks for the following (in order, returning the first time it finds any):

  1. All Attributes with a local name that match; if any, in which case the result is an enumeration of dynamic XAttributes.
  2. All Elements with a local name that match; if any, in which case the result is an enumeration of dynamic XElements.

And finally, (even when arguments are supplied):

  1. Whether the name maps to 'Filter', in which case it calls the extension method DynamicXObject.Filter(this XObject, DynamicXOptions, params object[]), and performs a filter operation with the supplied filters (if any); the result is the an enumeration, where any XObjects are converted to their dynamic form (see below).
  2. Any method on XObject that matches the requested signature, in which case the result is the same type as the return type of that method.

If it doesn't find any of the above, then the result depends on the InvokeResultIfNotFound option, but, by default is an empty enumeration. This means that searching for a collection of attributes or elements that is missing doesn't throw an exception by default, but returns an empty enumeration, which is more usable.

ToString

When calling ToString() on the dynamic is will return the Value of the associated XObject, if avaiable, or will call ToString() on the associated XObject directly (e.g. for an XDocument that does not have a Value, it will dump out a string representation of the whole document).

Casting

Whenever an XObject is returned, it too is returned as a dynamic? (specifically a DynamicXmlObject, though this is internal). However, you can always cast it to the equivalent XObject directly.

For example, if we added the line xdocument = document; to the cast to dynamic example, we extract the XDocument back out of the dynamic:

XDocument xDocument;
using (var stream = Assembly.GetExecutingAssembly()
           .GetManifestResourceStream($"{this.GetType().Namespace}.Test.xml")!)
    xDocument = XDocument.Load(stream);

// Convert to dynamic object
var document = xDocument.ToDynamic();

// We can easily cast it back (note `xdocument` is type `XDocument` so a cast occurs here)
xdocument = document;

Similarly, we can also cast to a string, which is the same as calling ToString(), see above.

Unless the ConvertMode option is set to ConvertMode.AsString, you can also attempt any valid conversion from the value (if available), and, if that fails, from the underlying XObject.

Indexer

Easily the most powerful feature is the indexer system, that allows for complex, and efficient, navigation of the document.

The dynamic accepts a multidimensional indexer, where each index can be either any of the following:

Integer indices

An integer (int, short, ushort, sbyte, byte) index i will return the ith child XNode of the current object as a dynamic. Only XContainer objects (i.e. XElement or XDocument) have children, also we can't use this to find an attribute as that isn't an XNode, (to do that we can use a string, or the DXAttribute filter, which we cover below). For example:

// We can use our multi-dimensional index to select nodes, here we select the first node of the document
// (i.e. the Root - 'PurchaseOrders'), then its first child node, which is an XComment.
// Result: ' A comment '
Console.WriteLine(document[0, 0].ToString());

If the index is negative, then it will count from the end, e.g. and index of -1 will get the last child, however, since C#8 it has been possible to use...

Index indices

A System.Index can be used instead of an integer, indeed, integers are converted to System.Index under the hood, so this is the native accepted by indexers, for example:

// We can also use System.Index, e.g. this gets the root, then the last child 3 times, which gives us the last
// Item, it then writes out the PartNumber (898-AM)
Console.WriteLine(document[0, ^1, ^1, ^1].PartNumber.ToString());

String indices

A string can be supplied, and

  • if it is a valid XML local name (see the XmlConvert.VerifyNCName documentation) it will match any attributes with the name and any child nodes with the name (if an XELement) or target (if an XProcessingInstruction), e.g.
// We can get access nodes and attributes by string, when we supply a string, it first searches attributes on
// the current node, then children for a matching element (or processing instruction).  Note, this filter actually
// returns mutliple resuls (one for each `PurchaseOrder` with a `PurchaseOrderNumer` attribute), but as we're using an
// indexer, only the first is returned.
// Result: `99503`
Console.WriteLine(document["PurchaseOrders", "PurchaseOrder", "PurchaseOrderNumber"].ToString());
  • otherwise it will evaluate the string as an XPath expression from the current node, for example, the equivalent XPath would be:
// The equivalent XPath
// Result: `99503`
Console.WriteLine(document["/PurchaseOrders/PurchaseOrder/@PurchaseOrderNumber"].ToString());

Note we could write the XPath as

string(/PurchaseOrders/PurchaseOrder[1]/@PurchaseOrderNumber)

The above highlights a common gotcha - annoyingly XPath's are 1-indexed, unlike the C# language which is 0-indexed, hence [1] returns the first purchase order.

