RPG Has SAX Appeal!

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In this part of our RPG XML series, you'll learn how to use RPG's XML-SAX op-code to deal with problematic XML documents and handle situations that XML-INTO cannot deal with.


In the previous two articles in this series, "%Handling XML-INTO Problems" and "i5/OS Offers Native XML Support in V5R4", we focused on the capabilities of RPG's XML-INTO. As we saw, this op-code processes an entire document, either as a single piece or, when needed or desired, in "chunks" by using the capabilities of the %HANDLER BIF. There are, however, situations when this will not work for you. This often relates to limitations in RPG's data structure (DS) capabilities. As you know, a named DS is limited to a maximum size of 64K (at least until V6R1 anyway). Suppose that even a single repeating element will not fit into this? That may sound unlikely, but it doesn't take a huge number of repeating text fields to exceed this limit. Another example, and one that seems to occur quite often, arises when your XML document contains a structure that simply cannot be represented in an RPG DS. To illustrate this, take a look at the new version of our XML document, shown below:



<Category Code="02">


<Product Code="1234">

(A) <Description type="short">Two slot chrome</Description>

(B) <Description type="long">This beautiful two slot chrome finished toaster is

a perfect complement to any modern kitchen ...</Description>





<Product Code="2345">

<Description type="short">Four slot matt black</Description>






<Category Code="14">

<CatDescr type="short">Coffee Makers</CatDescr>

<Product Code="9876">

<Description>10 cup auto start</Description>


It is substantively the same as in our previous examples, but with one very significant exception: The <Description> element can now be repeated. If that were the only difference, then we could accommodate it by adding a DIM( ) keyword to the element's definition in the DS. But notice that not only does the element repeat, but there is also a new attribute, type, which is used to indicate the type of description (short or long) that is being defined. This presents us with a problem. Since an attribute is treated in the same way as a child element of the parent, the correct RPG definition for "type" would be this:



d description DS

d type 5a



But this leaves us with nowhere to put the content of the description since the content of a DS is the sum of its subfields and any data placed there would overwrite those subfields. In other words, in our situation, the description would overwrite the type field (or vice versa). Not a lot of help! In theory, a DS that looks like the one below should solve the problem:


d description DS Qualified Dim(2)

d description 1000a Varying

d type 5a


In this case, the <Description> would be stored in the field description.description and the "type" attribute would be stored in description.type. Makes sense, doesn't it? Maybe to you, but sadly, not to the compiler.


IBM is aware of this deficiency, and it is on their "to-do" list, but don't expect to see it in V6R1. And don't hold me to it working the way I have described it here; IBM may well have other ideas.


So if we cannot create a DS that matches the structure of the XML data, then we cannot use XML-INTO or at least cannot use it for the whole task. So what are our options?


There are effectively three options:


  • The first is to take advantage of RPG's XML-SAX op-code. This can be used either by itself to process the entire document or as a follow-on to an XML-INTO parse to "fill in the gaps." We will be dealing with the usage of XML-SAX in the balance of this article.


  • The second is to reformat the document by using an XSL transform so that it is in a format that can be expressed in RPG terms. This is the approach recommended in the IBM Redbook The Ins and Outs of XML and DB2 UDB for i5/OS. If you have the required XSL skills or are prepared to develop them, this is certainly a valid option and can also help to deal with other issues, such as empty elements. Since the Redbook provides a good working example, we won't duplicate that work here.


  • Another option would be to process the document in two passes using XML-INTO with a different target DS on each pass. You would also need to use the "AllowExtra" and "AllowMissing" processing options in order to persuade the parser to handle the document since neither of the DSs will exactly match the document. This is not as effective as the XML-SAX option, so we will not be discussing it further.


The operation of XML-SAX is very different from that of XML-INTO. XML-INTO parses the data from many elements at a time and places the parsed content into the appropriate field in the target DS or array. XML-SAX on the other hand parses the document one event at a time. Examples of events include the beginning of an element (i.e., its starting tag), the value of an element, the end of an element (i.e., its ending tag), the name of an attribute, the value of the attribute, etc.


With XML-INTO, the use of a handler procedure is optional, but with XML-SAX %HANDLER must always be specified. Your handler procedure will be called for every event that the parser encounters. It is up to your logic to decide if it should simply ignore the event or react to it in some way.


