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Examples of XML Serialization 

XML serialization can take more than one form, from simple to complex. For example, you can serialize a class that simply consists of public fields and properties, as shown in Introducing XML Serialization. The following code examples address various advanced scenarios, including how to use XML serialization to generate an XML stream that conforms to a specific XML Schema (XSD) document.

Serializing a DataSet

Besides serializing an instance of a public class, an instance of a DataSet can also be serialized, as shown in the following code example.

Private Sub SerializeDataSet(filename As String)
    Dim ser As XmlSerializer = new XmlSerializer(GetType(DataSet))
    ' Creates a DataSet; adds a table, column, and ten rows.
    Dim ds As DataSet = new DataSet("myDataSet")
    Dim t As DataTable = new DataTable("table1")
    Dim c As DataColumn = new DataColumn("thing")
    Dim r As DataRow
    Dim i As Integer
    for i = 0 to 10
        r = t.NewRow()
        r(0) = "Thing " &  i
    Dim writer As TextWriter = new StreamWriter(filename)
    ser.Serialize(writer, ds)
End Sub

Serializing an XmlElement and XmlNode

You can also serialize instances of a XmlElement or XmlNode class, as shown in the following code example.

private Sub SerializeElement(filename As String)
    Dim ser As XmlSerializer = new XmlSerializer(GetType(XmlElement))
    Dim myElement As XmlElement = _
    new XmlDocument().CreateElement("MyElement", "ns")
    myElement.InnerText = "Hello World"
    Dim writer As TextWriter = new StreamWriter(filename)
    ser.Serialize(writer, myElement)
End Sub

Private Sub SerializeNode(filename As String)
    Dim ser As XmlSerializer = _
    new XmlSerializer(GetType(XmlNode))
    Dim myNode As XmlNode = new XmlDocument(). _
    CreateNode(XmlNodeType.Element, "MyNode", "ns")
    myNode.InnerText = "Hello Node"
    Dim writer As TextWriter = new StreamWriter(filename)
    ser.Serialize(writer, myNode)
End Sub

Serializing a Class that Contains a Field Returning a Complex Object

If a property or field returns a complex object (such as an array or a class instance), the XmlSerializer converts it to an element nested within the main XML document. For example, the first class in the following code example returns an instance of the second class.

Public Class PurchaseOrder
    Public MyAdress As Address
End Class

Public Class Address
    Public FirstName As String
End Class

The serialized XML output might resemble the following.


Serializing an Array of Objects

You can also serialize a field that returns an array of objects, as shown in the following code example.

Public Class PurchaseOrder
    public ItemsOrders () As Item
End Class

Public Class Item
    Public ItemID As String
    Public ItemPrice As decimal
End Class

The serialized class instance might resemble the following, if two items are ordered.

<PurchaseOrder xmlns:xsi= xmlns:xsd="">

Serializing a Class that Implements the ICollection Interface

You can create your own collection classes by implementing the ICollection interface, and use the XmlSerializer to serialize instances of these classes. Note that when a class implements the ICollection interface, only the collection contained by the class is serialized. Any public properties or fields added to the class will not be serialized. The class must include an Add method and an Item property (C# indexer) to be serialized.

Imports System
Imports System.IO
Imports System.Collections
Imports System.Xml.Serialization

Public Class Test
    Shared Sub Main()
        Dim t As Test= new Test()
    End Sub

    Private Sub SerializeCollection(filename As String)
        Dim Emps As Employees  = new Employees()
        ' Note that only the collection is serialized -- not the 
        ' CollectionName or any other public property of the class.
        Emps.CollectionName = "Employees"
        Dim John100 As Employee = new Employee("John", "100xxx")
        Dim x As XmlSerializer = new XmlSerializer(GetType(Employees))
        Dim writer As TextWriter = new StreamWriter(filename)
        x.Serialize(writer, Emps)
    End Sub
End Class

Public Class Employees
    Implements ICollection
    Public CollectionName As String 
    Private empArray As ArrayList = new ArrayList() 

    Public ReadOnly Default Overloads _
    Property Item(index As Integer) As Employee
        return CType (empArray(index), Employee)
        End Get
    End Property
    Public Sub CopyTo(a As Array, index As Integer) _
    Implements ICollection.CopyTo
        empArray.CopyTo(a, index)
    End Sub
    Public ReadOnly Property Count () As integer Implements _
            Count = empArray.Count
        End Get

    End Property

    Public ReadOnly Property SyncRoot ()As Object _
    Implements ICollection.SyncRoot
        return me
        End Get
    End Property
    Public ReadOnly Property IsSynchronized () As Boolean _
    Implements ICollection.IsSynchronized
        return false
        End Get
    End Property 