However, this isn't actually equivalent (though it is more specific). Firstly it returns a string and not the actual XAttribute, whereas the two indexers shown both return a dynamic XAttribute; secondly, and more subtly, the original indices actually specify all such attributes, however, the indexers only return the first one. Due to lazy evaluation this isn't as problematic as you may fear.

This also demonstrates that the potential result of an XPath is broader than just a dynamic XObject:

  • If the XPath leads to a bool (e.g. by using the boolean() function), double or a string then it must be the final index as the result is not an XContainer (document or element), so no further filtering will be possible.
  • If the XPath refers to one or more XObjects, then an enumeration of XObjectss is returned to the next step.
  • If the XPath refers to an XContainer (i.e. an XDocument or XElement), then further index dimensions can be used to continue navigation.

Range indices

As we've begun to explain, the initial result of an indexing step is an enumeration of matches. Usually, this enumeration will contain zero or one elements, but it doesn't have to. The next indexing step will be applied to all the previous results, filtering them further. Only when the indexer returns will the first element be selected. As we will soon see, we can avoid this final step by using the Filter functionality directly.

However, that does mean that it is entirely valid to pass a System.Range, (e.g. 1..3, 3..1, 0..^0, .., etc.), this may seem useless, but, due to above behaviour, ranges can still be valuable when they are not used as the last index:

// Here we use the `..` range (i.e. all) to explicitly say we're searching for any child node of the root
// element that contains an attribute, element or processing instruction with the specified name/target.
// Result: `99503`
Console.WriteLine(document[0, .., "PurchaseOrderNumber"].ToString());

As with System.Index, passing a range directly will only filter child nodes (i.e. not attributes), however, we can use filters to filter attributes with ranges.

Enumerable indices

The index can also be an enumeration, if the indexer doesn't recognise the supplied index type, then it finally checks to see if has been given an enumeration, in which case it yields the contents. This is done 'recursively' in a process called 'flattening', so there is no depth limit (it doesn't use the runtime stack to recurse). One use of this functionality is to allow an pre-defined array to be passed directly, e.g.:

// Our indexers will 'flatten' any enumeration (recursively), which is useful as it allows us to create complex
// reusable indices, which can be passed to multiple calls
// Result: `99503`
var allPurchaseOrders = new object[] {0, "PurchaseOrder"};
Console.WriteLine(document[allPurchaseOrders, "PurchaseOrderNumber"].ToString());

Filter indices

In reality, all indices are converted to one (or more) filters and applied to the result of the previous filter operation. A filter is any implementation of IDynamicXFilter, and is covered in more detail below. Most of the above indices are converted to two filters:

  • Integer or System.Index indices are converted to DXFilter.Children followed by DXObject.At(), e.g. [^1][DXFilter.Children, DXObject.At(^1)].
// When we pass an integer or Index as filter, it is first converted to a call to get any children, and then a
// call to get the object at the specified index, so the above call to
// Console.WriteLine(document[0,0].ToString());
// is actually equivalent to-
Console.WriteLine(document[DXFilter.Children, DXObject.At(0), DXFilter.Children, DXObject.At(0)].ToString());
  • A string 'name' index is converted to DXFilter.AttributesAndChildren followed by DXObject.WithName(), e.g. ["PurchaseOrders"][DXFilter.AttributesAndChildren, DXObject.WithName("PurchaseOrders")].
  • A string 'XPath' index is converted to DXPath.WithPath.
  • A System.Range is converted to DXFilter.Children followed by DXObject.Span(), e.g. [..][DXFilter.Children, DXObject.Span(..)].
  • Any index that is an enumeration is flattened.

We can, of course, specify filters directly to perform extremely powerful (and infinitely extendable) indexing:

// In fact, we can specify any filters as indexers, at this point we get an insight into what is really going on
// The indexer actually uses the Filter method under the hood, and returns the first item if any, otherwise
// 'null' (or it can throw an OutOfRangeException if Options.IndexResultIfNotFound is set to Throw).
//
// However, the narrowing down to a single result only occurs as the last step, so here we select all descendant
// nodes of the document, and then find the last comment. ('A comment')
Console.WriteLine(document[DXFilter.Descendants, DXComment.At(^1)].ToString());

// Here's another example which finds elements called `Item`, with an `Attribute` called `PartNumber`, and selects
// the second one it sees ('926-AA')
Console.WriteLine(string.Join(
    Environment.NewLine,
    document[
        DXFilter.DescendantsAndSelf,
        DXElement.WithName("Item"),
        DXFilter.Attributes,
        DXAttribute.WithName("PartNumber", 1)
    ]));

Final Index result

As mentioned above, each indexing step filters the results (plural) of the previous step. This 'filtering' can actually increase the number of results (e.g. by selecting children). Only in the final step do we select the first result and return it.

