The Java EE 5 Tutorial

Core Tags

The core XML tags provide basic functionality to easily parse and access XML data.

The parse tag parses an XML document and saves the resulting object in the EL variable specified by attribute var. In bookstore5, the XML document is parsed and saved to a context attribute in tut-install/javaeetutorial5/examples/web/bookstore5/web/books/parsebooks.jsp, which is included by all JSP pages that need access to the document:

<c:if test="${applicationScope:booklist == null}" >
     <c:import url="${initParam.booksURL}" var="xml" />
    <x:parse doc="${xml}" var="booklist" scope="application" />

The set and out tags parallel the behavior described in Variable Support Tags and Miscellaneous Tags for the XPath local expression language. The set tag evaluates an XPath expression and sets the result into a JSP EL variable specified by attribute var. The out tag evaluates an XPath expression on the current context node and outputs the result of the evaluation to the current JspWriter object.

The JSP page tut-install/javaeetutorial5/examples/web/bookstore4/web/books/bookdetails.jsp selects a book element whose id attribute matches the request parameter bookId and sets the abook attribute. The out tag then selects the book’s title element and outputs the result.

<x:set var="abook"
        books/book[@id=$param:bookId]" />
    <h2><x:out select="$abook/title"/></h2>

As you have just seen, x:set stores an internal XML representation of a node retrieved using an XPath expression; it doesn’t convert the selected node into a String and store it. Thus, x:set is primarily useful for storing parts of documents for later retrieval.

If you want to store a String, you must use x:out within c:set. The x:out tag converts the node to a String, and c:set then stores the String as an EL variable. For example, tut-install/javaeetutorial5/examples/web/bookstore4/web/books/bookdetails.jsp stores an EL variable containing a book price, which is later provided as the value of a fmt tag, as follows:

<c:set var="price">
    <x:out select="$abook/price"/>
<h4><fmt:message key="ItemPrice"/>:
     <fmt:formatNumber value="${price}" type="currency"/>

The other option, which is more direct but requires that the user have more knowledge of XPath, is to coerce the node to a String manually by using XPath’s string function.

<x:set var="price" select="string($abook/price)"/>