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How to: Perform Streaming Transform of Large XML Documents

Sometimes you have to transform large XML files, and write your application so that the memory footprint of the application is predictable. If you try to populate an XML tree with a very large XML file, your memory usage will be proportional to the size of the file (that is, excessive). Therefore, you should use a streaming technique instead.

Streaming techniques are best applied in situations where you need to process the source document only once, and you can process the elements in document order. Certain standard query operators, such as OrderBy, iterate their source, collect all of the data, sort it, and then finally yield the first item in the sequence. Note that if you use a query operator that materializes its source before yielding the first item, you will not retain a small memory footprint for your application.

Even if you use the technique described in How to: Stream XML Fragments with Access to Header Info, if you try to assemble an XML tree that contains the transformed document, memory usage will be too great.

There are two main approaches. One approach is to use the deferred processing characteristics of XStreamingElement. Another approach is to create an XmlWriter, and use the capabilities of LINQ to XML to write elements to an XmlWriter. This topic demonstrates both approaches.

The following example builds on the example in How to: Stream XML Fragments with Access to Header Information.

This example uses the deferred execution capabilities of XStreamingElement to stream the output. This example can transform a very large document while maintaining a small memory footprint.

Note that the custom axis (StreamCustomerItem) is specifically written so that it expects a document that has Customer, Name, and Item elements, and that those elements will be arranged as in the following Source.xml document. A more robust implementation, however, would be prepared to parse an invalid document.

NoteNote:

The following example uses the yield return construct of C#. Because there is no equivalent feature in Visual Basic 2008, this example is provided only in C#.

The following is the source document, Source.xml:

<?xml version="1.0" encoding="utf-8" ?> 
<Root>
  <Customer>
    <Name>A. Datum Corporation</Name>
    <Item>
      <Key>0001</Key>
    </Item>
    <Item>
      <Key>0002</Key>
    </Item>
    <Item>
      <Key>0003</Key>
    </Item>
    <Item>
      <Key>0004</Key>
    </Item>
  </Customer>
  <Customer>
    <Name>Fabrikam, Inc.</Name>
    <Item>
      <Key>0005</Key>
    </Item>
    <Item>
      <Key>0006</Key>
    </Item>
    <Item>
      <Key>0007</Key>
    </Item>
    <Item>
      <Key>0008</Key>
    </Item>
  </Customer>
  <Customer>
    <Name>Southridge Video</Name>
    <Item>
      <Key>0009</Key>
    </Item>
    <Item>
      <Key>0010</Key>
    </Item>
  </Customer>
</Root>
static IEnumerable<XElement> StreamCustomerItem(string uri)
{
    using (XmlReader reader = XmlReader.Create(uri))
    {
        XElement name = null;
        XElement item = null;

        reader.MoveToContent();

        // Parse the file, save header information when encountered, and yield the
        // Item XElement objects as they are created.

        // loop through Customer elements
        while (reader.Read())
        {
            if (reader.NodeType == XmlNodeType.Element
                && reader.Name == "Customer")
            {
                // move to Name element
                while (reader.Read())
                {
                    if (reader.NodeType == XmlNodeType.Element &&
                        reader.Name == "Name")
                    {
                        name = XElement.ReadFrom(reader) as XElement;
                        break;
                    }
                }

                // loop through Item elements
                while (reader.Read())
                {
                    if (reader.NodeType == XmlNodeType.EndElement)
                        break;
                    if (reader.NodeType == XmlNodeType.Element
                        && reader.Name == "Item")
                    {
                        item = XElement.ReadFrom(reader) as XElement;
                        if (item != null)
                        {
                            XElement tempRoot = new XElement("Root",
                                new XElement(name)
                            );
                            tempRoot.Add(item);
                            yield return item;
                        }
                    }
                }
            }
        }
    }
}

static void Main(string[] args)
{
    XStreamingElement root = new XStreamingElement("Root",
        from el in StreamCustomerItem("Source.xml")
        select new XElement("Item",
            new XElement("Customer", (string)el.Parent.Element("Name")),
            new XElement(el.Element("Key"))
        )
    );
    root.Save("Test.xml");
    Console.WriteLine(File.ReadAllText("Test.xml"));
}

This code produces the following output:

