XML Repository

Javascript Feature: Read Xml String, Parse, And Set Elements To Values

by Sir on February 11, 2011

JavaScript Feature: Read XML String, Parse, and Set Elements to Values

Who is this for?

Getting a fully functional script that actually reads in XML, parses it, and then sets element values is not easy to find on the Web. I searched for hours, but was only able to find bits and pieces to put together a function. So if you are looking to have a PHP script create an XML document filled with variables and HTML, then this code is for you.

What are all the files I need to evaluate this code?

The parts involved in this example code are a PHP file, “AJAX.php”, and an HTML file, “AJAX.htm”, with a few JavaScript functions.

  • The PHP file creates the XML string. Note: all values should be URL encoded to ensure HTML strings do not break the code.
  • The HTML file provides the elements, and the following JavaScript to render the XML.
    • JavaScript function to create the XMLHttpRequest: get_oXMLHTTP().
    • JavaScript function to call the PHP file and retreive the responseText: getAJAXContent_XML().
    • JavaScript function to create an XML object from the responseText: loadXMLString().
    • JavaScript function to run through the XML object and set the elements to the values: setElementValues().
    • JavaScript function that decode the URL encryption that is put on all the nodes of the XML object.

PHP and JavaScript Coordination

There is some coordination between the PHP file, and the JavaScript funciton setElementValues(). The tags that hold the key information in the XML document are “formID” and “formVal”. More appropriate names would be elementID and elementValue, since these nodes cooresponde to the elements. The setElementValues() function gets the values of these two nodes, and based on the value for formID, that element in the HTML document will have its innerHTML set to the value found in the formVal node. If element name does not match the formID value, then the value is read, but never set.

Demo and Download

O.K. That is a lengthy intro, and if you are like me you just want the code, and to see an example. If you feel like you need some explanation, then you RTFM (Read The Freaking Manual). So let’s get to the good stuff… the example. Below is some HTML with a few element tags. Click the “Run AJAX XML Script” and see what happens. After that, down load the script, and open it in your editor.

This form will not work in this article. Please use the links at the bottom of the article to use the function examples.


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How does it work?

  1. Create an XMLHttpRequest Object
    The function “get_oXMLHTTP()” is a standardized script that you can get from W3C.org. It simply tests the browser type, and based upon that creates a XMLHttp object and returns it to the caller. We will go over the caller towards the end. function get_oXMLHTTP(){
    var output = null;
    try{// Firefox, Opera 8.0+, Safari
    output = new XMLHttpRequest();
    }catch(e){ // Internet Explorer
    output = new ActiveXObject(“Msxml2.XMLHTTP”);
    }catch (e){
    output = new ActiveXObject(“Microsoft.XMLHTTP”);
    return output;
  2. Call the PHP file, and retrieve the responseText
    The function “getAJAXContent_XML()” is a standardized script that you can get from W3C.org. It simply calls the PHP and retrieves the XML string. What is different is that it uses loadXMLString() to load the XML sting into an object “XMLDoc”, and then sets the document elements (Marked in red). function getAJAXContent_XML(objHTTP, url){
    if (objHTTP != null){
    objHTTP.open(“POST”, url, true);
    objHTTP.onreadystatechange = function(){
    if(objHTTP.readyState == 4){
  3. Create an XML Object from string
    The function “get_oXMLHTTP()” is a standardized sceipt that you can get from W3C.org. It simply tests the browser type, and based upon that it loads the XML string into XMLDoc. Where the Microsoft XMLDOM just loads the string, the non IE browsers creates a DOMParser, and then has the object to “parseFromString”, which is pretty litteral in its name. So no need for further explaination. Just notice that the function needs to know the type, and that is where “text/xml” is key in transfering the string into an actual XML object. Up to this point, the string is only a string properly formated as an XML document. function loadXMLString(xmlData) {
    try { //Internet Explorer
    xmlDoc = new ActiveXObject(“Microsoft.XMLDOM”);
    xmlDoc.async = “false”;
    }catch(e){ //Firefox et. all
    try {
    parser = new DOMParser();
    xmlDoc = parser.parseFromString(xmlData, “text/xml”);
  4. Run through the XML object and set the document element innerHTML attribute
    This function uses the XMLDoc object loaded via loadXMLString(). Another object is created, “oRV”, to hold the entire node that is named “elementValues”. Another object, “oV”, is created to hold the child node list. The node list is made up of children using the “record” tag. Looping through the child node list we get the child nodes for “formID” and “formVal”. The values are decoded. If the document element exists, then it sets that document element to the formVal pulled from the XML object. function setElementValues(){
    var oRV = xmlDoc.getElementsByTagName(“elementValues”);
    var oV = oRV[0].childNodes;
    var formID = “”;
    var value = “”;for (i = 0; i < oV.length; i++){
    oFormID = oV[i].getElementsByTagName(“formID”);
    oFormVal = oV[i].getElementsByTagName(“formVal”);
    formID = URLDecode(oFormID[0].text);
    formVal = URLDecode(oFormVal[0].text);
    if(document.getElementById(formID)){ document.getElementById(formID)[removed] = formVal; }
  5. Decoding the URL encrypted node values
    The function “URLDecode()” simply uses the escape() JavaScript function, and translates the URL encoded content into a HTML compatible string. The only thing not escaped from the PHP urlencode are the plus “+”. Using the JavaScript function replace(), the string is quickly cleaned of any visible “+” signs. Make sure you use proper HTML codes for the “+” sign, which is “&#43;”. function URLDecode(val){
    var output = “”;
    output = unescape(val);
    output = output.replace(/+/g, ” “);
    return output;