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XML-L  September 2000

XML-L September 2000

Subject:

Re: Irregular/Complex XML in SQL

From:

Kevin Williams <[log in to unmask]>

Reply-To:

General discussion of Extensible Markup Language <[log in to unmask]>

Date:

Mon, 25 Sep 2000 13:14:13 -0400

Content-Type:

text/plain

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text/plain (98 lines)

> -----Original Message-----
> From: Imran Zaidi [mailto:[log in to unmask]]
> Sent: Monday, September 25, 2000 12:47 PM

> If I have a DTD that I use to create this type of content,
> how can I store
> this information in an SQL database? Do I just need to work
> with 'chunks' of
> XML?

I discuss this problem in my forthcoming book, Pro XML Databases (Wrox
Press), which should be out in a couple of months, but here's the upshot:
relational databases aren't very well suited to storing this type of
content. If you absolutely must, do something like this (I'll restate your
example simplified to spare my poor typing fingers):

<!ELEMENT Concept (Name, Para)>
<!ELEMENT Para (#PCDATA | InTextField)>
<!ELEMENT Name (#PCDATA)>
<!ELEMENT InTextField (#PCDATA)>

<Concept>
  <Name>The Deposits Window</Name>
  <Para>When you enter payment information into one of the payment receipt
windows, such as the Receive Payments window, you can either immediately
<InTextField>Deposit to Account</InTextField> or <InTextField>Group
Undeposited Funds</InTextField>.
  </Para>
</Concept>

CREATE TABLE Concept (
  ConceptID int,
  Name varchar(255),
  ParaID int)

CREATE TABLE Para (
  ParaID int)

CREATE TABLE ParaContent (
  ParaID int,
  Sequence int,
  ElementType int,
  ElementContent varchar(255) NULL)

CREATE TABLE ElementLookup (
  ElementType int,
  ElementName varchar(255))

INSERT ElementLookup (ElementType, ElementName)
  VALUES (0, "#PCDATA")
INSERT ElementLookup (ElementType, ElementName)
  VALUES (1, "InTextField")

Then, you create records for each sub-node of a particular Para element in
the ParaContent table. For each, you set its Sequence to indicate the
original order it appeared in (very important to recreate the original), its
ElementType for the type of content it is (an InTextField element or #PCDATA
text), and the value (the text in the case of #PCDATA or the value of the
InTextField element when it's present). So for your example, you might have
in the ParaContent table:

ParaID:         1
Sequence:       1
ElementType:    0
ElementContent: "When you enter payment information into one of the payment
receipt windows, such as the Receive Payments window, you can either
immediately "

ParaID:         1
Sequence:       2
ElementType:    1
ElementContent: "Deposit To Account"

ParaID:         1
Sequence:       3
ElementType:    0
ElementContent: " or "

ParaID:         1
Sequence:       4
ElementType:    1
ElementContent: "Group Undeposited Funds"

ParaID:         1
Sequence:       5
ElementType:    0
ElementContent: "."

Nasty, but completely reversible - you can reconstruct the original XML
document from the information provided above. It gets a little trickier, but
still not impossible, if the contained elements (like InTextField) may
contain further subcontent - but there are ways to handle that as well. If
you don't specifically need to query the contents of the Para element (just
to be able to reconstruct it as necessary), you might be better off storing
it (and any other element with mixed or ANY content) as an XML string in
your DB.

- Kevin

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