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Overriding XML Serialization

Using the XmlSerializer, you can generate more than one XML stream with the same set of classes. You might want to do this because two different XML Web services require the same basic information, with only slight differences. For example, imagine two XML Web services that process orders for books, and thus both require ISBN numbers. One service uses the tag <ISBN> while the second uses the tag <BookID>. You have a class named Book that contains a field named ISBN. When an instance of the Book class is serialized, it will, by default, use the member name (ISBN) as the tag element name. For the first XML Web service, this is as expected. But to send the XML stream to the second XML Web service, you must override the serialization so that the tag's element name is BookID.

To create an XML stream with an alternate element name

  1. Create an instance of the XmlElementAttribute class.
  2. Set the ElementName of the XmlElementAttribute to "BookID".
  3. Create an instance of the XmlAttributes class.
  4. Add the XmlElementAttribute object to the collection accessed through the XmlElements property of XmlAttributes.
  5. Create an instance of the XmlAttributeOverrides class.
  6. Add the XmlAttributes to the XmlAttributeOverrides, passing the type of the object to override and the name of the member being overridden.
  7. Create an instance of the XmlSerializer class with XmlAttributeOverrides.
  8. Create an instance of the Book class, and serialize or deserialize it.

The following example demonstrates this serialization process.

Public Class SerializeOverride()
    ' Creates an XmlElementAttribute with the alternate name.
    Dim myElementAttribute As XmlElementAttribute = _
    New XmlElementAttribute()
    myElementAttribute.ElementName = "BookID"
    Dim myAttributes As XmlAttributes = New XmlAttributes()
    myAttributes.XmlElements.Add(myElementAttribute)
    Dim myOverrides As XmlAttributeOverrides = New XmlAttributeOverrides()
    myOverrides.Add(typeof(Book), "ISBN", myAttributes)
    Dim mySerializer As XmlSerializer = _
    New XmlSerializer(GetType(Book), myOverrides)
    Dim b As Book = New Book()
    b.ISBN = "123456789"
    ' Creates a StreamWriter to write the XML stream to.
    Dim writer As StreamWriter = New StreamWriter("Book.xml")
    mySerializer.Serialize(writer, b);
End Class
[C#]
public class SerializeOverride()
{
    // Creates an XmlElementAttribute with the alternate name.
    XmlElementAttribute myElementAttribute = new XmlElementAttribute();
    myElementAttribute.ElementName = "BookID";
    XmlAttributes myAttributes = new XmlAttributes();
    myAttributes.XmlElements.Add(myElementAttribute);
    XmlAttributeOverrides myOverrides = new XmlAttributeOverrides();
    myOverrides.Add(typeof(Book), "ISBN", myAttributes);
    XmlSerializer mySerializer = 
    new XmlSerializer(typeof(Book), myOverrides)
    Book b = new Book();
    b.ISBN = "123456789"
    // Creates a StreamWriter to write the XML stream to.
    StreamWriter writer = new StreamWriter("Book.xml");
    mySerializer.Serialize(writer, b);
}

The XML stream might resemble the following.

<Book>
    <BookID>123456789</BookID>
</Book>

Overriding Classes

You can also create an alternate XML stream by deriving from existing classes and instructing the XmlSerializer to serialize those classes. For example, given the Book class above, you can derive from it and create an ExpandedBook class that has a few more properties. However, you must instruct the XmlSerializer to accept the derived type when serializing or deserializing. This can be done by creating an XmlElementAttribute and setting its Type property to the derived class type. Add the XmlElementAttribute to an XmlAttributes. Then add the XmlAttributes to an XmlAttributeOverrides, specifying the type being overridden and the name of the member that accepts the derived class. This is shown in the following example.

Public Class Orders
    public Books() As Book
End Class   

Public Class Book
    public ISBN As String 
End Class

Public Class ExpandedBook
    Inherits Book
    public NewEdition As Boolean
End Class

Public Class Run
    Shared Sub Main()
        Dim t As Run = New Run()
        t.SerializeObject("Book.xml")
        t.DeserializeObject("Book.xml")
    End Sub
    
    Public Sub SerializeObject(filename As String)
        ' Each overridden field, property, or type requires 
        ' an XmlAttributes. 
        Dim attrs As XmlAttributes = New XmlAttributes()

        ' Creates an XmlElementAttribute to override the 
        ' field that returns Book objects. The overridden field
        ' returns Expanded objects instead.
        Dim attr As XmlElementAttribute = _
        New XmlElementAttribute()
        attr.ElementName = "NewBook"
        attr.Type = GetType(ExpandedBook)

        ' Adds the element to the collection of elements.
        attrs.XmlElements.Add(attr)

        ' Creates the XmlAttributeOverrides.
        Dim attrOverrides As XmlAttributeOverrides = _
        New XmlAttributeOverrides()

        ' Adds the type of the class that contains the overridden 
        ' member, and the XmlAttributes to override it with, to the 
        ' XmlAttributeOverrides. 
        attrOverrides.Add(GetType(Orders), "Books", attrs)

        ' Creates the XmlSerializer using the XmlAttributeOverrides.
        Dim s As XmlSerializer  = _
        New XmlSerializer(GetType(Orders), attrOverrides)

        ' Writing the file requires a TextWriter.
        Dim writer As TextWriter = New StreamWriter(filename)

