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4.11 Parsing XML

(require 'xml-parse) or (require 'ssax)

The XML standard document referred to in this module is

The present frameworks fully supports the XML Namespaces Recommendation

4.11.1 String Glue

Function: ssax:reverse-collect-str list-of-frags

Given the list of fragments (some of which are text strings), reverse the list and concatenate adjacent text strings. If LIST-OF-FRAGS has zero or one element, the result of the procedure is equal? to its argument.

Function: ssax:reverse-collect-str-drop-ws list-of-frags

Given the list of fragments (some of which are text strings), reverse the list and concatenate adjacent text strings while dropping "unsignificant" whitespace, that is, whitespace in front, behind and between elements. The whitespace that is included in character data is not affected.

Use this procedure to "intelligently" drop "insignificant" whitespace in the parsed SXML. If the strict compliance with the XML Recommendation regarding the whitespace is desired, use the ssax:reverse-collect-str procedure instead.

4.11.2 Character and Token Functions

The following functions either skip, or build and return tokens, according to inclusion or delimiting semantics. The list of characters to expect, include, or to break at may vary from one invocation of a function to another. This allows the functions to easily parse even context-sensitive languages.

Exceptions are mentioned specifically. The list of expected characters (characters to skip until, or break-characters) may include an EOF "character", which is coded as symbol *eof*

The input stream to parse is specified as a PORT, which is the last argument.

Function: ssax:assert-current-char char-list string port

Reads a character from the port and looks it up in the char-list of expected characters. If the read character was found among expected, it is returned. Otherwise, the procedure writes a message using string as a comment and quits.

Function: ssax:skip-while char-list port

Reads characters from the port and disregards them, as long as they are mentioned in the char-list. The first character (which may be EOF) peeked from the stream that is not a member of the char-list is returned.

Function: ssax:init-buffer

Returns an initial buffer for ssax:next-token* procedures. ssax:init-buffer may allocate a new buffer at each invocation.

Function: ssax:next-token prefix-char-list break-char-list comment-string port

Skips any number of the prefix characters (members of the prefix-char-list), if any, and reads the sequence of characters up to (but not including) a break character, one of the break-char-list.

The string of characters thus read is returned. The break character is left on the input stream. break-char-list may include the symbol *eof*; otherwise, EOF is fatal, generating an error message including a specified comment-string.

ssax:next-token-of is similar to ssax:next-token except that it implements an inclusion rather than delimiting semantics.

Function: ssax:next-token-of inc-charset port

Reads characters from the port that belong to the list of characters inc-charset. The reading stops at the first character which is not a member of the set. This character is left on the stream. All the read characters are returned in a string.

Function: ssax:next-token-of pred port

Reads characters from the port for which pred (a procedure of one argument) returns non-#f. The reading stops at the first character for which pred returns #f. That character is left on the stream. All the results of evaluating of pred up to #f are returned in a string.

pred is a procedure that takes one argument (a character or the EOF object) and returns a character or #f. The returned character does not have to be the same as the input argument to the pred. For example,

(ssax:next-token-of (lambda (c)
                      (cond ((eof-object? c) #f)
                            ((char-alphabetic? c) (char-downcase c))
                            (else #f)))

will try to read an alphabetic token from the current input port, and return it in lower case.

Function: ssax:read-string len port

Reads len characters from the port, and returns them in a string. If EOF is encountered before len characters are read, a shorter string will be returned.

4.11.3 Data Types


A symbol ‘START’, ‘END’, ‘PI’, ‘DECL’, ‘COMMENT’, ‘CDSECT’, or ‘ENTITY-REF’ that identifies a markup token


a name (called GI in the XML Recommendation) as given in an XML document for a markup token: start-tag, PI target, attribute name. If a GI is an NCName, UNRES-NAME is this NCName converted into a Scheme symbol. If a GI is a QName, ‘UNRES-NAME’ is a pair of symbols: (PREFIX . LOCALPART).


An expanded name, a resolved version of an ‘UNRES-NAME’. For an element or an attribute name with a non-empty namespace URI, ‘RES-NAME’ is a pair of symbols, (URI-SYMB . LOCALPART). Otherwise, it’s a single symbol.


