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Building XML Response in a Server-Side Script

If your SQL database doesn’t have any XML output options, you have to build the XML output you need in the server-side script.

The only failsafe way to prepare XML data in a server-side script is to do the following:

  1. Use Document Object Model (DOM) objects, provided by MSXML in an ASP or ASP.NET environment, or by DOM functions that are part of the PHP 5 core.
  2. Build the DOM tree with DOM calls.
  3. Write the XML representation of the DOM tree to the output stream when you’re done.

Because you usually won’t know in advance how flexible your XML output will have to be, build your server-side code as modularly as possible. Start with a subroutine that copies the values of the current SQL record into a supplied XML node. This subroutine should accept three extra parameters, in list format:

  • Fields that should be encoded as attributes
  • Fields that should become child tags (with the field value becoming the text of the child tag)
  • Fields that hold XML or HTML fragments

Listing 5 shows the ASP version of such a subroutine.

Listing 5 Copying the current SQL record into an XML node.

Sub CopySQLToXML(RS,Node,Attributes,Children,Fragments)
 Dim I,FX,SQLValue

 If Not IsNull(Attributes) Then
  For I = LBound(Attributes) To UBound(Attributes)
   SQLValue = RS(Attributes(I)).Value
   If Not IsNull(SQLValue) Then _
    Node.setAttribute Attributes(I),CStr(SQLValue)
 End If
 If Not IsNull(Children) Then
  For I = LBound(Children) To UBound(Children)
   SQLValue = RS(Children(I)).Value
   rwbr "ch=" & Children(I) & " val=" & SQLValue
   If Not IsNull(SQLValue) Then _
    NewXMLTextElement Node.ownerDocument,Children(I),_
 End If
 If Not IsNull(Fragments) Then
  For I = LBound(Fragments) To UBound(Fragments)
   Rwbr "Frag=" & Attributes(I)
   If Not IsNull(RS(Fragments(I)).Value) Then
    Set FX = NewXMLElement(Node.ownerDocument,Fragments(I),Node)
    InsertHTMLFragment FX,CStr(RS(Fragments(I)).Value)
   End If
 End If
End Sub

On top of this basic functionality, you could build a number of additional building blocks. For example:

  • A subroutine that creates a new XML child node and copies SQL data into it
  • A subroutine that takes the results of an SQL query and copies all the rows into an XML tree, as shown in Listing 6

Listing 6 Copying the results of an SQL query into an XML tree.

Sub CopyRecordsetToXML(RS,Node,RowName,Attributes,Children,Fragments)
 Dim RX
 While Not RS.EOF
  Set RX = NewXMLElement(Node.ownerDocument,RowName,Node)
  CopySQLToXML RS,RX,Attributes,Children,Fragments
End Sub

Armed with these functions, the server-side scripts become exceedingly simple. For example, the categories.asp script that returns the contents of the Categories table is reduced to four lines of ASP code (assuming that the DB variable contains a valid database connection), as shown in Listing 7.

Listing 7 Returning the contents of the Categories table.

Dim XC : Set XC = NewXMLObject("CategoryList")
Dim RS : Set RS = DB.Execute("SELECT * FROM Categories")
CopyRecordsetToXML RS,XC.documentElement,"Category",_
OutputXMLResponse XC,Null

Similarly, only a few more lines are needed to return the contents of a frequently asked question (a row in the QA table), as shown in Listing 8.

Listing 8 Querying the SQL database and returning the selected table row.


QID = Request("question")
Set QRS = DB.Execute("Select * From QA Where QuestionId = " & QID)
Set QNode = NewXMLObject("QA")

If QRS.EOF Then PrintError "No such question# " & QID
CopySQLtoXML QRS,QNode.documentElement,_
OutputXMLResponse QNode,Null

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