        ' Creates the object that will be serialized.
        Dim myOrders As Orders = New Orders()
        
        ' Creates an object of the derived type.
        Dim b As ExpandedBook = New ExpandedBook()
        b.ISBN= "123456789"
        b.NewEdition = True
        myOrders.Books = New ExpandedBook(){b}

        ' Serializes the object.
        s.Serialize(writer,myOrders)
        writer.Close()
    End Sub

    Public Sub DeserializeObject(filename As String)
        Dim attrOverrides As XmlAttributeOverrides = _
        New XmlAttributeOverrides()
        Dim attrs As XmlAttributes = New XmlAttributes()

        ' Creates an XmlElementAttribute to override the 
        ' field that returns Book objects. The overridden field
        ' returns Expanded objects instead. 
        Dim attr As XmlElementAttribute = _
        New XmlElementAttribute()
        attr.ElementName = "NewBook"
        attr.Type = GetType(ExpandedBook)

        ' Adds the XmlElementAttribute to the collection of objects.
        attrs.XmlElements.Add(attr)

        attrOverrides.Add(GetType(Orders), "Books", attrs)

        ' Creates the XmlSerializer using the XmlAttributeOverrides.
        Dim s As XmlSerializer = _
        New XmlSerializer(GetType(Orders), attrOverrides)

        Dim fs As FileStream = New FileStream(filename, FileMode.Open)
        Dim myOrders As Orders = CType( s.Deserialize(fs), Orders)
        Console.WriteLine("ExpandedBook:")

        ' The difference between deserializing the overridden 
        ' XML document and serializing it is this: To read the derived 
        ' object values, you must declare an object of the derived type 
        ' and cast the returned object to it. 
        Dim expanded As ExpandedBook 
        Dim b As Book
        for each b  in myOrders.Books
            expanded = CType(b, ExpandedBook)
            Console.WriteLine(expanded.ISBN)
            Console.WriteLine(expanded.NewEdition)
        Next
    End Sub
End Class
[C#]
public class Orders
{
    public Book[] Books;
}    

public class Book
{
    public string ISBN;
}

public class ExpandedBook:Book
{
    public bool NewEdition;
}

public class Run
{
    public void SerializeObject(string filename)
    {
        // Each overridden field, property, or type requires 
        // an XmlAttributes.
        XmlAttributes attrs = new XmlAttributes();

        // Creates an XmlElementAttribute to override the 
        // field that returns Book objects. The overridden field
        // returns Expanded objects instead.
        XmlElementAttribute attr = new XmlElementAttribute();
        attr.ElementName = "NewBook";
        attr.Type = typeof(ExpandedBook);

        // Adds the element to the collection of elements.
        attrs.XmlElements.Add(attr);

        // Creates the XmlAttributeOverrides.
        XmlAttributeOverrides attrOverrides = new XmlAttributeOverrides();

        // Adds the type of the class that contains the overridden 
        // member, and the XmlAttributes to override it with, to the 
        // XmlAttributeOverrides.
        attrOverrides.Add(typeof(Orders), "Books", attrs);

        // Creates the XmlSerializer using the XmlAttributeOverrides.
        XmlSerializer s = 
        new XmlSerializer(typeof(Orders), attrOverrides);

        // Writing the file requires a TextWriter.
        TextWriter writer = new StreamWriter(filename);

        // Creates the object that will be serialized.
        Orders myOrders = new Orders();
        
        // Creates an object of the derived type.
        ExpandedBook b = new ExpandedBook();
        b.ISBN= "123456789";
        b.NewEdition = true;
        myOrders.Books = new ExpandedBook[]{b};

        // Serializes the object.
        s.Serialize(writer,myOrders);
        writer.Close();
    }

    public void DeserializeObject(string filename)
    {
        XmlAttributeOverrides attrOverrides = 
            new XmlAttributeOverrides();
        XmlAttributes attrs = new XmlAttributes();

        // Creates an XmlElementAttribute to override the 
        // field that returns Book objects. The overridden field
        // returns Expanded objects instead.
        XmlElementAttribute attr = new XmlElementAttribute();
        attr.ElementName = "NewBook";
        attr.Type = typeof(ExpandedBook);

        // Adds the XmlElementAttribute to the collection of objects.
        attrs.XmlElements.Add(attr);

        attrOverrides.Add(typeof(Orders), "Books", attrs);

        // Creates the XmlSerializer using the XmlAttributeOverrides.
        XmlSerializer s = 
        new XmlSerializer(typeof(Orders), attrOverrides);

        FileStream fs = new FileStream(filename, FileMode.Open);
        Orders myOrders = (Orders) s.Deserialize(fs);
        Console.WriteLine("ExpandedBook:");

        // The difference between deserializing the overridden 
        // XML document and serializing it is this: To read the derived 
        // object values, you must declare an object of the derived type 
        // and cast the returned object to it.
        ExpandedBook expanded;
        foreach(Book b in myOrders.Books) 
        {
            expanded = (ExpandedBook)b;
            Console.WriteLine(
            expanded.ISBN + "\n" + 
            expanded.NewEdition);
        }
    }
}

See Also

XML and SOAP Serialization | XmlSerializer | XmlElementAttribute | XmlAttributes | XmlAttributeOverrides

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