A symbol:


anything goes, expect an END tag.


no content, and no END-tag is coming


no content, expect the END-tag as the next token


expect character data only, and no children elements


A symbol representing a namespace URI – or other symbol chosen by the user to represent URI. In the former case, URI-SYMB is created by %-quoting of bad URI characters and converting the resulting string into a symbol.


A list representing namespaces in effect. An element of the list has one of the following forms:

(prefix uri-symb . uri-symb) or
(prefix user-prefix . uri-symb)

user-prefix is a symbol chosen by the user to represent the URI.

(#f user-prefix . uri-symb)

Specification of the user-chosen prefix and a URI-SYMBOL.

(*DEFAULT* user-prefix . uri-symb)

Declaration of the default namespace

(*DEFAULT* #f . #f)

Un-declaration of the default namespace. This notation represents overriding of the previous declaration

A NAMESPACES list may contain several elements for the same prefix. The one closest to the beginning of the list takes effect.


An ordered collection of (NAME . VALUE) pairs, where NAME is a RES-NAME or an UNRES-NAME. The collection is an ADT.


A procedure of three arguments: string1 string2 seed returning a new seed. The procedure is supposed to handle a chunk of character data string1 followed by a chunk of character data string2. string2 is a short string, often ‘"\n"’ and even ‘""’.


An assoc list of pairs:

   (named-entity-name . named-entity-body)

where named-entity-name is a symbol under which the entity was declared, named-entity-body is either a string, or (for an external entity) a thunk that will return an input port (from which the entity can be read). named-entity-body may also be #f. This is an indication that a named-entity-name is currently being expanded. A reference to this named-entity-name will be an error: violation of the WFC nonrecursion.


This record represents a markup, which is, according to the XML Recommendation, "takes the form of start-tags, end-tags, empty-element tags, entity references, character references, comments, CDATA section delimiters, document type declarations, and processing instructions."




an UNRES-NAME. For XML-TOKENs of kinds ’COMMENT and ’CDSECT, the head is #f.

For example,

<P>                   => kind=START,      head=P
</P>                  => kind=END,        head=P
<BR/>                 => kind=EMPTY-EL,   head=BR
<!DOCTYPE OMF ...>    => kind=DECL,       head=DOCTYPE
<?xml version="1.0"?> => kind=PI,         head=xml
&my-ent;              => kind=ENTITY-REF, head=my-ent

Character references are not represented by xml-tokens as these references are transparently resolved into the corresponding characters.


The record represents a datatype of an XML document: the list of declared elements and their attributes, declared notations, list of replacement strings or loading procedures for parsed general entities, etc. Normally an XML-DECL record is created from a DTD or an XML Schema, although it can be created and filled in in many other ways (e.g., loaded from a file).


an (assoc) list of decl-elem or #f. The latter instructs the parser to do no validation of elements and attributes.


declaration of one element:

(elem-name elem-content decl-attrs)

elem-name is an UNRES-NAME for the element.

elem-content is an ELEM-CONTENT-MODEL.

decl-attrs is an ATTLIST, of (attr-name . value) associations.

This element can declare a user procedure to handle parsing of an element (e.g., to do a custom validation, or to build a hash of IDs as they’re encountered).


an element of an ATTLIST, declaration of one attribute:

(attr-name content-type use-type default-value)

attr-name is an UNRES-NAME for the declared attribute.

content-type is a symbol: CDATA, NMTOKEN, NMTOKENS, … or a list of strings for the enumerated type.

use-type is a symbol: REQUIRED, IMPLIED, or FIXED.

default-value is a string for the default value, or #f if not given.

4.11.4 Low-Level Parsers and Scanners

These procedures deal with primitive lexical units (Names, whitespaces, tags) and with pieces of more generic productions. Most of these parsers must be called in appropriate context. For example, ssax:complete-start-tag must be called only when the start-tag has been detected and its GI has been read.

Function: ssax:skip-s port

Skip the S (whitespace) production as defined by

[3] S ::= (#x20 | #x09 | #x0D | #x0A)

ssax:skip-s returns the first not-whitespace character it encounters while scanning the port. This character is left on the input stream.

Function: ssax:read-ncname port

Read a NCName starting from the current position in the port and return it as a symbol.

