Exploring XML Document by Using the [XML] Type Accelerator

Summary: Learn how to use the [XML] type accelerator to explore XML documents.

Microsoft Scripting Guy, Ed Wilson, is here. The Scripting Wife bought me a pound of English Breakfast tea that she found online somewhere. It is long leaf, robust, and has a hint of earth tones in the bouquet. It makes a wonderfully rich pot of tea. It was a complete surprise when the box showed up on the door step. I added a cinnamon stick, like I normally do, but I thought I would try this tea basically unaltered to get a sense of what it has to offer. In a way, the tea is similar to today’s excursion into XML.

Note  This is the second in a series of posts about XML. Yesterday, I talked about using XML Notepad in Creating an XML Document for Admins. You might want to explore that post before continuing with today’s.

There are several tools that can be used to explore an XML document. I can simply double-click the XML document and view it in Internet Explorer (assuming that is the default file association with XML). The following image provides an example of the output:

Image of command output

To be honest, Internet Explorer (or any browser for that matter) is not a very good XML viewer. I would rather view it in Notepad than Internet Explorer. On my system, the default application for XML files is not Internet Explorer, but rather XML Notepad, which in addition to being lightweight, actually has facilities for dealing with XML. So the Users.xml file looks like this in XML Notepad:

Image of menu

The way I prefer to look at XML documents, however, is via Windows PowerShell.

Use PowerShell to peruse XML docs

Using Windows PowerShell to open an XML document is so easy that people have a tendency to lock up. At its most basic, an XML document is a text file. What do I use to open a text file in Windows PowerShell? I use the Get-Content cmdlet. And that is the same cmdlet I use for XML. The only difference is that I use the [XML] type accelerator to convert the plain text into an XML document. This is really easy. Because when I use Get-Content to read a text file, most of the time I store the resulting text in a variable. This is the same thing I do with XML. The technique is shown here:

[XML]$users = Get-Content C:\fso\users.xml

I now have an XMLDocument object. The object members are shown here:

PS C:\> $users | Get-Member


   TypeName: System.Xml.XmlDocument


Name                        MemberType            Definition

—-                        ———-            ———-

ToString                    CodeMethod            static string XmlNode(psobject insta…

AppendChild                 Method                System.Xml.XmlNode AppendChild(Syste…

Clone                       Method                System.Xml.XmlNode Clone(), System.O…

CloneNode                   Method                System.Xml.XmlNode CloneNode(bool deep)

CreateAttribute             Method                System.Xml.XmlAttribute CreateAttrib…

CreateCDataSection          Method                System.Xml.XmlCDataSection CreateCDa…

CreateComment               Method                System.Xml.XmlComment CreateComment(…

CreateDocumentFragment      Method                System.Xml.XmlDocumentFragment Creat…

CreateDocumentType          Method                System.Xml.XmlDocumentType CreateDoc…

CreateElement               Method                System.Xml.XmlElement CreateElement(…

CreateEntityReference       Method                System.Xml.XmlEntityReference Create…

CreateNavigator             Method                System.Xml.XPath.XPathNavigator Crea…

CreateNode                  Method                System.Xml.XmlNode CreateNode(System…

CreateProcessingInstruction Method                System.Xml.XmlProcessingInstruction …

CreateSignificantWhitespace Method                System.Xml.XmlSignificantWhitespace …

CreateTextNode              Method                System.Xml.XmlText CreateTextNode(st…

CreateWhitespace            Method                System.Xml.XmlWhitespace CreateWhite…

CreateXmlDeclaration        Method                System.Xml.XmlDeclaration CreateXmlD…

Equals                      Method                bool Equals(System.Object obj)

GetElementById              Method                System.Xml.XmlElement GetElementById…

GetElementsByTagName        Method                System.Xml.XmlNodeList GetElementsBy…

GetEnumerator               Method                System.Collections.IEnumerator GetEn…

GetHashCode                 Method                int GetHashCode()

GetNamespaceOfPrefix        Method                string GetNamespaceOfPrefix(string p…

GetPrefixOfNamespace        Method                string GetPrefixOfNamespace(string n…

GetType                     Method                type GetType()

ImportNode                  Method                System.Xml.XmlNode ImportNode(System…

InsertAfter                 Method                System.Xml.XmlNode InsertAfter(Syste…

