XML and JavaScript Tutorial

    August 5, 2003

XML is a very important base on which Web Services work. XML can be used in conjunction with a lot of client side and server side languages to put it to good use.

Let us see how we can get XML and client side JavaScript to work together. We will see how we can display the contents of an XML file using JavaScript, accessing child elements, manipulating elements etc.

Browser Issues:

When it comes client side languages browser incompatibilities is a major issue. But here where we want to use XML and JavaScript, XML is the issue. Not all browsers have support for parsing XML documents. I will use IE6 to explain the codes. Browsers that do not support XML, cannot read them. When you view an XML file in such a browser it will just ignore all the tags.

Sample XML file:

Let us consider a sample XML file >>

<?xml version="1.0" ?>
<employee id="001" sex="M" age="19">Premshree Pillai</employee>
employee id="002" sex="M" age="24">Kumar Singh</employee
<employee id="003" sex="M" age="21">Ranjit Kapoor</employee>
<year id="2000">100,000</year>
<year id="2001">140,000</year>
<year id="2002">200,000</year>

The above XML file shows employee data and Turnover of the company (just an e.g).

Manipulating XML file data using JavaScript:

Loading XML file: You can load a XML fie from JavaScript like this <<


Actually, just the last two lines of the function are enough to load the XML file. The previous two lines are written to ensure that the JavaScript functions that we may use later to manipulate the XML file data, does not perform any function on an uninitialized object. Thus the function verify() is called.


Now the XML file can be loaded


  • Displaying contents of XML file: View the entire contents of the XML file using alert(xmlObj.xml);
    The entire XML file will be displayed in an alert box as it is with proper indentation.
  • Children and nodes: In the above XML file <company> is the top level tag under which all other tags come. These tags are called children. The above XML file can be represented graphically like a folder-tree. A folder-tree is shown below.
Thus in the above XML file the top level tag <company> has 4 children.

The numbering of children (as is usual in all languages) starts from 0 (zero).

The <turnover> tag has 3 children under it.

We can find the no of children a tag has by using the childNodes.length property. Thus the no of childen of <company> tag (here, 4) can be found by using xmlObj.childNodes.length

The no of children of <turnover> tag (here, 3) can be found by using xmlObj.childNodes(3).childNodes.length Here we use childNodes(3) because is the 3rd child of <company>

  • Testing for children: You can test whether a particular node child has any children using childNodes(i).hasChildNodes
    Thus xmlObj.childNodes(3).hasChildNodes() will return true.
    xmlObj.childNodes(2).hasChildNodes() will return false, since the <employee> tag does not have any children.
  • Getting Tag Name: You can get the tag name of a child using childNodes(i).tagName. Thus xmlObj.tagName will return “company”.
    xmlObj.childNodes(0).tagName will return “employee”.
    xmlObj.childNodes(3).childNodes(0).tagName will return “year”.
  • Displaying content of a tag: In the XML file the content of the 1st <employee> tag is “Premshree Pillai”. You can get this value using xmlObj.childNodes(0).firstChild.text
    xmlObj.childNodes(2).firstChild.text will return “Suhasini Pandita”.
    Similarly xmlObj.childNodes(3).childNodes(1).firstChild.text will return “140,000”.
  • Attributes: In the XML file, the <employee> tag has 3 attributes. An attribute can be accessed using childNodes(i).getAttribute("AttributeName"). Thus xmlObj.childNodes(0).getAttribute("id") will return “001”.
    xmlObj.childNodes(1).getAttribute("age") will return “24”.
    xmlObj.childNodes(2).getAttribute("sex") will return “F”.

XML and JavaScript Example: There are many more properties and methods available. Using these properties you can create lots of client side applications. The main advantage of using XML along with JavaScript is that editing of data becomes very easy. XML being structured, it becomes very easy to manage content. One example is a folder-tree menu. Another one is a JavaScript Ticker. You can find a XML based JavaScript Ticker at http://www.dynamicdrive.com/dynamicindex2/xmlticker.htm.

XML based JavaScript Ticker:

We will create a XML based JavaScript Ticker that can tick any number of messages. The ticker reads it’s contents, i.e the ticker style, text to be displayed, the link for that particular message from a XML file. Let the XML file be ticker_items.xml.

The structure of the XML document is as follows >>



        >> pause = "true" / "false" :: "true" for pause onMouseOver

        >> timeout = any integer :: The delay in seconds between different messages.

        >> border = any integer :: Border width of Ticker

        >> bordercolor = #HexColor :: The border color of Ticker

        >> background = #HexColor :: Background color of Ticker

        >> width = any integer :: Ticker width

        >> height = any integer :: Ticker height



                  >> font = "verdana,arial,helvetica....." :: Ticker link font 

                  >> color = #HexColor :: Ticker link color

                  >> decoration = "none" / "underline" / "underline + overline" :: Ticker link style

                  >> weight = "normal" / "bold" :: Ticker link weight

                  >> size = 'any integer'pt :: Ticker link size               


                  >> font = "verdana,arial,helvetica....." :: Ticker link font

                  >> color = #HexColor :: Ticker link color

                  >> decoration = "none" / "underline" / "underline + overline" :: Ticker link style

                  >> weight = "normal" / "bold" :: Ticker link weight

                  >> size = 'any integer'pt :: Ticker link size       


                >> URL = A valid URL :: Ticker link URL

                >> target = "_blank" / "_top" / "_self" / 'any other valid target name' :: Ticker link target

XML Ticker Script :


As you can see in the source code, the ticker reads all the contents/messages to be displayed, the links for each message, the target for each URL, the ticker static style, roll-over style, border width, color, background, the delay between messages etc from the XML file. So if you want to change any parameter of the Ticker, all you have to do is make necessary changes in the XML file.

The ticker shown here is a basic ticker that rotates messages at an interval that is specified in the XML file. There are many effects you could add to the ticker like Fading message, Teletypewriter. You could add features to change the ticker speed or to list all messages at an instant.

You can find some Ticker effects at http://www.qiksearch.com/javascripts.htm

I hope this article has helped you in some way.

Article first appeared at CodeToad. Reprinted with the author’s permission.

Premshree Pillai studies engineering in Information Technology at
Mumbai University, Mumbai, India. He is a programming enthusiast
and maintains a Website (http://www.qiksearch.com), where he posts
his scripts. He is also a freelance writer and has written for a
range of popular Indian magazines.