[4] NameChar ::= Letter | Digit | '.' | '-' | '_' | ':'
                 | CombiningChar | Extender
[5] Name ::= (Letter | '_' | ':') (NameChar)*

This code supports the XML Namespace Recommendation REC-xml-names, which modifies the above productions as follows:

[4] NCNameChar ::= Letter | Digit | '.' | '-' | '_'
                      | CombiningChar | Extender
[5] NCName ::= (Letter | '_') (NCNameChar)*

As the Rec-xml-names says,

"An XML document conforms to this specification if all other tokens [other than element types and attribute names] in the document which are required, for XML conformance, to match the XML production for Name, match this specification’s production for NCName."

Element types and attribute names must match the production QName, defined below.

Function: ssax:read-qname port

Read a (namespace-) Qualified Name, QName, from the current position in port; and return an UNRES-NAME.

From REC-xml-names:

[6] QName ::= (Prefix ':')? LocalPart
[7] Prefix ::= NCName
[8] LocalPart ::= NCName
Function: ssax:read-markup-token port

This procedure starts parsing of a markup token. The current position in the stream must be ‘<’. This procedure scans enough of the input stream to figure out what kind of a markup token it is seeing. The procedure returns an XML-TOKEN structure describing the token. Note, generally reading of the current markup is not finished! In particular, no attributes of the start-tag token are scanned.

Here’s a detailed break out of the return values and the position in the PORT when that particular value is returned:


only PI-target is read. To finish the Processing-Instruction and disregard it, call ssax:skip-pi. ssax:read-attributes may be useful as well (for PIs whose content is attribute-value pairs).


The end tag is read completely; the current position is right after the terminating ‘>’ character.


is read and skipped completely. The current position is right after ‘-->’ that terminates the comment.


The current position is right after ‘<!CDATA[’. Use ssax:read-cdata-body to read the rest.


We have read the keyword (the one that follows ‘<!’) identifying this declaration markup. The current position is after the keyword (usually a whitespace character)


We have read the keyword (GI) of this start tag. No attributes are scanned yet. We don’t know if this tag has an empty content either. Use ssax:complete-start-tag to finish parsing of the token.

Function: ssax:skip-pi port

The current position is inside a PI. Skip till the rest of the PI

Function: ssax:read-pi-body-as-string port

The current position is right after reading the PITarget. We read the body of PI and return is as a string. The port will point to the character right after ‘?>’ combination that terminates PI.

[16] PI ::= '<?' PITarget (S (Char* - (Char* '?>' Char*)))? '?>'
Function: ssax:skip-internal-dtd port

The current pos in the port is inside an internal DTD subset (e.g., after reading ‘#\[’ that begins an internal DTD subset) Skip until the ‘]>’ combination that terminates this DTD.

Function: ssax:read-cdata-body port str-handler seed

This procedure must be called after we have read a string ‘<![CDATA[’ that begins a CDATA section. The current position must be the first position of the CDATA body. This function reads lines of the CDATA body and passes them to a str-handler, a character data consumer.

str-handler is a procedure taking arguments: string1, string2, and seed. The first string1 argument to str-handler never contains a newline; the second string2 argument often will. On the first invocation of str-handler, seed is the one passed to ssax:read-cdata-body as the third argument. The result of this first invocation will be passed as the seed argument to the second invocation of the line consumer, and so on. The result of the last invocation of the str-handler is returned by the ssax:read-cdata-body. Note a similarity to the fundamental fold iterator.

Within a CDATA section all characters are taken at their face value, with three exceptions:

  • CR, LF, and CRLF are treated as line delimiters, and passed as a single ‘#\newline’ to str-handler
  • ]]>’ combination is the end of the CDATA section. ‘&gt;’ is treated as an embedded ‘>’ character.
  • &lt;’ and ‘&amp;’ are not specially recognized (and are not expanded)!
Function: ssax:read-char-ref port
[66]  CharRef ::=  '&#' [0-9]+ ';'
                 | '&#x' [0-9a-fA-F]+ ';'

This procedure must be called after we we have read ‘&#’ that introduces a char reference. The procedure reads this reference and returns the corresponding char. The current position in PORT will be after the ‘;’ that terminates the char reference.

