xquery4j in action

In my previous article, I introduced a wrapper library for Saxon, xquery4j http://github.com/rafalrusin/xquery4j.
Here, I will explain how to use it to create an article generator in Java and XQuery for XHTML, called Article. You can download it here: http://github.com/rafalrusin/Article. It’s a simple DSL for article generation.

I think it is something worth noticing, because the whole project took me just a while to implement and has interesting features. Those are:

  • embedded code syntax highlighting for a lot of programming languages (using external program highlight),
  • creating href entries for links, so you don’t need to type URL twice
  • it integrates natively with XHTML constructs

This is an example of an input it takes:

<a:article xmlns='http://www.w3.org/1999/xhtml' xmlns:a="urn:article">
Some text
<a:code lang="xml"><![CDATA[


It generates XHTML output for it, using command

./run <input.xml >output.xhtml

The interesting thing is that XQuery expression for this transformation is very simple to do in Saxon. This is the complete code of it:

declare namespace a="urn:article";
declare default element namespace "http://www.w3.org/1999/xhtml";

declare function a:processLine($l) {
for $i in $l/node()
typeswitch ($i)
case element(a:link, xs:untyped) return <a href=“{$i/text()}”>{$i/text()}
default return $i

declare function a:articleItem($i) {
typeswitch ($i)
case element(a:l, xs:untyped) return (a:processLine($i),

case element(a:code, xs:untyped) return
( a:highlight($i/text(), $i/@lang)/body/* ,

default return “error;”

<html xmlns=“http://www.w3.org/1999/xhtml”>

<br /> a.xml

<link rel=“stylesheet” type=“text/css” href=“highlight.css”/>

for $i in a:article/*

Inside this expression, there is bound a:highlight Java function, which takes two strings on input (a code and a language) and returns DOM Node containing XHTML output from highlight command.
Since there is not much trouble with manipulating DOM using xquery4j, we can get as simple solution as this for a:highlight function:

public static class Mod {
public static Node highlight(final String code, String lang) throws Exception {
final Process p = new ProcessBuilder("highlight", "-X", "--syntax", lang).start();
Thread t = new Thread(new Runnable() {

public void run() {
try {
OutputStream out = p.getOutputStream();
IOUtils.write(code, out);
} catch (IOException e) {
throw new RuntimeException(e);
String result = IOUtils.toString(p.getInputStream());
return DOMUtils.parse(result).getDocumentElement();

Please note that creating a separate thread for feeding input into highlight command is required, since Thread’s output queue is limited and potentially might lead to dead lock. So we need to concurrently collect output from spawned Process.
However at the end, when we need to convert a String to DOM and we use xquery4j’s DOMUtils.parse(result), so it’s a very simple construct.

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Atom Feeds with Spring MVC

How to add feeds (Atom) to your web application with just two classes?
How about Spring MVC?

Here are my assumptions:
  • you are using Spring framework
  • you have some entity, say “News”, that you want to publish in your feeds
  • your "News" entity has creationDate, title, and shortDescription
  • you have some repository/dao, say "NewsRepository", that will return the news from your database
  • you want to write as little as possible
  • you don't want to format Atom (xml) by hand
You actually do NOT need to use Spring MVC in your application already. If you do, skip to step 3.

Step 1: add Spring MVC dependency to your application
With maven that will be:

Step 2: add Spring MVC DispatcherServlet
With web.xml that would be:
Notice, I set the url-pattern to “/feed” which means I don't want Spring MVC to handle any other urls in my app (I'm using a different web framework for the rest of the app). I also give it a brand new contextConfigLocation, where only the mvc configuration is kept.

Remember that, when you add a DispatcherServlet to an app that already has Spring (from ContextLoaderListener for example), your context is inherited from the global one, so you should not create beans that exist there again, or include xml that defines them. Watch out for Spring context getting up twice, and refer to spring or servlet documentation to understand what's happaning.

Step 3. add ROME – a library to handle Atom format
With maven that is:

Step 4. write your very simple controller
public class FeedController {
    static final String LAST_UPDATE_VIEW_KEY = "lastUpdate";
    static final String NEWS_VIEW_KEY = "news";
    private NewsRepository newsRepository;
    private String viewName;

    protected FeedController() {} //required by cglib

    public FeedController(NewsRepository newsRepository, String viewName) {
        notNull(newsRepository); hasText(viewName);
        this.newsRepository = newsRepository;
        this.viewName = viewName;

