Using the DTDHandler and EntityResolver
Trail: Java API for XML Processing (JAXP)
Lesson: Simple API for XML

Using the DTDHandler and EntityResolver

This section presents the two remaining SAX event handlers: DTDHandler and EntityResolver. The DTDHandler is invoked when the DTD encounters an unparsed entity or a notation declaration. The EntityResolver comes into play when a URN (public ID) must be resolved to a URL (system ID).

The DTDHandler API

Choosing the Parser Implementation showed a method for referencing a file that contains binary data, such as an image file, using MIME data types. That is the simplest, most extensible mechanism. For compatibility with older SGML-style data, though, it is also possible to define an unparsed entity.

The NDATA keyword defines an unparsed entity:

<!ENTITY myEntity SYSTEM "..URL.." NDATA gif>

The NDATA keyword says that the data in this entity is not parseable XML data but instead is data that uses some other notation. In this case, the notation is named gif. The DTD must then include a declaration for that notation, which would look something like the following.


When the parser sees an unparsed entity or a notation declaration, it does nothing with the information except to pass it along to the application using the DTDHandler interface. That interface defines two methods.

The notationDecl method is passed the name of the notation and either the public or the system identifier, or both, depending on which is declared in the DTD. The unparsedEntityDecl method is passed the name of the entity, the appropriate identifiers, and the name of the notation it uses.

Note - The DTDHandler interface is implemented by the DefaultHandler class.

Notations can also be used in attribute declarations. For example, the following declaration requires notations for the GIF and PNG image-file formats.

<!ATTLIST image ...  type  NOTATION  (gif | png) "gif">

Here, the type is declared as being either gif or png. The default, if neither is specified, is gif.

Whether the notation reference is used to describe an unparsed entity or an attribute, it is up to the application to do the appropriate processing. The parser knows nothing at all about the semantics of the notations. It only passes on the declarations.

The EntityResolver API

The EntityResolver API lets you convert a public ID (URN) into a system ID (URL). Your application may need to do that, for example, to convert something like href="urn:/someName" into "http://someURL".

The EntityResolver interface defines a single method:

resolveEntity(String publicId, String systemId)

This method returns an InputSource object, which can be used to access the entity's contents. Converting a URL into an InputSource is easy enough. But the URL that is passed as the system ID will be the location of the original document which is, as likely as not, somewhere out on the web. To access a local copy, if there is one, you must maintain a catalog somewhere on the system that maps names (public IDs) into local URLs.

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