Faults detected:
WFC: XML-Spec.html#wf-Legalchar

According to Section 4.1 Character and Entity References of the XML Recommendation:

"[Definition: A character reference refers to a specific character in the ISO/IEC 10646 character set, for example one not directly accessible from available input devices.]"

Function: ssax:handle-parsed-entity port name entities content-handler str-handler seed

Expands and handles a parsed-entity reference.

name is a symbol, the name of the parsed entity to expand. content-handler is a procedure of arguments port, entities, and seed that returns a seed. str-handler is called if the entity in question is a pre-declared entity.

ssax:handle-parsed-entity returns the result returned by content-handler or str-handler.

Faults detected:
WFC: XML-Spec.html#wf-entdeclared
WFC: XML-Spec.html#norecursion

Function: attlist-add attlist name-value

Add a name-value pair to the existing attlist, preserving its sorted ascending order; and return the new list. Return #f if a pair with the same name already exists in attlist

Function: attlist-remove-top attlist

Given an non-null attlist, return a pair of values: the top and the rest.

Function: ssax:read-attributes port entities

This procedure reads and parses a production Attribute.

[41] Attribute ::= Name Eq AttValue
[10] AttValue ::=  '"' ([^<&"] | Reference)* '"'
                | "'" ([^<&'] | Reference)* "'"
[25] Eq ::= S? '=' S?

The procedure returns an ATTLIST, of Name (as UNRES-NAME), Value (as string) pairs. The current character on the port is a non-whitespace character that is not an NCName-starting character.

Note the following rules to keep in mind when reading an AttValue:

Before the value of an attribute is passed to the application or checked for validity, the XML processor must normalize it as follows:

  • A character reference is processed by appending the referenced character to the attribute value.
  • An entity reference is processed by recursively processing the replacement text of the entity. The named entities ‘amp’, ‘lt’, ‘gt’, ‘quot’, and ‘apos’ are pre-declared.
  • A whitespace character (#x20, #x0D, #x0A, #x09) is processed by appending #x20 to the normalized value, except that only a single #x20 is appended for a "#x0D#x0A" sequence that is part of an external parsed entity or the literal entity value of an internal parsed entity.
  • Other characters are processed by appending them to the normalized value.

Faults detected:
WFC: XML-Spec.html#CleanAttrVals
WFC: XML-Spec.html#uniqattspec

Function: ssax:resolve-name port unres-name namespaces apply-default-ns?

Convert an unres-name to a RES-NAME, given the appropriate namespaces declarations. The last parameter, apply-default-ns?, determines if the default namespace applies (for instance, it does not for attribute names).

Per REC-xml-names/#nsc-NSDeclared, the "xml" prefix is considered pre-declared and bound to the namespace name "".

ssax:resolve-name tests for the namespace constraints:

Function: ssax:complete-start-tag tag port elems entities namespaces

Complete parsing of a start-tag markup. ssax:complete-start-tag must be called after the start tag token has been read. tag is an UNRES-NAME. elems is an instance of the ELEMS slot of XML-DECL; it can be #f to tell the function to do no validation of elements and their attributes.

ssax:complete-start-tag returns several values:

  • ATTRIBUTES: element’s attributes, an ATTLIST of (RES-NAME . STRING) pairs. The list does NOT include xmlns attributes.
  • NAMESPACES: the input list of namespaces amended with namespace (re-)declarations contained within the start-tag under parsing

On exit, the current position in port will be the first character after ‘>’ that terminates the start-tag markup.

Faults detected:
VC: XML-Spec.html#enum
VC: XML-Spec.html#RequiredAttr
VC: XML-Spec.html#FixedAttr
VC: XML-Spec.html#ValueType
WFC: XML-Spec.html#uniqattspec (after namespaces prefixes are resolved)
VC: XML-Spec.html#elementvalid
WFC: REC-xml-names/#dt-NSName

Note: although XML Recommendation does not explicitly say it, xmlns and xmlns: attributes don’t have to be declared (although they can be declared, to specify their default value).

