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From da...@cocoon.zones.apache.org
Subject [DAISY] Created: Creating a Transformer
Date Fri, 16 Sep 2005 18:12:41 GMT
A new document has been created.

http://cocoon.zones.apache.org/daisy/documentation/694.html

Document ID: 694
Branch: main
Language: default
Name: Creating a Transformer
Document Type: Document
Created: 9/16/05 6:12:29 PM
Creator (owner): Berin Loritsch
State: publish

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<h1>Creating a Transformer</h1>

<p>In 90% of all cases XSLT will perform all your transformation needs better
than anything else out there.  I'll be completely blunt and say that creating a
transformer that does anything truly substantial is not for the faint of heart. 
The issue has to do with using SAX event streams to process the XML.  SAX vs.
DOM was a design tradeoff to favor scalability over ease of use.  A particularly
large DOM tree can cripple a web application and you lose all the benefit of
such a powerful architecture like Cocoon.</p>

<p>The transformer we are going to create in this tutorial is actually very
trivial.  You'll have to take the lessons from this and expand them if you want
to do something more exciting.  We will be using a transformer to insert a
timestamp when we see an element called "time-stamp" in a specified namespace. 
Along the way we will look at some ways of lowering the impact of having your
transformer in the pipeline.  To use our transformer we will have a sitemap
snippet similar to the following:</p>

<pre>&lt;map:match pattern="timed-hello.xml"&gt;
  &lt;map:generate src="hello.xml"/&gt;
  &lt;map:transformer type="time"/&gt;
  &lt;map:serialize/&gt;
&lt;/map:match&gt;
</pre>

<p>Notice that we didn't have a "src" attribute for our transformer?  In this
case our example is so trivial that we really don't need one.  If we wanted to
add a little more functionality we could pass in a format using the src
attribute, but that could also be done by modifying our markup.  Just so we are
complete in what we expect to do, we want to take the following XML:</p>

<pre>&lt;ts:time xmlns:ts="unc:time"/&gt;
</pre>

<p>into the current date and time ending with the minute (ex. Sep. 16, 2005
12:59 PM).</p>

<h2>How the Sitemap Treats a Transformer</h2>

<p>All Transformer components are SitemapModelComponents and XMLPipelines, in
addition they can be CacheableProcessingComponents.  All of those contracts have
been covered in depth already.  Once the sitemap determines that we need to pass
results through your transformer (i.e. there are no cached entries for the
pipeline up to this point), the <tt>setXMLConsumer()</tt> method is called, and
you know the pipeline is being processed as soon as you receive the
<tt>startDocument()</tt> event.</p>

<h2>AbstractTransformer: A Good Start</h2>

<p>The AbstractTransformer has everything you need to pass SAX events through
unmolested.  You have the different objects from the setup method accessible as
fields in the class, and the XMLPipeline contract is already set up to pass
through the SAX events to the XMLConsumer.  We will only need to do a couple
things to set up caching properly.  In fact because our input doesn't rely on
any external source of information we can have a constant for the cache key: the
namespace we are transforming.</p>

<h3>The Transformer Skeleton</h3>

<p>The skeleton code does nothing more than set up the cache validity object we
will be using.  You might be thinking that we can't cache anything so dynamic as
the time of day, but we can cache it for as long as the shortest amount of time
we are displaying.  If you are being slammed with 150 simultaneous users a
second all asking for something that has the time of day inserted, we should be
able to generate it once and reuse the results until the clock advances.</p>

<pre>import org.apache.avalon.framework.parameters.Parameters;
import org.apache.cocoon.ProcessingException;
import org.apache.cocoon.caching.CacheableProcessingComponent;
import org.apache.cocoon.environment.SourceResolver;
import org.apache.cocoon.transformation.AbstractTransformer;
import org.apache.excalibur.source.SourceValidity;
import org.apache.excalibur.source.ExpiresValidity;

import org.xml.sax.Attributes;
import org.xml.sax.SAXException;
import java.io.IOException;
import java.text.SimpleDateFormatter;

public class TimeTransformer extends AbstractTransformer implements CacheableProcessingComponent
{
    private static final String FORMAT = "MMM d, YYYY hh:mm a";
    private static final String NAMESPACE = "unc:time";
    private static final long MINUTE = 60 * 1000;
    private SourceValidity cacheValidity = null;
    private final SimpleDateFormatter formatter = null;

    public void setup( SourceResolver sourceResolver, Map model, String src, Parameters params
)
        throws IOException, ProcessingException, SAXException
    {
        super.setup( sourceResolver, model, src, params );
        cacheValidity = new ExpiresValidity(System.currentTimeMillis() + MINUTE);
    }

    // ... skip other methods later.
}</pre>

<p>We set up some constants that will be used later such as our time format, the
namespace we are checking, and the number of milliseconds that make up a
minute.  The other two instance fields are the cacheValidity object and the date
formatter.  Because by definition none of the formatters are threadsafe, we have
to create a new one for each instance of this transformer.  Technically speaking
we could make it a ThreadLocal object, but we wanted to keep things simple here.
</p>

<h3>The Cache Clues</h3>

<p>Since the caching aspect of this component is really simple, let's just get
it out of the way here.  First thing is that the key for this transformer should
not change with the time of day, so let's use the namespace we are checking as
the cache key:</p>

<pre>    public Serializable getKey()
    {
        return NAMESPACE;
    }</pre>