    Public Function GetEnumerator() As IEnumerator _
    Implements IEnumerable.GetEnumerator
        return empArray.GetEnumerator()
    End Function 

    Public Function Add(newEmployee As Employee) As Integer
        return empArray.Count
    End Function
End Class

Public Class Employee
    Public EmpName As String 
    Public EmpID As String 
    Public Sub New ()
    End Sub
    Public Sub New (newName As String , newID As String ) 
        EmpName = newName
        EmpID = newID
    End Sub
End Class

Purchase Order Example

You can cut and paste the following example code into a text file renamed with a .cs or .vb file name extension. Use the C# or Visual Basic compiler to compile the file. Then run it using the name of the executable.

This example uses a simple scenario to demonstrate how an instance of an object is created and serialized into a file stream using the Serialize method. The XML stream is saved to a file, and the same file is then read back and reconstructed into a copy of the original object using the Deserialize method.

In this example, a class named PurchaseOrder is serialized and then deserialized. A second class named Address is also included because the public field named ShipTo must be set to an Address. Similarly, an OrderedItem class is included because an array of OrderedItem objects must be set to the OrderedItems field. Finally, a class named Test contains the code that serializes and deserializes the classes.

The CreatePO method creates the PurchaseOrder, Address, and OrderedItem class objects, and sets the public field values. The method also constructs an instance of the XmlSerializer class that is used to serialize and deserialize the PurchaseOrder. Note that the code passes the type of the class that will be serialized to the constructor. The code also creates a FileStream that is used to write the XML stream to an XML document.

The ReadPo method is a little simpler. It just creates objects to deserialize and reads out their values. As with the CreatePo method, you must first construct a XmlSerializer, passing the type of the class to be deserialized to the constructor. Also, a FileStream is required to read the XML document. To deserialize the objects, call the Deserialize method with the FileStream as an argument. The deserialized object must be cast to an object variable of type PurchaseOrder. The code then reads the values of the deserialized PurchaseOrder. Note that you can also read the PO.xml file that is created to see the actual XML output.

Imports System
Imports System.Xml
Imports System.Xml.Serialization
Imports System.IO
Imports Microsoft.VisualBasic

' The XmlRootAttribute allows you to set an alternate name
' (PurchaseOrder) for the XML element and its namespace. By
' default, the XmlSerializer uses the class name. The attribute
' also allows you to set the XML namespace for the element. Lastly,
' the attribute sets the IsNullable property, which specifies whether
' the xsi:null attribute appears if the class instance is set to
' a null reference. 
<XmlRootAttribute("PurchaseOrder", _
 Namespace := "", IsNullable := False)> _
Public Class PurchaseOrder
    Public ShipTo As Address
    Public OrderDate As String
    ' The XmlArrayAttribute changes the XML element name
    ' from the the default of "OrderedItems" to "Items". 
    <XmlArrayAttribute("Items")> _
    Public OrderedItems() As OrderedItem
    Public SubTotal As Decimal
    Public ShipCost As Decimal
    Public TotalCost As Decimal
End Class 

Public Class Address
    ' The XmlAttribute instructs the XmlSerializer to serialize the 
    ' Name field as an XML attribute instead of an XML element (the 
    ' default behavior). 
    <XmlAttribute()> _
    Public Name As String
    Public Line1 As String
    ' Setting the IsNullable property to false instructs the
    ' XmlSerializer that the XML attribute will not appear if
    ' the City field is set to a null reference. 
    <XmlElementAttribute(IsNullable := False)> _
    Public City As String
    Public State As String
    Public Zip As String
End Class 

Public Class OrderedItem
    Public ItemName As String
    Public Description As String
    Public UnitPrice As Decimal
    Public Quantity As Integer
    Public LineTotal As Decimal
    ' Calculate is a custom method that calculates the price per item
    ' and stores the value in a field. 
    Public Sub Calculate()
    LineTotal = UnitPrice * Quantity
    End Sub 
End Class 