Logic is needed in the handler to recognize and react to the beginning of each element and attribute and to store the values in the appropriate places. You will perhaps get a better idea of the kind of logic that might be required if you study the list below. It represents the sequence of events and the associated data (in parentheses) that would be passed to the handler when processing the section of the XML document that begins at (A) above and ends at (B).


• Start Element (description)

• Attribute Name (type)

• Attribute Characters (short)

• End Attribute (type)

• Element Characters (two-slot chrome)

• End Element (description)


Notice that when we receive the element and attribute data, we have no idea which element/attribute it belongs to. That is up to us to determine. In fact, this is not a difficult task as the data will always belong to the last element/attribute that began but has not yet ended. With so many events being signaled to your handler, you can no doubt see that writing the logic to completely process even a simple document with XML-SAX would be somewhat tedious, requiring a lot of rather repetitive code. Luckily, we rarely require all of the data in a document, and we also have the option to combine XML-SAX with XML-INTO to simplify our task.


So to handle the situation in our example, that is what we will do. We will use XML-INTO to capture the bulk of the data and then process again using XML-SAX to fill in the missing piece: the type codes associated with the descriptions.


Let's look at the code that achieves this (shown at the end of this article).


The first thing to notice is the change in the product DS (A). Notice that we have made the description field an array with two elements and also added the type field as a two-element array. Note that the name of the type field in the DS (descrType) does not match the name of the attribute (type) to ensure that XML-INTO will not try to populate it and to make that fact more obvious to those who come after us. In fact, there is no need to actually include the type in the DS at all, but it is convenient to keep all the data together.


The XML-INTO must have the "allowextra=yes" option specified (B) to accommodate the extra type fields. Without this option, the parse would fail since the new version of the DS no longer corresponds to the XML document. Once XML-INTO has completed, we invoke XML-SAX (C) to reprocess the document.


There is no difference in the definition of %HANDLER, but there is a difference between the information passed to an XML-SAX handler and the information passed to the XML-INTO handler we saw in the last article. Take a look at the prototype at (D) and you will see what I mean. The only parameter that is common to the two versions is the first one, the Communication Area. The remaining parameters are as follows:


event is a four-byte integer that identifies the type of event being processed. Don't worry about the fact that the event is identified by a number. As you will see later, RPG supplies a number of named constants that can be compared with the event value.


pstring is a pointer to the beginning of the string containing the event data (e.g., the element/attribute names or data).


stringLen is the length of the string "pointed to" by the previous parameter. This length must be used to determine if data is present as there are occasions when a valid pointer is passed even though there is no data. Only the number of characters indicated by this parameter should be processed.


exceptionId is an error code identifying any error passed to the handler by the parser. We will not be discussing this in this article. Check the RPG manuals for more information.


Having seen the parameters passed to the handler, it is time to study the mechanics of the handler procedure MySAXHandler. The first step (E) is to check whether any data was received. If no data is received, then the handler simply returns control to the parser. If data is present, then the procedure RmvWhiteSpace( ) is called to remove any unwanted characters and reduce them to a single space. We will look at what I mean by "unwanted" in a moment. Notice that %SUBST is used to pass only the valid portion of the data to the subprocedure. Remember, we were passed only a pointer and a length, and there is probably other data beyond the point indicated by the length parameter. It is worth noting at this point that the field string, which is based on the pointer, can be very useful during debug. If you display it, you will usually be able to see not only the data you are about to process, but also the next part of the XML document. In other words, you will know what to expect next and can perhaps set appropriate breakpoints. This is not guaranteed as sometimes the pointer references a work area, but it is worth remembering.


What do we mean by "unwanted" and why do we need the RmvWhiteSpace routine? Because carriage returns, new lines, tabs, and excess spaces are often present in XML data (sometimes to make it look "pretty"), and we need to remove them from the data. We will not be studying the detail of this procedure, but you will find it included in the version of the program that is available for download. Hopefully, its operation is self-explanatory. (Many thanks to IBM Toronto's Barbara Morris for supplying this routine.)


At (F), the real work begins. A SELECT group is used to identify the type of event we are handling; this is where the named constants mentioned earlier come into play. For example, *XML_START_ELEMENT represents the event code that announces the arrival of a new element name. In the SELECT group at (G), we then identify the specific element that we are dealing with and process accordingly. All this logic is really doing is setting up the appropriate array indices for the Category, Product, and Description arrays. Since we know that the document we are processing is the same one that we just parsed with XML-INTO, we can afford to short-circuit the process, so no attempt is made to match the product codes with the descriptions or anything.


