6. The Schema module¶
6.1. XML Grammars¶
There are several steps that applications must go through when they have to use XML files:
Make sure the XML file is well-formed.
This is a basic step where we ensure that XML tags are correctly nested, that closing tags have the same names as the matching opening tags, that attribute values are quoted,…. This corresponds to a syntactic parser in a compiler.
This step does not depend on the application domain. One file that is well-formed will always be so, no matter in what context you use it.
Make sure the contents of the XML file is semantically valid.
Depending on the application domain, we must ensure that the content of the file makes sense. This step is highly application dependent, and a file that is usable in one application might not be usable in another one.
This is the phase in which the application needs to check whether a given XML file has all its required attributes, whether the children of an XML tag are the expected ones, whether the type of the attributes is valid,….
Use the XML file in the application.
This is done through the already-described SAX or DOM parsers
The first phase is mandatory, and necessarily enforced by XML/Ada. You will not be able to access the contents of the XML file if it isn’t well-formed.
The second phase is provided by the Schema module in XML/Ada. Although such constraints can be checked at the application level, with ad hoc code, it is generally easier to maintain a separate file that describes the valid semantic contents of the file, than maintain specific code when the semantic changes. It is also difficult not to forget special cases when doing the validating through a set of if statements in the Ada code.
XML provides two ways to describe additional constraints that a file must satisfy in order to be considered as valid.
The Document Type Description is the original way to do this. They come directly from the ancestor of XML, SGML. All XML parsers must parse the DTD, and report events if the user is using SAX. However, not all parsers are able to validate the document against a DTD (XML/Ada doesn’t).
Their use tends to greatly diminish. Among their limitations are a limited capability to express constraints on the order of tag children, the fact that the DTDs themselves are written in a separate language totally different from XML, and that users must learn this language as a result.
The XML schemas are replacing the DTDs. They are written in XML, and provide an extensive capability to describe what the XML document should look like. In fact, almost all Ada types can be described in an XML schema, including range constraints, arrays, records, type inheritance, abstract types,….
It is for instance possible to indicate that the value of a preference, in our example, must be a string of length 6. Any other length will result in a validation error.
6.2. XML Schema Syntax¶
The Schema module provides subprograms and types to parse an XML schema and validate an XML document with this schema.
This document does not provide a full documentation on the format of XML Schemas. This is extensive, has several obscure features, which, although supported by XML/Ada, are of little use in most practical usages. We refer the reader to the first part of the XML Schema specification, which is designed as a tutorial (http://www.w3.org/TR/xmlschema-0/).
The typical extension for a schema file is
A schema file must be a valid XML file, and thus start with the usual <?xml version=”1.0” ?> line. The root node must be named schema, and belong to the namespace (http://www.w3.org/2001/XMLSchema/). The handling of namespaces is fairly powerful, but also complex. A given XML document might have nodes belonging to several namespaces, and thus several schema files might have to be loaded, each defining one of the namespaces.
In the following simple example, we will not define our schema for a specific namespace, and thus no special attribute is needed for the root node. Thus, our document will be organized as:
<?xml version="1.0" ?> <xsd:schema xmlns:xsd="http://www.w3.org/2001/XMLSchema"> ... rest of the description goes here ... </xsd:schema>
An XML schema does not enforce a specific root node in the XML documents it validates. However, it must define all the valid elements that can be used in the XML file. This is done through the <element> tag, which takes one mandatory attribute, the name of the element we are defining.
The contents of the element is then defined in one of two ways:
Through a type attribute.
Schemas come with a number of predefined simple types. A simple type is such that an element of that type accepts no child node, and that its contents must satisfy additional constraints (be an integer, a date, …).
Among the predefined simple types (which are all defined in the namespace http://www.w3.org/2001/XMLSchema/), one can find: string, integer, byte, date, time, dateTime, boolean,…
If no additional constraint should be enforced on this simple type when applied to the element, the type of the element is given through a type attribute, as in:
<xsd:element name="tag1" type="xsd:string" /> <xsd:element name="tag2" type="xsd:boolean" />
which would accept the following XML files:
<tag1>Any string is valid here</tag1>
As will be described later, it is possible to create new types in XML schema, which are created with a name. Such new types can also be associated with the element through the type attribute.