Public Class Test
        Public Shared Sub Main()
    ' Read and write purchase orders.
    Dim t As New Test()
    End Sub 
    Private Sub CreatePO(filename As String)
        ' Creates an instance of the XmlSerializer class;
        ' specifies the type of object to serialize.
        Dim serializer As New XmlSerializer(GetType(PurchaseOrder))
        Dim writer As New StreamWriter(filename)
        Dim po As New PurchaseOrder()
        ' Creates an address to ship and bill to.
        Dim billAddress As New Address()
        billAddress.Name = "Teresa Atkinson"
        billAddress.Line1 = "1 Main St."
        billAddress.City = "AnyTown"
        billAddress.State = "WA"
        billAddress.Zip = "00000"
        ' Set ShipTo and BillTo to the same addressee.
        po.ShipTo = billAddress
        po.OrderDate = System.DateTime.Now.ToLongDateString()
        ' Creates an OrderedItem.
        Dim i1 As New OrderedItem()
        i1.ItemName = "Widget S"
        i1.Description = "Small widget"
        i1.UnitPrice = CDec(5.23)
        i1.Quantity = 3
        ' Inserts the item into the array.
        Dim items(0) As OrderedItem
        items(0) = i1
        po.OrderedItems = items
        ' Calculates the total cost.
        Dim subTotal As New Decimal()
        Dim oi As OrderedItem
        For Each oi In  items
            subTotal += oi.LineTotal
        Next oi
        po.SubTotal = subTotal
        po.ShipCost = CDec(12.51)
        po.TotalCost = po.SubTotal + po.ShipCost
        ' Serializes the purchase order, and close the TextWriter.
        serializer.Serialize(writer, po)
    End Sub 

    Protected Sub ReadPO(filename As String)
        ' Creates an instance of the XmlSerializer class;
        ' specifies the type of object to be deserialized.
        Dim serializer As New XmlSerializer(GetType(PurchaseOrder))
        ' If the XML document has been altered with unknown
        ' nodes or attributes, handles them with the
        ' UnknownNode and UnknownAttribute events.
        AddHandler serializer.UnknownNode, AddressOf serializer_UnknownNode
        AddHandler serializer.UnknownAttribute, AddressOf _
        ' A FileStream is needed to read the XML document.
        Dim fs As New FileStream(filename, FileMode.Open)
        ' Declare an object variable of the type to be deserialized.
        Dim po As PurchaseOrder
        ' Uses the Deserialize method to restore the object's state 
        ' with data from the XML document. 
        po = CType(serializer.Deserialize(fs), PurchaseOrder)
        ' Reads the order date.
        Console.WriteLine(("OrderDate: " & po.OrderDate))
        ' Reads the shipping address.
        Dim shipTo As Address = po.ShipTo
        ReadAddress(shipTo, "Ship To:")
        ' Reads the list of ordered items.
        Dim items As OrderedItem() = po.OrderedItems
        Console.WriteLine("Items to be shipped:")
        Dim oi As OrderedItem
        For Each oi In items
            Console.WriteLine((ControlChars.Tab & oi.ItemName & _
            ControlChars.Tab & _
                oi.Description & ControlChars.Tab & oi.UnitPrice & _
                ControlChars.Tab & _
                oi.Quantity & ControlChars.Tab & oi.LineTotal))
        Next oi
        ' Reads the subtotal, shipping cost, and total cost.
        Console.WriteLine((ControlChars.Cr & New String _
        (ControlChars.Tab, 5) & _
        " Subtotal" & ControlChars.Tab & po.SubTotal & ControlChars.Cr & _
        New String(ControlChars.Tab, 5) & " Shipping" & ControlChars.Tab & _
        po.ShipCost & ControlChars.Cr &  New String(ControlChars.Tab, 5) & _
        " Total" & New String(ControlChars.Tab, 2) & po.TotalCost))
    End Sub 

    Protected Sub ReadAddress(a As Address, label As String)
        ' Reads the fields of the Address.
        Console.Write((ControlChars.Tab & a.Name & ControlChars.Cr & _
        ControlChars.Tab & a.Line1 & ControlChars.Cr & ControlChars.Tab & _
        a.City & ControlChars.Tab & a.State & ControlChars.Cr & _
        ControlChars.Tab & a.Zip & ControlChars.Cr))
    End Sub 
    Protected Sub serializer_UnknownNode(sender As Object, e As _
        Console.WriteLine(("Unknown Node:" & e.Name & _
        ControlChars.Tab & e.Text))
    End Sub 
    Protected Sub serializer_UnknownAttribute(sender As Object, _
    e As XmlAttributeEventArgs)
        Dim attr As System.Xml.XmlAttribute = e.Attr
        Console.WriteLine(("Unknown attribute " & attr.Name & "='" & _
        attr.Value & "'"))
    End Sub 'serializer_UnknownAttribute
End Class 'Test

The XML output might resemble the following.

<?xml version="1.0" encoding="utf-8"?>
<PurchaseOrder xmlns:xsi="" xmlns:xsd="" xmlns="">
    <ShipTo Name="Teresa Atkinson">
        <Line1>1 Main St.</Line1>
    <OrderDate>Wednesday, June 27, 2001</OrderDate>
            <ItemName>Widget S</ItemName>
            <Description>Small widget</Description>

See Also