If the indexer doesn't find at least one result, then the result depends on the IndexResultIfNotFound option; by default it returns a null, but you can change the behaviour to throw an IndexOutOfRangeException instead.

Filter method

Indexing is very powerful, but the final step can potentially throw away useful results. The convention for the dynamics is that a property or indexer returns a single result, and a method is used to access multiple results, it should come as no surprise that we have supplied a builtin method called Filter to return all the results of a set of filtering operations (note, that we can customize dynamic name mapping to avoid collisions using DynamicXOptions.MapToBuiltInName to map a different name to Filter).

For example:

foreach (XElement element in document.Filter(
             // Select the root element.
             DXFilter.Root,
             // Then get the direct children
             DXFilter.Children,
             // Select the first child with the name 'PurchaseOrder'
             DXElement.WithName("PurchaseOrder", 0),
             DXFilter.Children,
             // Select the last address node
             DXElement.WithName("Address", ^1),
             // Finally get all child nodes
             DXFilter.Children
         ))
{
    Console.WriteLine($"{element.Name.LocalName} = {element.Value}");
}

However, we can use the filtering system entirely independently of dynamics...

Filtering

Introduction

The dynamic Filter built-in method and the indexer all use the static DynamicXObject.Filter extension methods, by passing themselves in as the starting XObject along with their DynamicXOptions, and converting any resulting XObjects to their dynamic form before returning.

public static partial class DynamicXObject
{
    [MethodImpl(MethodImplOptions.AggressiveInlining)]
    public static IEnumerable<object> Filter(this XObject input, params object[] indices)
        => Filter(input.ToEnumerable(), null, indices);

    [MethodImpl(MethodImplOptions.AggressiveInlining)]
    public static IEnumerable<object> Filter(this XObject input, DynamicXOptions? options, params object[] filters)
        => Filter(input.ToEnumerable(), options, filters);

    [MethodImpl(MethodImplOptions.AggressiveInlining)]
    public static IEnumerable<object> Filter(this IEnumerable<XObject> inputs, params object[] indices)
        => Filter(inputs, null, indices);

    /// <summary>
    /// Filters the <paramref name="inputs">input</paramref> <see cref="XObject">XObjects</see>.
    /// </summary>
    /// <param name="inputs">The <see cref="XObject">XObjects</see>.</param>
    /// <param name="options">The <see cref="DynamicXOptions">options</see>, if any; otherwise <see langword="null"/>.</param>
    /// <param name="filters">The filters.</param>
    /// <returns>An enumeration of results, which may contain <see cref="XObject">XObjects</see>, and/or
    /// <see cref="string">strings</see>, <see cref="double">doubles</see> or <see cref="bool">booleans</see>.</returns>
    public static IEnumerable<object> Filter(this IEnumerable<XObject> inputs, DynamicXOptions? options,
        params object[] filters)
    { .. }
}

However, we can use the filter methods directly to avoid the overhead of dynamics when not required, e.g. we could have written the above loop:

// Using the filter method with a dynamic is somewhat inefficient, as we can use it on an XObject directly
// So here we cast our dynamic directly to the XObject before calling filter.  In this case we 
// get our result as an enumeration of objects, which we can cast directly to XElements
foreach (XElement element in ((XDocument) document).Filter(...)) { ... }

Of course, if we have the original XDocument or XObject we can avoid dynamics entirely, and some users may wish to use the library purely for the filter functionality and the power and convenience it offers.

As already explained, all arguments are converted to one or more filters and applied to the result of a previous filter operation. A filter is any implementation of IDynamicXFilter, allowing for easy extensibility. The interface specifies a single method, which is reminiscent of the Filter extension methods:

/// <summary>
/// Lazily filters the <paramref name="inputs">input</paramref> <see cref="XObject">XObjects</see>.
/// </summary>
/// <param name="inputs">The <see cref="XObject">XObjects</see>.</param>
/// <param name="options"></param>
/// <returns>An enumeration of results, which may contain any object; however, any non-<see cref="XObject"/> will be
/// discarded by any subsequent filtering.</returns>
IEnumerable<object> Filter(IEnumerable<XObject> inputs, DynamicXOptions options);

As you can see, although it only accepts an enumeration of XObject it returns an enumeration of object, this is to allow the filter to return any results it likes, which is important for XPaths, which can return a string, double or bool value as well as enumeration of XObjects. As noted though, any non-XObject result is discarded by subsequent filters, so if you create a filter that doesn't return any XObjects you should clearly indicate it is only useful as a 'final' filter.

