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Query Your Toaster

Published on Thursday November 15, 2007 by englich in Qt Patternist Aggregated | Comments

People have asked for Qt’s XQuery & XPath support to not be locked to a particular tree backend such as QDom, but to be able to work on arbitrary backends.

Any decent implementation(such as XQilla or Saxon) provide that nowadays in someway or another, but I’d say Patternist’s approach is novice, with its own share of advantages. So let me introduce what Qt’s snapshot carries.

<ul>
{
for $file in $exampleDirectory//file[@suffix = "cpp"]
order by xs:integer($file/@size)
return <li>
{string($file/@fileName)}, size: {string($file/@size)}
</li>
}
</ul>

and the query itself was set up with:

QXmlQuery query;FileTree fileTree(query.namePool());
query.setQuery(&file, QUrl::fromLocalFile(file.fileName()));
query.bindVariable("exampleDirectory", fileTree.nodeFor(QLibraryInfo::location(QLibraryInfo::ExamplesPath)));
if(!query.isValid())
return InvalidQuery;
QFile out;
out.open(stdout, QIODevice::WriteOnly);
query.serialize(&out);

These two snippets are taken from the example found in examples/xmlpatterns/filetree/, which with about 250 lines of code, has virtualized the file system into an XML document.

In other words, with the tree backend FileTree that the example has, it’s possible to query the file system, without converting it to a textual XML document or anything like that.

And that’s what the query does: it finds all the .cpp files found on any level in Qt’s example directory, and generate a HTML list, ordered by their file size. Maybe generating a view for image files in a folder would have been a tad more useful.

The usual approach to this is an abstract interface/class for dealing with nodes, which brings disadvantages such as heap allocations and that one need to allocate such structures and hence the possibility to affect the implementation of what one is going to query.

But along time ago Patternist was rewritten to use Qt’s items & models pattern, which means any existing structure can be queried, without touching it. That’s what the FileTree class does, it subclasses QSimpleXmlNodeModel and handles out QXmlNodeModelIndex instances, which are light, stack allocate values.

This combined with that the engine tries to evaluate in a streamed and lazy manner to the degree that it thinks it can, means fairly efficient solutions should be doable.

So what does this mean? It means that if you would like to, you can relatively cheaply be able to use the XQuery language on top of your custom data structure, as long as it is somewhat hierarchical.

For instance, a backend could bridge the QObject tree, such that the XQuery language could be used to find Human Interface Guideline-violations within widgets; molecular patterns in a chemistry application can concisely be identified with a two or three liner XPath expression, and the documentation carries on with a couple of other examples. No need to convert QWidgets to nodes, or force a compact representation to sub-class an abstract interface.

A to me intriguing case would be a web robot that models the links between different pages as a graph, and finds invalid documents & broken links using the doc-available() function, or reported URIs that a website shouldn’t be linking to(such as a public site referencing intranet pages).

Our API freeze is approaching. If something is needed but missing, let me know.

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