Use Visual C# to read XML data from a URL

This article shows you how to use the XmlTextReader class to read XML from a URL. The streamed information can come from kinds of sources, such as a byte stream from a server, a file, or a TextReader class.

Original product version:   Visual Studio
Original KB number:   307643

Requirements

This article assumes that you're familiar with the following topics:

  • Microsoft Visual Studio
  • XML terminology
  • Creating and reading XML
  • URLs and creating an XML endpoint

This article refers to the .NET Framework Class Library namespace System.Xml.

How to read XML data from a URL

This example uses a file named Books.xml. You can create your own Books.xml file or use the sample file that is included with the .NET Software Development Kit (SDK) QuickStarts. This file is also available for download; refer to the first item in the References section of this article for the download location.

  1. Copy the Books.xml file to the \Inetpub\Wwwroot folder on your computer.

  2. Open Visual Studio.

  3. Create a new Visual C# Console Application. You can either continue to the Complete code listing section or continue through these steps to build the application.

  4. Specify the using directive on the System.Xml namespace so that you aren't required to qualify the XmlTextReader class declarations later in your code. You must use the using directive before any other declarations.

    using System.Xml;
    
  5. Retrieve the XML stream by means of a URL. Streams are used to provide independence from the device; thus, program changes aren't required if the source of a stream changes. Declare a constant for the http://localhost/books.xml URL. You'll use the constant in the next step with XmlTextReader. Add the following code sample to the main procedure of the default class:

    String URLString = "http://localhost/books.xml";
    
  6. Create an instance of the XmlTextReader class, and specify the URL. Typically, XmlTextReader is used if you need to access the XML as raw data without the overhead of a Document Object Model (DOM); thus, XmlTextReader provides a faster mechanism for reading the XML. The XmlTextReader class has different constructors to specify the location of the XML data. The following code creates an instance of an XmlTextReader object and passes the URL to the constructor:

    XmlTextReader reader = new XmlTextReader (URLString);
    
  7. Read through the XML.

    Note

    This step shows a basic, outer while loop, and the next two steps describe how to use that loop and read XML.

    After it is loaded, XmlTextReader performs sequential reads to move across the XML data and uses the Read method to obtain the next record. The Read method returns false if there are no more records.

    while (reader.Read())
    {
        // Do some work here on the data.
        Console.WriteLine(reader.Name);
    }
    Console.ReadLine();
    
  8. Inspect the nodes. To process the XML data, each record has a node type that can be determined from the NodeType property. The Name and Value properties return the node name (the element and attribute names) and the node value (the node text) of the current node (or record). The NodeType enumeration determines the node type. The following sample code displays the name of the elements and the document type.

    Note

    This example ignores element attributes.

    while (reader.Read())
    {
        switch (reader.NodeType)
        {
            case XmlNodeType.Element: // The node is an element.
                Console.Write("<" + reader.Name);
                Console.WriteLine(">");
                break;
    
            case XmlNodeType.Text: //Display the text in each element.
                Console.WriteLine (reader.Value);
                break;
    
            case XmlNodeType. EndElement: //Display the end of the element.
                Console.Write("</" + reader.Name);
                Console.WriteLine(">");
                break;
        }
    }
    
  9. Inspect the attributes. Element node types can include a list of attribute nodes that are associated with them. The MovetoNextAttribute method moves sequentially through each attribute in the element. Use the HasAttributes property to test whether the node has any attributes. The AttributeCount property returns the number of attributes for the current node.

    while (reader.Read())
    {
        switch (reader.NodeType)
        {
            case XmlNodeType.Element: // The node is an element.
                Console.Write("<" + reader.Name);
    
                while (reader.MoveToNextAttribute()) // Read the attributes.
                    Console.Write(" " + reader.Name + "='" + reader.Value + "'");
                Console.Write(">");
                Console.WriteLine(">");
                break;
            case XmlNodeType.Text: //Display the text in each element.
                Console.WriteLine (reader.Value);
                break;
            case XmlNodeType. EndElement: //Display the end of the element.
                Console.Write("</" + reader.Name);
                Console.WriteLine(">");
                break;
        }
    }
    
  10. Build and run your project.

Complete code listing

using System;
using System.Xml;

namespace ReadXMLfromURL
{
    /// <summary>
    /// Summary description for Class1.
    /// </summary>
    class Class1
    {
        static void Main(string[] args)
        {
            String URLString = "http://localhost/books.xml";
            XmlTextReader reader = new XmlTextReader (URLString);

            while (reader.Read())
            {
                switch (reader.NodeType)
                {
                    case XmlNodeType.Element: // The node is an element.
                        Console.Write("<" + reader.Name);

                        while (reader.MoveToNextAttribute()) // Read the attributes.
                            Console.Write(" " + reader.Name + "='" + reader.Value + "'");
                        Console.Write(">");
                        Console.WriteLine(">");
                        break;
                    case XmlNodeType.Text: //Display the text in each element.
                        Console.WriteLine (reader.Value);
                        break;
                    case XmlNodeType. EndElement: //Display the end of the element.
                        Console.Write("</" + reader.Name);
                        Console.WriteLine(">");
                        break;
                }
            }
        }
    }
}

Sample output

<bookstore>
    <book genre="autobiography" publicationdate="1981" ISBN="1-861003-11-0">
        <title>
        The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin
        </title>
        <author>
            <first-name>
            Benjamin
            </first-name>
            <last-name>
            Franklin
            </last-name>
        </author>
        <price>
        8.99
        </price>
    </book>
    <book genre="novel" publicationdate="1967" ISBN="0-201-63361-2">>
        <title>
        The Confidence Man
        </title
        <author>
            <first-name>
            Herman
            </first-name>
            <last-name>
            Melville
            </last-name>
        </author>
        <price>
        11.99
        </price>
    </book>
    <book genre="philosophy" publicationdate="1991" ISBN="1-861001-57-6">
        <title>
        The Gorgias
        </title>
        <author>
            <name>
            Plato
            </name>
        </author>
        <price>
        9.99
        </price>
    </book>
</bookstore>

Troubleshooting

When you test the code, you may receive the following exception error message:

An unhandled exception of type System.Xml.XmlException occurred in system.xml.dll Additional information: Unexpected XML declaration. The XML declaration must be the first node in the document, and no white space characters are allowed to appear before it. Line 1, position 4.

The exception error occurs on the following line of code.

while (reader.Read())

To resolve the exception error, remove the white-space character that precedes the first node in the Books.xml document.

References