    @RequestMapping(value = "/feed", method = RequestMethod.GET)        
    public ModelAndView feed() {
        ModelAndView modelAndView = new ModelAndView();
        List<News> news = newsRepository.fetchPublished();
        modelAndView.addObject(NEWS_VIEW_KEY, news);
        modelAndView.addObject(LAST_UPDATE_VIEW_KEY, getCreationDateOfTheLast(news));
        return modelAndView;

    private Date getCreationDateOfTheLast(List<News> news) {
        if(news.size() > 0) {
            return news.get(0).getCreationDate();
        return new Date(0);
And here's a test for it, in case you want to copy&paste (who doesn't?):
public class FeedControllerShould {
    @Mock private NewsRepository newsRepository;
    private Date FORMER_ENTRY_CREATION_DATE = new Date(1);
    private Date LATTER_ENTRY_CREATION_DATE = new Date(2);
    private ArrayList<News> newsList;
    private FeedController feedController;

    public void prepareNewsList() {
        News news1 = new News().title("title1").creationDate(FORMER_ENTRY_CREATION_DATE);
        News news2 = new News().title("title2").creationDate(LATTER_ENTRY_CREATION_DATE);
        newsList = newArrayList(news2, news1);

    public void prepareFeedController() {
        feedController = new FeedController(newsRepository, "viewName");

    public void returnViewWithNews() {
        ModelAndView modelAndView = feedController.feed();
                .includes(entry(FeedController.NEWS_VIEW_KEY, newsList));

    public void returnViewWithLastUpdateTime() {

        ModelAndView modelAndView = feedController.feed();

                .includes(entry(FeedController.LAST_UPDATE_VIEW_KEY, LATTER_ENTRY_CREATION_DATE));

    public void returnTheBeginningOfTimeAsLastUpdateInViewWhenListIsEmpty() {
        given(newsRepository.fetchPublished()).willReturn(new ArrayList<News>());

        ModelAndView modelAndView = feedController.feed();

                .includes(entry(FeedController.LAST_UPDATE_VIEW_KEY, new Date(0)));
Notice: here, I'm using fest-assert and mockito. The dependencies are:

Step 5. write your very simple view
Here's where all the magic formatting happens. Be sure to take a look at all the methods of Entry class, as there is quite a lot you may want to use/fill.
import org.springframework.web.servlet.view.feed.AbstractAtomFeedView;

public class AtomFeedView extends AbstractAtomFeedView {
    private String feedId = "tag:yourFantastiSiteName";
    private String title = "yourFantastiSiteName: news";
    private String newsAbsoluteUrl = "http://yourfanstasticsiteUrl.com/news/"; 

    protected void buildFeedMetadata(Map<String, Object> model, Feed feed, HttpServletRequest request) {
        setUpdatedIfNeeded(model, feed);

    private void setUpdatedIfNeeded(Map<String, Object> model, Feed feed) {
        Date lastUpdate = (Date)model.get(FeedController.LAST_UPDATE_VIEW_KEY);
        if (feed.getUpdated() == null || lastUpdate != null || lastUpdate.compareTo(feed.getUpdated()) > 0) {

    protected List<Entry> buildFeedEntries(Map<String, Object> model, HttpServletRequest request, HttpServletResponse response) throws Exception {
        List<News> newsList = (List<News>)model.get(FeedController.NEWS_VIEW_KEY);
        List<Entry> entries = new ArrayList<Entry>();
        for (News news : newsList) {
            addEntry(entries, news);
        return entries;

    private void addEntry(List<Entry> entries, News news) {
        Entry entry = new Entry();
        entry.setId(feedId + ", " + news.getId());
        entry = setSummary(news, entry);
        entry = setLink(news, entry);

    private Entry setSummary(News news, Entry entry) {
        Content summary = new Content();
        return entry;

    private Entry setLink(News news, Entry entry) {
        Link link = new Link();
        link.setHref(newsAbsoluteUrl + news.getId()); //because I have a different controller to show news at http://yourfanstasticsiteUrl.com/news/ID
        return entry;


Step 6. add your classes to your Spring context
I'm using xml approach. because I'm old and I love xml. No, seriously, I use xml because I may want to declare FeedController a few times with different views (RSS 1.0, RSS 2.0, etc.).

So this is the forementioned spring-mvc.xml

<?xml version="1.0" encoding="UTF-8"?>
<beans xmlns="http://www.springframework.org/schema/beans"
       xsi:schemaLocation="http://www.springframework.org/schema/beans http://www.springframework.org/schema/beans/spring-beans.xsd">

    <bean class="org.springframework.web.servlet.view.ContentNegotiatingViewResolver">
        <property name="mediaTypes">
                <entry key="atom" value="application/atom+xml"/>
                <entry key="html" value="text/html"/>
        <property name="viewResolvers">
                <bean class="org.springframework.web.servlet.view.BeanNameViewResolver"/>

    <bean class="eu.margiel.pages.confitura.feed.FeedController">
        <constructor-arg index="0" ref="newsRepository"/>
        <constructor-arg index="1" value="atomFeedView"/>

    <bean id="atomFeedView" class="eu.margiel.pages.confitura.feed.AtomFeedView"/>

And you are done.

I've been asked a few times before to put all the working code in some public repo, so this time it's the other way around. I've describe things that I had already published, and you can grab the commit from the bitbucket.

Hope that helps.