Flexible XML framework for Java.


  • XML Document Object Model based on Java Collections Framework
  • Java 1.4+


  • XML Document Object Model based on Java Collections Framework
  • Java 5+
  • Generics support

Getting started

Parsing XML

One of the first things you'll probably want to do is to parse an XML document of some kind. This is easy to do in <dom4j>. The following code demonstrates how to this.

import java.net.URL;

import org.dom4j.Document;
import org.dom4j.DocumentException;
import org.dom4j.io.SAXReader;

public class Foo {

    public Document parse(URL url) throws DocumentException {
        SAXReader reader = new SAXReader();
        Document document = reader.read(url);
        return document;

Using Iterators

A document can be navigated using a variety of methods that return standard Java Iterators. For example

    public void bar(Document document) throws DocumentException {

        Element root = document.getRootElement();

        // iterate through child elements of root
        for (Iterator<Element> it = root.elementIterator(); it.hasNext();) {
            Element element = it.next();
            // do something

        // iterate through child elements of root with element name "foo"
        for (Iterator<Element> it = root.elementIterator("foo"); it.hasNext();) {
            Element foo = it.next();
            // do something

        // iterate through attributes of root
        for (Iterator<ttribute> it = root.attributeIterator(); it.hasNext();) {
            Attribute attribute = it.next();
            // do something

Powerful Navigation with XPath

In <dom4j> XPath expressions can be evaluated on the Document or on any Node in the tree (such as Attribute, Element or ProcessingInstruction). This allows complex navigation throughout the document with a single line of code. For example

    public void bar(Document document) {
        List<Node> list = document.selectNodes("//foo/bar");

        Node node = document.selectSingleNode("//foo/bar/author");

        String name = node.valueOf("@name");

For example if you wish to find all the hypertext links in an XHTML document the following code would do the trick.

    public void findLinks(Document document) throws DocumentException {

        List<Node> list = document.selectNodes("//a/@href");

        for (Iterator<Node> iter = list.iterator(); iter.hasNext();) {
            Attribute attribute = (Attribute) iter.next();
            String url = attribute.getValue();

If you need any help learning the XPath language we highly recommend the Zvon tutorial which allows you to learn by example.

Fast Looping

If you ever have to walk a large XML document tree then for performance we recommend you use the fast looping method which avoids the cost of creating an Iterator object for each loop. For example

    public void treeWalk(Document document) {

    public void treeWalk(Element element) {
        for (int i = 0, size = element.nodeCount(); i < size; i++) {
            Node node = element.node(i);
            if (node instanceof Element) {
                treeWalk((Element) node);
            else {
                // do something…

Creating a new XML document

Often in <dom4j> you will need to create a new document from scratch. Here's an example of doing that.

import org.dom4j.Document;
import org.dom4j.DocumentHelper;
import org.dom4j.Element;

public class Foo {

    public Document createDocument() {
        Document document = DocumentHelper.createDocument();
        Element root = document.addElement("root");

        Element author1 = root.addElement("author")
            .addAttribute("name", "James")
            .addAttribute("location", "UK")
            .addText("James Strachan");

        Element author2 = root.addElement("author")
            .addAttribute("name", "Bob")
            .addAttribute("location", "US")
            .addText("Bob McWhirter");

        return document;

Writing a document to a file

A quick and easy way to write a Document (or any Node) to a Writer is via the write() method.

  FileWriter out = new FileWriter("foo.xml");

If you want to be able to change the format of the output, such as pretty printing or a compact format, or you want to be able to work with Writer objects or OutputStream objects as the destination, then you can use the XMLWriter class.

import org.dom4j.Document;
import org.dom4j.io.OutputFormat;
import org.dom4j.io.XMLWriter;

public class Foo {

    public void write(Document document) throws IOException {

        // lets write to a file
        try (new FileWriter("output.xml")) {
            XMLWriter writer = new XMLWriter(fileWriter);
            writer.write( document );

        // Pretty print the document to System.out
        OutputFormat format = OutputFormat.createPrettyPrint();
        writer = new XMLWriter(System.out, format);
        writer.write( document );

        // Compact format to System.out
        format = OutputFormat.createCompactFormat();
        writer = new XMLWriter(System.out, format);

Converting to and from Strings

If you have a reference to a Document or any other Node such as an Attribute or Element, you can turn it into the default XML text via the asXML() method.

        Document document = …;
        String text = document.asXML();

If you have some XML as a String you can parse it back into a Document again using the helper method DocumentHelper.parseText()

        String text = "<person> <name>James</name> </person>";
        Document document = DocumentHelper.parseText(text);

Transforming a Document with XSLT

Applying XSLT on a Document is quite straightforward using the JAXP API from Oracle. This allows you to work against any XSLT engine such as Xalan or Saxon. Here is an example of using JAXP to create a transformer and then applying it to a Document.

import javax.xml.transform.Transformer;
import javax.xml.transform.TransformerFactory;

import org.dom4j.Document;
import org.dom4j.io.DocumentResult;
import org.dom4j.io.DocumentSource;

public class Foo {

    public Document styleDocument(Document document, String stylesheet) throws Exception {

        // load the transformer using JAXP
        TransformerFactory factory = TransformerFactory.newInstance();
        Transformer transformer = factory.newTransformer(new StreamSource(stylesheet));

        // now lets style the given document
        DocumentSource source = new DocumentSource(document);
        DocumentResult result = new DocumentResult();
        transformer.transform(source, result);

        // return the transformed document
        Document transformedDoc = result.getDocument();
        return transformedDoc;