If the event does not represent the beginning of an element, then we next test to see if it is an attribute name (H). If it is, we check to see if it is the type attribute, and if so, we turn on the waitingForType indicator. This indicator allows us to associate the attribute data when it arrives (I) as belonging to the type attribute. Remember, we said earlier that it is up to us to determine that. We then store the value for the type attribute in the appropriate descrType array element.


After processing the document, the XML-SAX parse completes and control returns to the program's main line at (J). At this point, the complete content of the XML document has been stored in our category DS, so our program can process or store that data as necessary. In this simple example, we will just display the data. The logic simply loops through all of the categories and products. As in our previous example, the category loop is controlled by the RPG-supplied xmlElements count in the Program Status Data Structure, which was populated by the XML-INTO operation, and the product loop completes when a blank product code is encountered. The format of our XML document is such that there must be a short description, so the first elements of the description and type arrays are displayed. At (K), the logic then tests to see if a second set is present and, if it is, displays the relevant data.


And that's really all there is to it. I won't describe it here, but I have included in the source code accompanying this article a utility program (XMLSAXLIST) that you might find useful when studying XML documents that you need to process. It uses XML-SAX to parse the document and produces a listing of all the events signaled and the length and content of the associated data. If you run the program, you will be able to see the effect of the RmvWhiteSpace procedure as the original length of the data item is included. If you have any questions about the operation of the program, please let me know.


H Option(*NoDebugIO : *SrcStmt )


// This count is populated by XML-INTO whenever the INTO

// variable is an array

D progStatus SDS

D xmlElements 20i 0 Overlay(progStatus: 372)


(D) D MySAXHandler Pr 10i 0

D commArea Like(dummyCommArea)

D event 10i 0 Value

D pstring * Value

D stringLen 20i 0 Value

D exceptionId 10i 0 Value


D RmvWhitespace pr 65535a Varying

D input 65535a Varying Const


D category DS Qualified Dim(20)

D code 2a

D catDescr 20a

D product LikeDS(product) Dim(50)


D product DS Qualified

D code 4a

(A) D descrType 5a Dim(2)

D description 600a Dim(2)

D mSRP 7p 2

D sellPrice 7p 2

D qtyOnHand 5i 0


D XML_Source S 256a Varying

D Inz('/Partner400/XML/Example5.xml')


// Short version of Description for display purposes

D dispDescription...

D S 40a


D dummyCommArea S 1a

D i S 5i 0

D p S 5i 0




(B) XML-INTO category

%XML(XML_Source: 'case=any doc=file allowextra=yes +



// XML-INTO has filled the category array

// Next we use XML-SAX to fill in the missing type details

(C) XML-SAX %HANDLER(MySAXHandler: dummyCommArea)

%XML(XML_Source: 'doc=file');


Dsply ('xmlElements = ' + %char(xmlElements) );


// The XML parser's element count is used to control the loop

(J) For i = 1 to xmlElements;

Dsply ('Cat: ' + category(i).code + ' ' +

category(i).catDescr );

For p = 1 to %Elem(category.product);

If category(i).product(p).code = *Blanks;

Leave; // Exit once blank product code entry located


// Process the current product entry

dispDescription = category(i).product(p).description(1);

Dsply ('Product: ' + dispDescription);

Dsply ('Type: ' + category(i).product(p).descrType(1));


// If second description is present, display details

(K) If category(i).product(p).description(2) <> *Blanks;

dispDescription = category(i).product(p).description(2);

Dsply ('Product: ' + dispDescription);

Dsply ('Type: ' + category(i).product(p).descrType(2));







Jon Paris

Jon Paris's IBM midrange career started when he fell in love with the System/38 while working as a consultant. This love affair ultimately led him to joining IBM.


In 1987, Jon was hired by the IBM Toronto Laboratory to work on the S/36 and S/38 COBOL compilers. Subsequently, Jon became involved with the AS/400 and in particular COBOL/400.


In early 1989, Jon was transferred to the Languages Architecture and Planning Group, with particular responsibility for the COBOL and RPG languages. There, he played a major role in the definition of the new RPG IV language and in promoting its use with IBM Business Partners and users. He was also heavily involved in producing educational and other support materials and services related to other AS/400 programming languages and development tools, such as CODE/400 and VisualAge for RPG.


Jon left IBM in 1998 to focus on developing and delivering education focused on enhancing AS/400 and iSeries application development skills.