Through an inline type definition
If the element must accept child elements, or if a further constraint needs to be enforced on the list of valid values, one must create the type. As mentioned above, this can be done by creating a type separately and referencing it by name, or through an inline type definition.
The syntax is mostly the same in both cases. Schemas distinguish between the notion of simple types (that accept no child element) and complex types (that accept child elements, and possibly text value).
To define a simple type, based on string, but that only allows a limited set of values (similar to an Ada enumeration), one would create a restriction of the standard string type, as in:
<xsd:element name="tag3"> <xsd:simpleType> <xsd:restriction base="xsd:string"> <xsd:enumeration value="value1" /> <xsd:enumeration value="value2" /> </xsd:restriction> </xsd:simpleType> </xsd:element>
Similarly, we could create an integer type whose valid range of values is between 10 and 20, as in:
<xsd:element name="tag4"> <xsd:simpleType> <xsd:restriction base="xsd:byte"> <xsd:minInclusive value="10" /> <xsd:maxInclusive value="20" /> </xsd:restriction> </xsd:simpleType> </xsd:element>
Complex types allow elements to have child nodes, as well as attributes. The list of valid attributes is created by a set of <xsd:attribute> tags, and the list of valid child nodes is generally defined either through a <xsd:choice> or a <xsd:sequence> node (although it is possible to indicate that any child node is authorized, among other things).
<xsd:choice> indicates the children can appear in any order, whereas <xsd:sequence> enforces a specific order on children.
In both cases, extra attributes can be specified to indicate the number of times the sequence or choice itself can be repeated, or that each child node can appear.
For instance, we can indicate that tag5 accepts between 1 and 4 child nodes, chosen among tag6 and tag7, but that the latter, if present, can only appear once. In addition, tag5 accepts one optional attribute. Note that the type of tag6 and tag7 is here specified through a type attribute, although it could in turn be defined inline:
<xsd:element name="tag5"> <xsd:complexType> <xsd:choice> <xsd:element name="tag6" type="xsd:string" minOccurs="1" maxOccurs="3/> <xsd:element name="tag7" type="xsd:string" maxOccurs="1" /> </xsd:choice> <xsd:attribute name="attr" type="xsd:boolean" use="optional" /> </xsd:complexType> </xsd:element>
In the example above, if tag6 was defined elsewhere in the schema, we could use a reference to it, instead of duplicating its type definition, as in:
<xsd:element ref="tag6" />
If you need an element with no child element (just a string value), but that accepts attributes, this also must be defined through a complex type, as in:
<xsd:element name="tag8" /> <xsd:complexType> <xsd:simpleContent> <xsd:extension base="xsd:string"> <xsd:attribute name="attr" type="xsd:boolean" /> </xsd:extension> </xsd:simpleContent> </xsd:complexType> </xsd:element>
As mentioned before, instead of defining inline types, we could explicitly declare them, and reference them in the element declaration later on:
<xsd:simpleType name="string_of_length_10"> <xsd:restriction base="xsd:string" /> <xsd:length value="10"/> </xsd:restriction> </xsd:simpleType> <xsd:element name="tag9" type="string_of_length_10" />
6.3. Connecting XML documents and schemas¶
There are several ways that XML/Ada uses to find what schema to use when validating a file.
Manually creating the grammar.
The schema module contains the package Schema.Validators which allows you to create a grammar by hand. It is very low-level, and it is likely that you will never need to use it. It is used internally mostly, and when creating the schema which is used to validate schema files themselves.
Explicitly parsing a schema file
Parsing a schema file can be done through a call to parse for a reader derived from Schema.Schema_Readers.Schema_reader. As usual, you call Parse, and pass it an input source. As output, you get access to a grammar, that can then be given to another instance of a Schema.Readers.Validating_Reader.