<?xml version="1.0" encoding="utf-8"?>
<Root>
  <Item>
    <Customer>A. Datum Corporation</Customer>
    <Key>0001</Key>
  </Item>
  <Item>
    <Customer>A. Datum Corporation</Customer>
    <Key>0002</Key>
  </Item>
  <Item>
    <Customer>A. Datum Corporation</Customer>
    <Key>0003</Key>
  </Item>
  <Item>
    <Customer>A. Datum Corporation</Customer>
    <Key>0004</Key>
  </Item>
  <Item>
    <Customer>Fabrikam, Inc.</Customer>
    <Key>0005</Key>
  </Item>
  <Item>
    <Customer>Fabrikam, Inc.</Customer>
    <Key>0006</Key>
  </Item>
  <Item>
    <Customer>Fabrikam, Inc.</Customer>
    <Key>0007</Key>
  </Item>
  <Item>
    <Customer>Fabrikam, Inc.</Customer>
    <Key>0008</Key>
  </Item>
  <Item>
    <Customer>Southridge Video</Customer>
    <Key>0009</Key>
  </Item>
  <Item>
    <Customer>Southridge Video</Customer>
    <Key>0010</Key>
  </Item>
</Root>

The following example also builds on the example in How to: Stream XML Fragments with Access to Header Information.

This example uses the capability of LINQ to XML to write elements to an XmlWriter. This example can transform a very large document while maintaining a small memory footprint.

Note that the custom axis (StreamCustomerItem) is specifically written so that it expects a document that has Customer, Name, and Item elements, and that those elements will be arranged as in the following Source.xml document. A more robust implementation, however, would either validate the source document with an XSD, or would be prepared to parse an invalid document.

This example uses the same source document, Source.xml, as the previous example in this topic. It also produces exactly the same output.

Using XStreamingElement for streaming the output XML is preferred over writing to an XmlWriter.

NoteNote:

The following example uses the yield return construct of C#. Because there is no equivalent feature in Visual Basic 2008, this example is provided only in C#.

static IEnumerable<XElement> StreamCustomerItem(string uri)
{
    using (XmlReader reader = XmlReader.Create(uri))
    {
        XElement name = null;
        XElement item = null;

        reader.MoveToContent();

        // Parse the file, save header information when encountered, and yield the
        // Item XElement objects as they are created.

        // loop through Customer elements
        while (reader.Read())
        {
            if (reader.NodeType == XmlNodeType.Element
                && reader.Name == "Customer")
            {
                // move to Name element
                while (reader.Read())
                {
                    if (reader.NodeType == XmlNodeType.Element &&
                        reader.Name == "Name")
                    {
                        name = XElement.ReadFrom(reader) as XElement;
                        break;
                    }
                }
                
                // loop through Item elements
                while (reader.Read())
                {
                    if (reader.NodeType == XmlNodeType.EndElement)
                        break;
                    if (reader.NodeType == XmlNodeType.Element
                        && reader.Name == "Item")
                    {
                        item = XElement.ReadFrom(reader) as XElement;
                        if (item != null) {
                            XElement tempRoot = new XElement("Root",
                                new XElement(name)
                            );
                            tempRoot.Add(item);
                            yield return item;
                        }
                    }
                }
            }
        }
    }
}

static void Main(string[] args)
{
    IEnumerable<XElement> srcTree =
        from el in StreamCustomerItem("Source.xml")
        select new XElement("Item",
            new XElement("Customer", (string)el.Parent.Element("Name")),
            new XElement(el.Element("Key"))
        );
    XmlWriterSettings xws = new XmlWriterSettings();
    xws.OmitXmlDeclaration = true;
    xws.Indent = true;
    using (XmlWriter xw = XmlWriter.Create("Output.xml", xws)) {
        xw.WriteStartElement("Root");
        foreach (XElement el in srcTree)
            el.WriteTo(xw);
        xw.WriteEndElement();
    }

    string str = File.ReadAllText("Output.xml");
    Console.WriteLine(str);
}

This code produces the following output:

<Root>
  <Item>
    <Customer>A. Datum Corporation</Customer>
    <Key>0001</Key>
  </Item>
  <Item>
    <Customer>A. Datum Corporation</Customer>
    <Key>0002</Key>
  </Item>
  <Item>
    <Customer>A. Datum Corporation</Customer>
    <Key>0003</Key>
  </Item>
  <Item>
    <Customer>A. Datum Corporation</Customer>
    <Key>0004</Key>
  </Item>
  <Item>
    <Customer>Fabrikam, Inc.</Customer>
    <Key>0005</Key>
  </Item>
  <Item>
    <Customer>Fabrikam, Inc.</Customer>
    <Key>0006</Key>
  </Item>
  <Item>
    <Customer>Fabrikam, Inc.</Customer>
    <Key>0007</Key>
  </Item>
  <Item>
    <Customer>Fabrikam, Inc.</Customer>
    <Key>0008</Key>
  </Item>
  <Item>
    <Customer>Southridge Video</Customer>
    <Key>0009</Key>
  </Item>
  <Item>
    <Customer>Southridge Video</Customer>
    <Key>0010</Key>
  </Item>
</Root>
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