Introduction to the Python xml Module: Part 1

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The Python xml module provides functionalities for working with XML files. XML (Extensible Markup Language) is a popular data format used for storing and exchanging structured data. In this tutorial, we will cover various aspects of the xml module, including creating XML files, adding elements and attributes, finding and manipulating elements, writing to disk, loading XML into Python objects, and a walkthrough of creating a simple project.

Step 1: Importing the xml.etree.ElementTree Module

The xml module is part of Python’s standard library, specifically xml.etree.ElementTree. To start using it, import the module as follows:

import xml.etree.ElementTree as ET

Step 2: Constructing an XML File from Scratch

To create an XML file from scratch, we first need to create an XML tree. The root element is the top-level element in the XML structure. Let’s create a simple XML file with a root element and some child elements:

# Create the root element
root = ET.Element('library')

# Add child elements
book1 = ET.SubElement(root, 'book')
book1.set('id', '1')
title1 = ET.SubElement(book1, 'title')
title1.text = 'Python Programming'

book2 = ET.SubElement(root, 'book')
book2.set('id', '2')
title2 = ET.SubElement(book2, 'title')
title2.text = 'Data Science Essentials'

# Create the XML tree
tree = ET.ElementTree(root)

# Write the XML tree to a file

In this example, we created an XML file named library.xml with a root element <library> containing two <book> elements with attributes (id) and child <title> elements.

Step 3: Finding Existing Elements and Attributes

We can use the find() method to locate specific elements within the XML tree and the get() method to retrieve attributes. For example:

# Parse the XML file
tree = ET.parse('library.xml')

# Get the root element
root = tree.getroot()

# Find a specific book by id
book_id = '1'
book = root.find(f".//book[@id='{book_id}']")
if book is not None:
    title = book.find('title').text
    print(f"Book ID: {book_id}, Title: {title}")
    print(f"Book with ID {book_id} not found.")

This code snippet demonstrates how to find a specific <book> element by its id and retrieve its title.

Step 4: Adding Elements and Attributes

To add new elements or attributes to an existing XML structure, we can use the SubElement() method and the set() method, respectively. Let’s add a new book to our existing XML file:

# Add a new book to the XML tree
new_book = ET.SubElement(root, 'book')
new_book.set('id', '3')
new_title = ET.SubElement(new_book, 'title')
new_title.text = 'Machine Learning Basics'

# Write the updated XML tree to the file

In this code, we added a new <book> element with id ‘3’ and title ‘Machine Learning Basics’ to our existing XML structure and saved the changes to a new file library_updated.xml.

Step 5: Removing Elements

We can also remove elements from the XML tree using the remove() method. Let’s remove a book with id ‘2’ from our XML structure:

# Find and remove a book by id
book_id_to_remove = '2'
book_to_remove = root.find(f".//book[@id='{book_id_to_remove}']")
if book_to_remove is not None:
    print(f"Book with ID {book_id_to_remove} removed.")
    print(f"Book with ID {book_id_to_remove} not found.")

This code snippet demonstrates how to find and remove a specific <book> element from the XML tree.

Step 6: Writing to Disk and Loading XML into Python Objects

After making changes to the XML tree, we can write the updated tree to a file using the write() method. To load XML data into Python objects, we can use the ET.parse() method:

# Write the updated XML tree to the file

# Load XML data into Python objects
updated_tree = ET.parse('library_updated.xml')
updated_root = updated_tree.getroot()

# Display the updated XML structure
for book in updated_root.findall('book'):
    book_id = book.get('id')
    title = book.find('title').text
    print(f"Book ID: {book_id}, Title: {title}")

This code snippet writes the updated XML tree to a file, loads the updated XML data into Python objects, and then displays the updated XML structure.


Now that you have a good understanding of the Python xml module, you can apply these concepts to more complex XML files and projects. For a simple project, you could create an XML file to store information about books in a library, including attributes like title, author, genre, and publication year. You can use the techniques covered in this tutorial to add, remove, and update book information in the XML file as needed.

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