A large number of filters are included in the library already, all are found in structs and have the naming convention DX[Name].

Navigation Filters

The DXFilter struct provides an easy way to create your own filters, by supplying a filter function, but, more importantly, contains a number of built-in filters focussed primarily on 'navigation' around the XML tree.

Type filters

Alongside DXFilter we have a number of structs that match the different XObject types.

  • DXNode, DXComment, DXText and DXCData will filter the input for the corresponding type.
  • DXElement, DXAttribute will filter the input for the corresponding type, and can optionally filter on the Name.
  • DXProcessingInstruction will filter the input for the corresponding type, and can optionally filter on the Target.
  • DXObject will match any XObject, but can optionally match the DXElement, DXAttribute Name, and/or the DXProcessingInstruction Target

All the type filters expose a Range, and can be constructed with either a Range, an Index or an integer (the last two are effectively ranges with a single entry). Not only can this allow for a subset of results, it can even be used to reverse the order, by using a range such as ^0..0 (or DXObject.Reverse). Note, that due to the limitation of Range and Index, when we specify a range where Range.Start > Range.End, we treat the start as exclusive and the end as inclusive (i.e. the lower index is always inclusive, and the upper index exclusive), as such a range of 4..1, will return items from index 3 to 1 (as 4 is exclusive being the higher index).

XPath filters

As encountered above, the DXPath filter that introduces the full power of XPath expressions, allowing for XPath evaluation. Like the type filters, it too can have an optional Index or Range to further restrict the result set.

Customizing behaviour

The dynamic? ToDynamic(DynamicXOptions?) extension method and the Filter extension methods (when called directly) take an optional DynamicXOptions object that allows for powerful customization of how the system works.

TODO Document options with examples

Performance

This is using dynamics, so if you are using it you are concerned with convenience over performance. You're probably a JavaScript developer at heart and despise type safety and static analysis 🔥!

I personally recommend only using this in tool code or whilst prototyping. If you need raw performance you are not going to beat accessing the XObjects directly, or, better still, in some scenarios you simply cannot beat simple text parsing (e.g. Regular Expressions). However, you will often find that parsing input XML is not the main bottleneck in many use cases, so remember the old adage that "performance is an engineering problem" and what to optimize your code until you identify the bottlenecks.

The main way to improve performance is to avoid creation of dynamic objects. This is best done by navigating to the point of interest before casting to a dynamic. Of course, you can do this using LINQ to XML, though at that point there is little reason to continue using the library.

The library itself does an excellent job of avoiding creating dynamic objects until it needs to and once created it caches them again the associated XObject, meaning there will be a maximum of one DynamicXObjectImpl per XObject in a document (note, however, that using the dynamic also creates the dynamic XObject<see cref="XObject"/>additional objects - see the notes on implementing IDynamicMetaObjectProvider ) .

For this reason, you should make liberal use of the Filtering functionality, either directly (preferably) or via the indexer functionality to get to the desired node(s), whenever possible, as it too avoids creating dynamics.

Ultimately, the library allows for very clean code, and actually does quite a bit to prevent some of the common errors ( e.g. by returning an empty enumeration when no nodes are found, rather than null). That trade off makes it ideal for many use cases, where the performance is still more than sufficient.

TODO Maybe do some benchmarks and add results here

Product Versions
.NET net5.0 net5.0-windows net6.0 net6.0-android net6.0-ios net6.0-maccatalyst net6.0-macos net6.0-tvos net6.0-windows
.NET Core netcoreapp3.0 netcoreapp3.1
.NET Standard netstandard2.1
MonoAndroid monoandroid
MonoMac monomac
MonoTouch monotouch
Tizen tizen60
Xamarin.iOS xamarinios
Xamarin.Mac xamarinmac
Xamarin.TVOS xamarintvos
Xamarin.WatchOS xamarinwatchos
Compatible target framework(s)
Additional computed target framework(s)
Learn more about Target Frameworks and .NET Standard.
  • .NETStandard 2.1

    • No dependencies.
  • net6.0

    • No dependencies.

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Version Downloads Last updated
1.0.6 105 1/21/2022
1.0.5 87 1/20/2022

Stable release.