This technique will generally be used when you need to validate several XML files with the same grammar: you parse the grammar only once, and then reuse its instance, instead of reparsing the
.xsdfile every time:
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with Ada.Text_IO; use Ada.Text_IO; with Schema.Schema_Readers, Schema.Validators, Input_Sources.File; use Schema.Schema_Readers, Schema.Validators, Input_Sources.File; procedure SchemaExample2 is Grammar : XML_Grammar; Schema : Schema_Reader; Read : File_Input; begin Open ("file.xsd", Read); Parse (Schema, Read); Close (Read); Grammar := Get_Grammar (Schema); exception when XML_Validation_Error | XML_Not_Implemented => Put_Line ("ERROR: " & Get_Error_Message (Schema)); end SchemaExample2;
In the example above, the schema file itself is validated against the official schema for schema files.
The resulting grammar object is in fact a collection of parsed schema files, each associated with its own namespace. It can be kept as long as you need it in your application. Memory will automatically be reclaimed when no longer needed.
Every time you parse an XML file later on, you must associate the Grammar with the parser:
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declare Read : File_Input; My_Reader : Validating_Reader; begin Set_Grammar (My_Reader, Grammar); Set_Feature (My_Reader, Schema_Validation_Feature, True); Open (Xml_File.all, Read); Parse (My_Reader, Read); Close (Read); exception when XML_Validation_Error | XML_Not_Implemented => Put_Line ("ERROR: " & Get_Error_Message (My_reader)); end;
Implicitly parsing the schema
Two special attributes, defined in the Schema standard, can be used to indicate, in an XML document itself, that it should be validated with a specific schema.
These attributes are both defined in a special namespace, http://www.w3.org/2001/XMLSchema-instance.
The value of this attribute is the name of a file that contains the schema to use for elements that are not associated with a specific namespace.
This attribute is a list of strings, alternatively the prefix of a namespace and the name of an xsd file to use for that namespace. For instance, “ns1 file1.xsd ns2 file2.xsd”.
When it encounters any of these two attributes, XML/Ada will automatically parse the corresponding schema files, and use the result to validate the file.
See the section below on optimizing the parsing of the grammars, as a way to avoid parsing the same grammar multiple times.
6.4. Validating documents with SAX¶
XML/Ada is quite unique in the category of XML parsers, since it allows the validation of XML files when you are using an event-based parser with SAX. Most other XML parsers only work on DOM trees.
Basing the validation on SAX is more efficient, since there is no need to read the whole XML stream (or even the grammar) in memory before starting the validation, and errors can be reported immediately.
It also requires less memory to run, and thus can validate large XML documents.
It also means that even if you are using SAX, and not DOM, you still have access to the validation features.
Validating an XML document while parsing it is basically done the same as when using SAX itself. Instead of inheriting from Sax.Readers.Reader, your tagged type must inherit from Schema.Readers.Validating_Reader.
As usual, you can still override the predefined primitive operations like Start_Element, End_Element, …
Note the activation of the Schema_Validation_Feature feature, without which no validation takes place:
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-- -- Copyright (C) 2017, AdaCore -- with Ada.Text_IO; use Ada.Text_IO; with Sax.Readers; use Sax.Readers; with Schema.Readers; use Schema.Readers; with Schema.Validators; with Input_Sources.File; use Input_Sources.File; procedure SchemaExample is Input : File_Input; My_Reader : Validating_Reader; begin Set_Public_Id (Input, "Preferences file"); Open ("pref.xml", Input); Set_Feature (My_Reader, Schema_Validation_Feature, True); Parse (My_Reader, Input); Close (Input); exception when Schema.Validators.XML_Validation_Error => Put_Line ("ERROR: " & Get_Error_Message (My_Reader)); end SchemaExample;
6.5. Validating documents with DOM¶
This is very similar to using DOM itself, except the base class of your reader should be Schema.Dom_Readers.Tree_Reader. Going back to the example described in Using DOM, you would use the following to validate XML streams before generating the DOM tree.