Jon is a frequent speaker at user group meetings and conferences around the world, and he holds a number of speaker excellence awards from COMMON.







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    • Ways that Watson will shake hands with IBM i
    • Key takeaways from the AS/400 days


  • Ask the RDi Experts

    SB_HelpSystems_WC_GenericWatch this recording where Jim Buck, Susan Gantner, and Charlie Guarino answered your questions, including:

    • What are the “hidden gems” in RDi that can make me more productive?
    • What makes RDi Debug better than the STRDBG green screen debugger?
    • How can RDi help me find out if I’ve tested all lines of a program?
    • What’s the best way to transition from PDM to RDi?
    • How do I convince my long-term developers to use RDi?

    This is a unique, online opportunity to hear how you can get more out of RDi.


  • Node.js on IBM i Webinar Series Pt. 2: Setting Up Your Development Tools

    Profound Logic Software, Inc.Have you been wondering about Node.js? Our free Node.js Webinar Series takes you from total beginner to creating a fully-functional IBM i Node.js business application. In Part 2, Brian May teaches you the different tooling options available for writing code, debugging, and using Git for version control. Attend this webinar to learn:

    • Different tools to develop Node.js applications on IBM i
    • Debugging Node.js
    • The basics of Git and tools to help those new to it
    • Using as a pre-built development environment



  • Inside the Integrated File System (IFS)

    SB_HelpSystems_WC_GenericDuring this webinar, you’ll learn basic tips, helpful tools, and integrated file system commands—including WRKLNK—for managing your IFS directories and Access Client Solutions (ACS). We’ll answer your most pressing IFS questions, including:

    • What is stored inside my IFS directories?
    • How do I monitor the IFS?
    • How do I replicate the IFS or back it up?
    • How do I secure the IFS?

    Understanding what the integrated file system is and how to work with it must be a critical part of your systems management plans for IBM i.


  • Expert Tips for IBM i Security: Beyond the Basics

    SB PowerTech WC GenericIn this session, IBM i security expert Robin Tatam provides a quick recap of IBM i security basics and guides you through some advanced cybersecurity techniques that can help you take data protection to the next level. Robin will cover:

    • Reducing the risk posed by special authorities
    • Establishing object-level security
    • Overseeing user actions and data access

    Don't miss this chance to take your knowledge of IBM i security beyond the basics.



  • 5 IBM i Security Quick Wins

    SB PowerTech WC GenericIn today’s threat landscape, upper management is laser-focused on cybersecurity. You need to make progress in securing your systems—and make it fast.
    There’s no shortage of actions you could take, but what tactics will actually deliver the results you need? And how can you find a security strategy that fits your budget and time constraints?
    Join top IBM i security expert Robin Tatam as he outlines the five fastest and most impactful changes you can make to strengthen IBM i security this year.
    Your system didn’t become unsecure overnight and you won’t be able to turn it around overnight either. But quick wins are possible with IBM i security, and Robin Tatam will show you how to achieve them.

  • How to Meet the Newest Encryption Requirements on IBM i

    SB PowerTech WC GenericA growing number of compliance mandates require sensitive data to be encrypted. But what kind of encryption solution will satisfy an auditor and how can you implement encryption on IBM i? Watch this on-demand webinar to find out how to meet today’s most common encryption requirements on IBM i. You’ll also learn:

    • Why disk encryption isn’t enough
    • What sets strong encryption apart from other solutions
    • Important considerations before implementing encryption



  • Security Bulletin: Malware Infection Discovered on IBM i Server!

    SB PowerTech WC GenericMalicious programs can bring entire businesses to their knees—and IBM i shops are not immune. It’s critical to grasp the true impact malware can have on IBM i and the network that connects to it. Attend this webinar to gain a thorough understanding of the relationships between:

    • Viruses, native objects, and the integrated file system (IFS)
    • Power Systems and Windows-based viruses and malware
    • PC-based anti-virus scanning versus native IBM i scanning

    There are a number of ways you can minimize your exposure to viruses. IBM i security expert Sandi Moore explains the facts, including how to ensure you're fully protected and compliant with regulations such as PCI.