<p>And finally, we already set up our validity object in the <tt>setup()</tt>
call in the skeleton code.  Let's just pass it back.</p>

<pre>    public SourceValidity getValidity()
    {
        return cacheValidity;
    }
</pre>

<h3>Performing the Transformation</h3>

<p>At this point the only thing we didn't do yet is set up our date formatter. 
We have two choices: delayed evaluation or structured evaluation.  With delayed
evaluation we wait until we actually have a <tt>ts:time</tt> element to
transform before we set up the formatter.  With structured evaluation we take
advantage of the fact that <tt>startDocument()</tt> is called before anything
else and we do it then.  The actual solution to the problem depends on the
liklihood of always having an element to transform and the cost of creating the
objects you need to work with.  Because our case is really simple, its a
tossup.  We'll go with structured evaluation just because it's clearer code:</p>

<pre>    public void startDocument()
    {
        super.startDocument();
        formatter = new SimpleDateFormatter(FORMAT);
    }

    public void endDocument()
    {
        super.endDocument();
        formatter = null; // just cleanup for the garbage collector's sake
    }
</pre>

<p>All that's left is to actually perform the transformation.  Again, we need to
override two methods because of the <tt>startElement()</tt> and
<tt>endElement()</tt> pairing.  To make things more interesting we will even
add
some simple validation to our code.  There should be no embedded text inside the
element we are listening for, so we will include a new field which is a boolean
flag for whether we are in the timestamp element or not:</p>

<pre>    private boolean isInTimeElement = false;

    public void startElement(String namespace, String name, String qName, Attributes attrib)
    {
        if ( isInTimeElement ) throw new SAXException("Cannot have embedded elements");

        if ( NAMESPACE.equals( namespace ) )
        {
            if ( "time".equals(name) )
            {
                isInTimeElement = true;
                String formattedDate = formatter.format( new Date() );
                contentHandler.characters(formattedDate.toCharArray(), 0, formattedDate.length());

                return;
            }
            else
            {
                throw new SAXException("Only the \"time\" element is valid");
            }
        }

        super.startElement(namespace, name, qName, attrib);
    }
</pre>

<p>Before we move on to the characters() evaluation, let's spend some time with
the code above.  First we check if it is legal to have sub-elements, which of
course only happens when we are not in a time element.  Next, we check if the
element we recieved is one we have to worry about.  If we are in the right
namespace, we check the element name and throw an exception if the element name
is anything other than "time".  Assuming we have the time element in our
namespace we substitute the <tt>startElement()</tt> call with the coresponding
<tt>characters</tt><tt>()</tt> call, turn on the <tt>isInTimeElement</tt>
flag,
and finally return immediately.  Otherwise we will simply forward on the
<tt>startElement()</tt> call as usual.  Another thing to note is that we called
the <tt>characters()</tt> event directly on the content handler instead of
calling our own transformer.  We did that to make sure that our validation code
doesn't reject the date string we want to pass on.  Now to validate our own
<tt>characters()</tt> method:</p>

<pre>    public void characters(char[] chars, int start, int end)
    {
        if ( isInTimeElement ) throw new SAXException("Cannot have embedded text");

        super.characters(chars, start, end);
    }
</pre>

<p>The <tt>characters()</tt> event is really simple, and we only throw an
exception if the user tried to embed characters inside the timestamp element. 
Now for the endElement() so that we can turn of the <tt>isInTimeElement</tt>
flag and swallow the matching <tt>endElement()</tt> event for our timestamp
element:</p>

<pre>    public void endElement(String namespace, String name, String qName)
    {
        if ( NAMESPACE.equals(namespace) &amp;&amp; "time".equals(name) )
        {
            isInTimeElement = false;
            return;
        }

        super.endElement(namespace, name, qName)
    }
</pre>

<p>Now we are done with the component.</p>

<h2>Additional Things to Consider for Transformers</h2>

<p>There are a couple things to keep in mind when dealing with SAX streams and
designing your transformers.  First, it takes more time to iterate through a set
of attributes for every element looking for an attribute in your namespace than
it does to look for an element with the namespace you desire.  In short,
elements are faster to evaluate than attributes.  Use them when you can. 
Secondly, remember to evaluate namespaces/name combinations and not QNames.  A
QName (or Qualified Name in XML speak) is name including the prefix matching a
namespace.  The only time you should look at the QName is if you need to treat
different "contexts" of transformation for the namespace.  In other words unless
you need to treat "ts:time" separate from "nt:time" ignore the QName--most of
the time you just care whether or not you are dealing with a particular
namespace.</p>

<p>Lastly, validation is a tricky thing.  Many times you want validation in
development but not in production because it is expensive to do.  In our example
we included validation but never provided a way to turn it off.  For this case
the validation is so trivial that it's acceptable to keep the logic in
production--but it does make the code a bit more complex.  Sometimes the
validation code can be a source of errors.  Test your validation code, but
assume that you are receiving valid XML.  After all this is a transformer.  The
Generator should have been tested to make sure that the XML generated is valid.
</p>

<p>As a final measure to ensure your transformer isn't turning previously valid
XML into invalid XML.  A quick test is to take a valid XML document and
transform it using your transformer--serializing to a stream and feeding that
into a validating XML parser.  It seems weird, but it is a simple test to set up
for all transformers to make sure they don't introduce errors of their own.</p>

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