Function: ssax:read-external-id port

Parses an ExternalID production:

[75] ExternalID ::= 'SYSTEM' S SystemLiteral
                  | 'PUBLIC' S PubidLiteral S SystemLiteral
[11] SystemLiteral ::= ('"' [^"]* '"') | ("'" [^']* "'")
[12] PubidLiteral ::=  '"' PubidChar* '"'
                     | "'" (PubidChar - "'")* "'"
[13] PubidChar ::=  #x20 | #x0D | #x0A | [a-zA-Z0-9]
                         | [-'()+,./:=?;!*#@$_%]

Call ssax:read-external-id when an ExternalID is expected; that is, the current character must be either #\S or #\P that starts correspondingly a SYSTEM or PUBLIC token. ssax:read-external-id returns the SystemLiteral as a string. A PubidLiteral is disregarded if present.

4.11.5 Mid-Level Parsers and Scanners

These procedures parse productions corresponding to the whole (document) entity or its higher-level pieces (prolog, root element, etc).

Function: ssax:scan-misc port

Scan the Misc production in the context:

[1]  document ::=  prolog element Misc*
[22] prolog ::= XMLDecl? Misc* (doctypedec l Misc*)?
[27] Misc ::= Comment | PI |  S

Call ssax:scan-misc in the prolog or epilog contexts. In these contexts, whitespaces are completely ignored. The return value from ssax:scan-misc is either a PI-token, a DECL-token, a START token, or *EOF*. Comments are ignored and not reported.

Function: ssax:read-char-data port expect-eof? str-handler iseed

Read the character content of an XML document or an XML element.

[43] content ::=
(element | CharData | Reference | CDSect | PI | Comment)*

To be more precise, ssax:read-char-data reads CharData, expands CDSect and character entities, and skips comments. ssax:read-char-data stops at a named reference, EOF, at the beginning of a PI, or a start/end tag.

expect-eof? is a boolean indicating if EOF is normal; i.e., the character data may be terminated by the EOF. EOF is normal while processing a parsed entity.

iseed is an argument passed to the first invocation of str-handler.

ssax:read-char-data returns two results: seed and token. The seed is the result of the last invocation of str-handler, or the original iseed if str-handler was never called.

token can be either an eof-object (this can happen only if expect-eof? was #t), or:

  • an xml-token describing a START tag or an END-tag; For a start token, the caller has to finish reading it.
  • an xml-token describing the beginning of a PI. It’s up to an application to read or skip through the rest of this PI;
  • an xml-token describing a named entity reference.

CDATA sections and character references are expanded inline and never returned. Comments are silently disregarded.

As the XML Recommendation requires, all whitespace in character data must be preserved. However, a CR character (#x0D) must be disregarded if it appears before a LF character (#x0A), or replaced by a #x0A character otherwise. See Secs. 2.10 and 2.11 of the XML Recommendation. See also the canonical XML Recommendation.

Function: ssax:assert-token token kind gi error-cont

Make sure that token is of anticipated kind and has anticipated gi. Note that the gi argument may actually be a pair of two symbols, Namespace-URI or the prefix, and of the localname. If the assertion fails, error-cont is evaluated by passing it three arguments: token kind gi. The result of error-cont is returned.

4.11.6 High-level Parsers

These procedures are to instantiate a SSAX parser. A user can instantiate the parser to do the full validation, or no validation, or any particular validation. The user specifies which PI he wants to be notified about. The user tells what to do with the parsed character and element data. The latter handlers determine if the parsing follows a SAX or a DOM model.

Function: ssax:make-pi-parser my-pi-handlers

Create a parser to parse and process one Processing Element (PI).

my-pi-handlers is an association list of pairs (pi-tag . pi-handler) where pi-tag is an NCName symbol, the PI target; and pi-handler is a procedure taking arguments port, pi-tag, and seed.

pi-handler should read the rest of the PI up to and including the combination ‘?>’ that terminates the PI. The handler should return a new seed. One of the pi-tags may be the symbol *DEFAULT*. The corresponding handler will handle PIs that no other handler will. If the *DEFAULT* pi-tag is not specified, ssax:make-pi-parser will assume the default handler that skips the body of the PI.

ssax:make-pi-parser returns a procedure of arguments port, pi-tag, and seed; that will parse the current PI according to my-pi-handlers.

