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TechTip: Parse XML Data Using jQuery, Part 1

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Demystify the noble art of reading XML data.


Every day, the expectations of our skills are challenged. It is not enough to know RPG, DDS, and CL. Nowadays, we must also know something about PHP (or likewise), HMTL, JavaScript, and XML if we want to cope.


In this tip, I will show you how to parse XML data using a simple HMTL file and jQuery. If you are unfamiliar with jQuery, I encourage you to read ”jQuery Tutorial” at w3schools.com and Getting Started with jQuery at jquery.com. All this can of course be done in "normal" JavaScript, but jQuery will hide all the complicated stuff. Plus, it will let you do things very quickly and easily.

A Word Before We Head Off

In this tip, the XML data will be residing on the same server as the Web page that parses the XML. In my next tip, I will cover Web services and cross-domain using some PHP scripts. This is important to remember; otherwise, you will quickly end up tearing out your hair in despair.


I run all my code from localhost ( if you prefer), so I assume you have some Apache Web server at your service.


To retrieve the XML, I use the .ajax() function from the jQuery API. The call looks like this:



                  type: "GET",

                  url: "getXMLdata.xml",

                  dataType: "xml",

                  cache: false,

                  success: function(xml) {     

                        // process the XML data


                  error: function() {

                        alert('Cannot find parse data')




When using jQuery, calling something using AJAX is very simple and easy. And if you combine it with Firefox and the Firebug debugger, you are very well off in understanding every aspect in the call.

Ready, Steady, Go...

Let's start by looking at the XML that will be used in this example.


<?xml version="1.0" encoding="UTF-8"?>



            <name>The Record Store</name>

            <place>Odense, Denmark</place>






                  <productid>Sonic Youth</productid>

                  <productdescription>OZ '93 Tour Edition</productdescription>













                  <productid>The Mountain Goats</productid>

                  <productdescription>All Eternals Deck</productdescription>






                  <productid>Biff Bang Pow!</productid>

                  <productdescription>The Girl Who Runs The Beat Hotel</productdescription>







When you look at the data, you will see that it simulates a list of some records from a music store in Odense, Denmark. The XML data is separated into a header and a detail section. The header section is just a name and a place.


The detail consists of various products, and each product has a name, description, price, and currency. Nothing fancy about that.

Example 1: Addressing XML Nodes in jQuery

Because we know there is only one XML header node, we can very easily pick up the data by using the jQuery .find() function:


            var name = $(xml).find('name').text();

            var place = $(xml).find('place').text();


To write them to the ID selector in the div tags, use the .html() function like so:


            $('#headername').html('<b>' + name + '</b>');



 Now let's parse out the detail data from the XML nodes. This is also done using the .find() function combined with the .each() function to loop through the XML data. To find all the detail data in our example, the loop will be like this:


      // Loop through the detaildata and find all prod nodes



            // Move detail data into internal variables

            var productid = $(this).find('productid').text();

            var productdescription = $(this).find('productdescription').text();

            var price = $(this).find('price').text();

            var currency = $(this).find('currency').text();




Please note the "this" word; it's a DOM element that refers to the object, which in this example is the XML variable that contains the XML data.


Now all that is needed is to write out the data to an ID in a div tag. This is done by formatting it into a string and using the .append() function, like this:



      "<b>" + productid + "</b>" + " - "

      + productdescription + " - "

      + price + " - "

      + currency + "<br>"



The result looks like Figure 1:


Figure 1: Here's the result of XML parsing.


Of course, there is a little more to it, but you will get it right away when you look into the code examples at the end of this tip.

Example 2: Spice Me Up, Scotty

When you look at the result in Figure 1, it is a little dull, so let's spice it up a bit using some simple CSS.


In this continuation of example 1, I have added an external CSS file at the top of the HTML document. And when writing out the data to the screen, I create a string with some DIVs and IDs so that these will be "connected" to the CSS.


Download example 2 and look into the code, and you will soon get the hang of it. When executing the code, you'll see something like Figure 2.


Figure 2: You've spiced up your XML data! (Click image to enlarge.)

Mission Completed

This ends the tip, and I really hope that you get the picture and realize that parsing XML using jQuery is not difficult.

In the next parsing tip, we will look into some public Web services and learn how to overcome the cross-domain problem.


So till then, stay tuned and keep parsing.


Download the code examples used in this tip:



jQuery Tutorial:



Getting Started with jQuery:



"Build Snappy Web Apps with HTML, DHTML, CSS, and JavaScript"



jQuery's "this:" demystified


as/400, os/400, iseries, system i, i5/os, ibm i, power systems, 6.1, 7.1, V7, V6R1

Jan Jorgensen

Jan Jorgensen is one of the owners of www.reeft.dk, which specializes in mobile and i5 solutions. He works with RPG, HTML, JavaScript, Perl, and PHP. You can reach him at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.




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