InsertBefore                Method                System.Xml.XmlNode InsertBefore(Syst…

Load                        Method                void Load(string filename), void Loa…

LoadXml                     Method                void LoadXml(string xml)

Normalize                   Method                void Normalize()

PrependChild                Method                System.Xml.XmlNode PrependChild(Syst…

ReadNode                    Method                System.Xml.XmlNode ReadNode(System.X…

RemoveAll                   Method                void RemoveAll()

RemoveChild                 Method                System.Xml.XmlNode RemoveChild(Syste…

ReplaceChild                Method                System.Xml.XmlNode ReplaceChild(Syst…

Save                        Method                void Save(string filename), void Sav…

SelectNodes                 Method                System.Xml.XmlNodeList SelectNodes(s…

SelectSingleNode            Method                System.Xml.XmlNode SelectSingleNode(…

Supports                    Method                bool Supports(string feature, string…

Validate                    Method                void Validate(System.Xml.Schema.Vali…

WriteContentTo              Method                void WriteContentTo(System.Xml.XmlWr…

WriteTo                     Method                void WriteTo(System.Xml.XmlWriter w)

Item                        ParameterizedProperty System.Xml.XmlElement Item(string na…

Users                       Property              System.Xml.XmlElement Users {get;}

xml                         Property              string xml {get;set;}

I can see from the previous output that there are a lot of methods for dealing with XMLDocument objects via the .NET Framework. I can look up the System.XML.XMLDocument object on MSDN and find additional information about each of these methods. Today, I am interested in the properties. There are two properties: Users and XML. There is also a parameterized property called Item. Other than that, everything is a method of some sort.

To look at the values of the two properties, all I need to do is to look at the variable. I type the $users variable in the Windows PowerShell console and press ENTER. The output is less than impressive. It is shown here:

PS C:\> $users


xml                                          Users

—                                          —–

version="1.0" encoding="utf-8"               Users

I decide to look at what is in the XML property first:

PS C:\> $users.xml

version="1.0" encoding="utf-8"

Is there anything else? When I pipe it to Get-Member, I see that I have a System.String:

PS C:\> $users.xml | gm


   TypeName: System.String


Name             MemberType            Definition

—-             ———-            ———-

Clone            Method                System.Object Clone(), System.Object

CompareTo        Method                int CompareTo(System.Object value),

Contains         Method                bool Contains(string value)

CopyTo           Method                void CopyTo(int sourceIndex, char[]

EndsWith         Method                bool EndsWith(string value), bool En

Equals           Method                bool Equals(System.Object obj), bool

GetEnumerator    Method                System.CharEnumerator GetEnumerator(

GetHashCode      Method                int GetHashCode()

<output truncated>

When I look at the Users property, I receive a series of user objects:

PS C:\> $users.Users




{User, User, User, User…}

So, I continue to drill down.

The User node:

PS C:\> $users.Users.User


ID                            UserName                      Address

—                            ——–                      ——-

0                             UserName                      Address

0                             UserName                      Address

0                             UserName                      Address

0                             UserName                      Address

0                             UserName                      Address

The UserName node:

PS C:\> $users.Users.User.username


FirstName              LastName               #text                 Password

———              ——–               —–                 ——–

Bob                    Smith                  BobSmith              password

Bob                    Smith                  BobSmith              password

Bob                    Smith                  BobSmith              password

Bob                    Smith                  BobSmith              password

Bob                    Smith                  BobSmith              password

And finally, the #Text property that contains the actual user name:

PS C:\> $users.Users.User.username."#text"






PS C:\>

Dude, all these look like the same thing. Is this right?

As a matter of a fact, it is—because all I did yesterday was duplicate each of the user objects. I did not go to the trouble of modifying any of the values. I can easily prove this by opening the XML document in XML Notepad and expanding a few of the nodes. This is shown here:

Image of menu

That is all there is to parsing XML. XML Week will continue tomorrow when I will talk about more cool stuff.

I invite you to follow me on Twitter and Facebook. If you have any questions, send email to me at scripter@microsoft.com, or post your questions on the Official Scripting Guys Forum. See you tomorrow. Until then, peace.

Ed Wilson, Microsoft Scripting Guy 

Comments (3)

  1. Thanks for this! I’m already exploring some XML dumped from Lync.

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