Function: ssax:make-elem-parser my-new-level-seed my-finish-element my-char-data-handler my-pi-handlers

Create a parser to parse and process one element, including its character content or children elements. The parser is typically applied to the root element of a document.


is a procedure taking arguments:

elem-gi attributes namespaces expected-content seed

where elem-gi is a RES-NAME of the element about to be processed.

my-new-level-seed is to generate the seed to be passed to handlers that process the content of the element.


is a procedure taking arguments:

elem-gi attributes namespaces parent-seed seed

my-finish-element is called when parsing of elem-gi is finished. The seed is the result from the last content parser (or from my-new-level-seed if the element has the empty content). parent-seed is the same seed as was passed to my-new-level-seed. my-finish-element is to generate a seed that will be the result of the element parser.


is a STR-HANDLER as described in Data Types above.


is as described for ssax:make-pi-handler above.

The generated parser is a procedure taking arguments:

start-tag-head port elems entities namespaces preserve-ws? seed

The procedure must be called after the start tag token has been read. start-tag-head is an UNRES-NAME from the start-element tag. ELEMS is an instance of ELEMS slot of XML-DECL.

Faults detected:
VC: XML-Spec.html#elementvalid
WFC: XML-Spec.html#GIMatch

Function: ssax:make-parser user-handler-tag user-handler …

Create an XML parser, an instance of the XML parsing framework. This will be a SAX, a DOM, or a specialized parser depending on the supplied user-handlers.

ssax:make-parser takes an even number of arguments; user-handler-tag is a symbol that identifies a procedure (or association list for PROCESSING-INSTRUCTIONS) (user-handler) that follows the tag. Given below are tags and signatures of the corresponding procedures. Not all tags have to be specified. If some are omitted, reasonable defaults will apply.


handler-procedure: port docname systemid internal-subset? seed

If internal-subset? is #t, the current position in the port is right after we have read ‘[’ that begins the internal DTD subset. We must finish reading of this subset before we return (or must call skip-internal-dtd if we aren’t interested in reading it). port at exit must be at the first symbol after the whole DOCTYPE declaration.

The handler-procedure must generate four values:

elems entities namespaces seed

elems is as defined for the ELEMS slot of XML-DECL. It may be #f to switch off validation. namespaces will typically contain user-prefixes for selected uri-symbs. The default handler-procedure skips the internal subset, if any, and returns (values #f '() '() seed).


procedure: elem-gi seed

where elem-gi is an UNRES-NAME of the root element. This procedure is called when an XML document under parsing contains no DOCTYPE declaration.

The handler-procedure, as a DOCTYPE handler procedure above, must generate four values:

elems entities namespaces seed

The default handler-procedure returns (values #f ’() ’() seed)


procedure: elem-gi seed

where elem-gi is an UNRES-NAME of the root element. This procedure is called when an XML document under parsing does contains the DOCTYPE declaration. The handler-procedure must generate a new seed (and verify that the name of the root element matches the doctype, if the handler so wishes). The default handler-procedure is the identity function.


procedure: see ssax:make-elem-parser, my-new-level-seed


procedure: see ssax:make-elem-parser, my-finish-element


procedure: see ssax:make-elem-parser, my-char-data-handler


association list as is passed to ssax:make-pi-parser. The default value is ’()

The generated parser is a procedure of arguments port and seed.

This procedure parses the document prolog and then exits to an element parser (created by ssax:make-elem-parser) to handle the rest.

[1]  document ::=  prolog element Misc*
[22] prolog ::= XMLDecl? Misc* (doctypedec | Misc*)?
[27] Misc ::= Comment | PI |  S
[28] doctypedecl ::=  '<!DOCTYPE' S Name (S ExternalID)? S?
              ('[' (markupdecl | PEReference | S)* ']' S?)? '>'
[29] markupdecl ::= elementdecl | AttlistDecl
                     | EntityDecl
                     | NotationDecl | PI
                     | Comment

4.11.7 Parsing XML to SXML

Function: ssax:xml->sxml port namespace-prefix-assig

This is an instance of the SSAX parser that returns an SXML representation of the XML document to be read from port. namespace-prefix-assig is a list of (user-prefix . uri-string) that assigns user-prefixes to certain namespaces identified by particular uri-strings. It may be an empty list. ssax:xml->sxml returns an SXML tree. The port points out to the first character after the root element.

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