  • Fight Cyber Threats with IBM i Encryption

    SB PowerTech WC GenericCyber attacks often target mission-critical servers, and those attack strategies are constantly changing. To stay on top of these threats, your cybersecurity strategies must evolve, too. In this session, IBM i security expert Robin Tatam provides a quick recap of IBM i security basics and guides you through some advanced cybersecurity techniques that can help you take data protection to the next level. Robin will cover:

    • Reducing the risk posed by special authorities
    • Establishing object-level security
    • Overseeing user actions and data access




  • 10 Practical IBM i Security Tips for Surviving Covid-19 and Working From Home

    SB PowerTech WC GenericNow that many organizations have moved to a work from home model, security concerns have risen.

    During this session Carol Woodbury will discuss the issues that the world is currently seeing such as increased malware attacks and then provide practical actions you can take to both monitor and protect your IBM i during this challenging time.


  • How to Transfer IBM i Data to Microsoft Excel

    SB_HelpSystems_WC_Generic3 easy ways to get IBM i data into Excel every time
    There’s an easy, more reliable way to import your IBM i data to Excel? It’s called Sequel. During this webinar, our data access experts demonstrate how you can simplify the process of getting data from multiple sources—including Db2 for i—into Excel. Watch to learn how to:

    • Download your IBM i data to Excel in a single step
    • Deliver data to business users in Excel via email or a scheduled job
    • Access IBM i data directly using the Excel add-in in Sequel

    Make 2020 the year you finally see your data clearly, quickly, and securely. Start by giving business users the ability to access crucial business data from IBM i the way they want it—in Microsoft Excel.



  • HA Alternatives: MIMIX Is Not Your Only Option on IBM i

    SB_HelpSystems_WC_GenericIn this recorded webinar, our experts introduce you to the new HA transition technology available with our Robot HA software. You’ll learn how to:

    • Transition your rules from MIMIX (if you’re happy with them)
    • Simplify your day-to-day activities around high availability
    • Gain back time in your work week
    • Make your CEO happy about reducing IT costs

    Don’t stick with a legacy high availability solution that makes you uncomfortable when transitioning to something better can be simple, safe, and cost-effective.



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  • Backup and Recovery on IBM i: Your Strategy for the Unexpected

    SB HelpSystems SC 5413Robot automates the routine tasks of iSeries backup and recovery, saving you time and money and making the process safer and more reliable. Automate your backups with the Robot Backup and Recovery Solution. Key features include:
    - Simplified backup procedures
    - Easy data encryption
    - Save media management
    - Guided restoration
    - Seamless product integration
    Make sure your data survives when catastrophe hits. Try the Robot Backup and Recovery Solution FREE for 30 days.

  • Manage IBM i Messages by Exception with Robot

    SB HelpSystems SC 5413Managing messages on your IBM i can be more than a full-time job if you have to do it manually. How can you be sure you won’t miss important system events?
    Automate your message center with the Robot Message Management Solution. Key features include:
    - Automated message management
    - Tailored notifications and automatic escalation
    - System-wide control of your IBM i partitions
    - Two-way system notifications from your mobile device
    - Seamless product integration
    Try the Robot Message Management Solution FREE for 30 days.

  • Easiest Way to Save Money? Stop Printing IBM i Reports

    SB HelpSystems SC 5413Robot automates report bursting, distribution, bundling, and archiving, and offers secure, selective online report viewing.
    Manage your reports with the Robot Report Management Solution. Key features include:

    - Automated report distribution
    - View online without delay
    - Browser interface to make notes
    - Custom retention capabilities
    - Seamless product integration
    Rerun another report? Never again. Try the Robot Report Management Solution FREE for 30 days.

  • Hassle-Free IBM i Operations around the Clock

    SB HelpSystems SC 5413For over 30 years, Robot has been a leader in systems management for IBM i.
    Manage your job schedule with the Robot Job Scheduling Solution. Key features include:
    - Automated batch, interactive, and cross-platform scheduling
    - Event-driven dependency processing
    - Centralized monitoring and reporting
    - Audit log and ready-to-use reports
    - Seamless product integration
    Scale your software, not your staff. Try the Robot Job Scheduling Solution FREE for 30 days.

  • ACO MONITOR Manages your IBM i 24/7 and Notifies You When Your IBM i Needs Assistance!

    SB DDL Systems 5429More than a paging system - ACO MONITOR is a complete systems management solution for your Power Systems running IBM i. ACO MONITOR manages your Power System 24/7, uses advanced technology (like two-way messaging) to notify on-duty support personnel, and responds to complex problems before they reach critical status.

    ACO MONITOR is proven technology and is capable of processing thousands of mission-critical events daily. The software is pre-configured, easy to install, scalable, and greatly improves data center efficiency.