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-- -- Copyright (C) 2017, AdaCore -- with Input_Sources.File; use Input_Sources.File; with Sax.Readers; use Sax.Readers; with DOM.Core; use DOM.Core; with Schema.Dom_Readers; use Schema.Dom_Readers; procedure DomSchemaExample is Input : File_Input; Reader : Schema.Dom_Readers.Tree_Reader; Doc : Document; begin Set_Public_Id (Input, "Preferences file"); Open ("pref_with_xsd.xml", Input); Set_Feature (Reader, Validation_Feature, False); Parse (Reader, Input); Close (Input); Doc := Get_Tree (Reader); Free (Reader); end DomSchemaExample;
6.6. Unsupported schema elements¶
Not all aspects of XML schemas are supported by XML/Ada. In particular, it does not currently support XPath, so any part of the schema that is related to XPath expressions (for instance <xsd:key> and <xsd:unique>) are not supported currently.
6.7. Optimizing the parsing of grammars¶
It is often the case that a given
.xsd file will be reused multiple
times to validate XML documents. In such case, you do not want to parse the
file multiple times, but instead reuse an already existing XML_Grammar
object. Of course, this is a tradeoff between memory used to keep the
grammar in memory, and the time it would take to reparse the grammar.
This is easily done when you have a single
.xsd file to reuse
for all the XML files. Simply call Set_Grammar on the parser before
you parse the file, as in:
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declare G : constant XML_Grammar := ...; -- parsed earlier R : Validating_Reader; F : File_Input; begin R.Set_Grammar (G); Open ("file.xml", F); R.Parse (F); Close (F); ...; -- Do something with the resulting tree end;
The second use case is a bit more complex: you have several XSD files to parse, and the XML files will need either of these. If you are using namespaces, there is nothing special to do, and the same code as above applies: you can simply parse each of the XSD files into the same XML_Grammar, and then use that grammar to parse all the XML files, as in:
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declare G : XML_Grammar; S : Schema_Reader; F : File_Input; R : Validating_Reader; begin Open ("grammar1.xsd", F); S.Parse (F); F.Close; Open ("grammar2.xsd", F); S.Parse (F); F.Close; G := S.Get_Grammar; R.Set_Grammar (G); Open ("file.xml", F); R.Parse (F); F.Close; end;
If however you are not using namespaces, you cannot use this technique, since
the grammar from the various XSD files would end up mixed up, and validation
will most likely fail. So instead you need to have one XML_Grammar per
XSD file, and then set the grammar on the reader dynamically. A full
example is given in the XML/Ada source distribution, in
tests/schema/multiple_xsd. Here is an overview.
We first need to parse each of the XSD files into its own grammar:
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declare Symbols : Symbol_Table; G1, G2 : XML_Grammar; S : Schema_Grammar; F : File_Input; begin -- Since we are going to reuse grammars, we need to ensure their -- symbol tables (where internal strings are stored) across all -- involved parsers). Symbols := Allocate; S.Set_Symbol_Table (Symbols); -- Now we can parse each of the XSD file Open ("algo1.xsd", F); S.Parse (F); F.Close; G1 := S.Get_Grammar; S.Set_Grammar (No_Grammar); -- reset Open ("algo2.xsd", F); S.Parse (F); F.Close; G2 := S.Get_Grammar; end;
We then need to create a custom validating reader, which knows how to set the grammar based on its name. This is done by overriding one of the primitive operations of the parser:
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declare type My_Reader is new Validating_Reader with null record; overriding procedure Parse_Grammar (Self : not null access Reader_With_Preloaded_XSD; URI, Xsd_File : Sax.Symbols.Symbol; Do_Create_NFA : Boolean := True) is begin if Xsd_File = "algo1.xsd" then Self.Set_Grammar (G1); elsif Xsd_File = "algo2.xsd" then Self.Set_Grammar (G2); end if; end Parse_Grammar; R : My_Reader; begin -- Also share the same symbol table R.Set_Symbol_Table (Symbols); R.Set_Feature (Schema_Validation_Feature, True); Open ("test1.xml", F); R.Parse (F); F.Close; end;
Where for instance
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<?xml version="1.0" encoding="UTF-8"?> <root xmlns:xsi="http://www.w3.org/2001/XMLSchema-instance" xsi:noNamespaceSchemaLocation="algo1.xsd"> <child>102</child> </root>