Python hacking – make ElementTree support line number

An easy way to parse XML in Python is using Python xml.etree.ElementTree, which parses the XML document/data into a tree structure, where each node is an Element object. Only within few lines of code, one can extract all the XML information including tag and attributes. ElementTree looks perfect until the line number of certain tag block within the original XML file is wanted. In this post, we will hack into the Python source file, add line number support for the ElementTree, rebuild the Python and demonstrate our awesome hacking using simple testing script, just 4 FUN! K.R.K.C.

0. Question: can we get the line number using xml.etree.ElementTree?

1. Analysis gives the detailed usage of ElementTree. Apparently, it does not support line number. On one hand, this is reasonable – why do we need line number if the XML is parsed into a tree structure. On the other hand, while tree structure saves most of the information from the XML file, it loses the line number information for certain tag block within the original file, which may be useful for debugging. shows one way to get the line number information using xmlparser.CurrentLineNumber. However, we do not want to deal with the low-level parser and we want to have the line number from the ElementTree. Can we do that? Yes, hack Python!

2. R.t.D.C. provides the latest ElementTree implementation within the Python 2.7.8 implementation. To parse a XML file, we only need to call ElementTree.parse(‘filename’) within the application. Let us find that parse() method. Because we do not determine the parser option, ElementTree.parse() method would make up a default parser for us:

parser = XMLParser(target=TreeBuilder())

Then let up jump into XMLParser class within the same source file. Looking at the constructor function, we will find the XML parser we are going to use to expat, a C-based XML parser library. (pyexpat is just a Python wrapper for the expat implementation).

parser = expat.ParserCreate(encoding, "}")

Once the parser is created, all the following work is setting different callbacks for the expat parser. These callbacks tell the expat how to process the parsed XML information. There is a one callback we are especially interested in.

parser.StartElementHandler = self._start

This callback is used to tell expat how to handle each new element/node parsed from the XML data. The start key word here stands for the starting point of this element/node. Let us go to the XMLParser._start() method, which will call the target.start() method.

return, attrib)

What is target.start() method? Remember the target argument we passed into the XMLParser constructor? That is it. The target is the TreeBuilder class within the same source file. Let us jump into TreeBuilder.start() method.

self._last = elem = self._factory(tag, attrs)

Check the constructor of TreeBuilder, we will find the _factory() method by default is the Element class. Now the story happens here is pretty clear: The XMLParser parses the XML data and saves the information as Element into a tree structure. The application can extract these information from Element object directly. Then a reasonable place to place the line number is the Element class too. Cool, we have done! Wait…but where does the line number come from? Remember the parser we have created in XMLParser constructor? It has a member called self._parser, which is exactly the xmlparser object, which means…(leave me a msg if it is not clear…)

3. Hack

3.1. Download the Python source file (I am a fan of Python 2.X)

3.2. Hack the ElementTree

Python-2.7.8/Lib/xml/etree/, where we will:

add line number into the Element class and update the corresponding constructor and other methods which will create a new Element instance;
update the TreeBuilder.start() method to have an extra line number argument and call our new Element constructor with line number support;
update the XMLParser._start() method to inject the line number and call our updated TreeBuilder.start() method to create new Element with line number

4. Test

Configure and make your new Python. Then use our new Python to test a simple ElementTree application. Here it goes~

[root@daveti test]# cat
import xml.etree.ElementTree as ET

tree = ET.parse(‘country_data.xml’)
root = tree.getroot()

for e in root:
print e.lineNum, e.tag, e.attrib
[root@daveti test]# /root/python/Python-2.7.8/python ./
3 country {‘name’: ‘Liechtenstein’}
10 country {‘name’: ‘Singapore’}
16 country {‘name’: ‘Panama’}
[root@daveti test]#

5. Code – pyet

All the code is available at my github and follows GPLv2.

About daveti

Interested in kernel hacking, compilers, machine learning and guitars.
This entry was posted in Programming and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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