XML - Managing Data Exchange/Cocoon

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XSLT and Style Sheets Parsing XML files

Learning objectives

  • Understand the function of Cocoon
  • Create a working sitemap
  • Make available a stylesheet-formatted XML document
  • Create a simple Cocoon form
  • Create a simple XSP

sponsored by:

The University of Georgia

Terry College of Business

Department of Management Information Systems



Cocoon is a product of the Apache Software Foundation. It is a powerful server heavily based on Java and XML technology. While it does have a command line interface, most users will be able to do everything they need to with it simply through careful editing of a few configuration files, formatted as XML documents. If you want to see some examples of what Cocoon can do, go to http://MIST5730.terry.uga.edu:8080/cocoon/.



This tutorial is set up based on the user having access to an installation of Cocoon on Terry’s Blaze server. If you do not have this access, simply replace file locations and access methods with those provided by your server administrator. Some programs described may be Windows-only; you will need to find out a suitable replacement if you are a Macintosh or Linux user, although these utilities are often included with the operating system. JEdit is a free text editor that can read and save files on an FTP or SFTP server as easily as on a hard disk, and properly manipulate many different types of files, with the proper plugins. It is available for Windows, Macintosh, some Linux distributions and as a platform-independent Java application at http://www.jedit.org/.

The Sitemap


The primary Cocoon file to be concerned with is sitemap.xmap, located in the root Cocoon directory. It uses XML tags to define things such as different ways to present data, the location of important files, identification of browsers, and the most important aspect, pipelines. The default xmap will be fine for our purposes, and we will only need to look at the last few lines of it, where pipeline matches are defined. This section begins at the tag <map:pipeline>. A pipeline match looks like this:

<map:match pattern=”test”>
	<map:generate type=”file” src=”content/test.xml”/>
	<map:transform type=”xslt” src=”stylesheets/test.xslt”/>
	<map:serialize type=”html”/>

Let’s look at what each line does. The first line tells Cocoon to watch for someone browsing to http://blaze.terry.uga.edu:8080/cocoon/otc/test. When this happens, the actions on the next three lines take place. Cocoon will take the information from the file test.xml within the content directory, and apply the stylesheet test.xslt from the stylesheets directory. It formats this result as an html page, as specified on the fourth line. Cocoon can use different serializers to format data as an html or xhtml page, flash object, pdf, or even OpenOffice document. Unlike when working with XML for other purposes, no XSD schema is needed – simply create and populate fields in the XML file as necessary.

Cocoon Forms


Cocoon forms, or CForms, are a way to use XML structure to create validating form field objects and then arrange them in a template for use. The primary advantage of CForms over using HTML forms is that fields can be validated either with built-in functionality or simple XML attributes. There are several elements required for this. A definition XML file, which holds the fields, called "widgets":

<fd:field id="email" required="true">
<fd:label>Email address:</fd:label>
<fd:datatype base="string"/>

A template XML file calls on these widgets, adding HTML code to help with look and feel:

<ft:widget-label id="email"/>
<ft:widget id="email"/>

A Javascript file that controls the flow of data from one file to the next:

function registration() {
var form = new Form("registration_definition.xml");
var viewData = { "username" : form.getChild("name").getValue() }
cocoon.sendPage("registration-success-pipeline", viewData);

Pipelines in the sitemap that also control flow:

<map:match pattern="registration">
<map:call function="registration"/>
<map:match pattern="registration-display-pipeline">
<map:generate type="jx" src="registration_template.xml"/>
<map:transform type="i18n">
<map:parameter name="locale" value="en-US"/>
<map:transform src="forms-samples-styling.xsl"/>
<map:match pattern="registration-success-pipeline">
<map:generate type="jx" src="registration_success.jx"/>

An XSP can be used in this flow in order to pass submissions to a database.



XSPs function similarly to JSPs and servlets - they are server-side applications that can support many users at once. Unlike JSPs and servlets, XSPs can use XML tags to accomplish much of their functionality, although they can also use Java code between <xsp:logic></xsp:logic> tags. One good use for XSPs is passing information to a database or recalling and displaying stored data. While JSPs and servlets have to either call a specific database connector or contain all of the code for connecting within them, Cocoon has a configuration file which holds this information, and XSPs just call the name of the database as specified in WEB-INF/cocoon.xconf:


XSP code to enter data from a form might look like this:

  INSERT into otc_users (name,email,password,age,spam) values  ('<xsp:expr>esc_name</xsp:expr>','<xsp-request:get-parameter name="email"/>','<xsp-request:get-parameter name="password"/>','<xsp-request:get-parameter name="age"/>','<xsp-request:get-parameter name="spam"/>')


  1. Create a basic XML file and accompanying html stylesheet. Upload them into the proper folders (content and stylesheets respectively) on the Blaze server, and write a pipeline match that would enable you to view the XML content with your stylesheet applied in a browser. Files and match pattern should be named after your own name, for example Bob Jones would use “bjones.” It is not necessary to upload the pipeline code - simply browse to http://blaze.terry.uga.edu:8080/cocoon/otc/yourname and it should be visible.
  2. Follow along with the CForms example located at http://cocoon.apache.org/2.1/userdocs/basics/sample.html. Create and implement at least one widget of your own making. You can view this at work by browsing to http://blaze.terry.uga.edu:8080/cocoon/cforms/registration.
  3. Browse to opt/tomcat5/webapps/cocoon/cforms on Blaze. Examine sitemap-modified.xmap to see how the pipelines could be modified to pass CForm data to an XSP. Test.xsp shows how that data could be inserted into or called from a database.

Appendix - Accessing the Blaze server


When you have an account set up on the Blaze server, there are several steps you will need to take in order to be able to work with files in the Cocoon directory. Generally, new user accounts are set up with the user’s UGA MyId as the username, and social security number as the password. This password must be changed at the user’s first login, which requires using an SSH client to accomplish. UGA students can download Secure Shell Utilities 3.1 at http://sitesoft.uga.edu/. Two programs are installed by this download, Secure Shell Client and Secure File Transfer Client.

Open the Secure Shell client and click the “Quick Connect” button located near the top of the window. In the resulting window, enter “blaze.terry.uga.edu” as the Host Name, and your specified username as User Name. Port Number should be set to “22”, and Authentication Method should be “Passworded”. Click “Connect”. In the resulting window, enter your given password and click “Ok”. You may see a window asking to save the new host key, click “Yes”. You will now be presented with a text box. It will notify you that your password has expired and must be changed. You will need to enter your given password once, hit enter, enter your desired new password, hit enter, and again enter your desired new password and hit enter. Be aware that nothing you type will show up for security purposes, and you will not be able to delete any typos - you'll have to log in and start over if you mess up. This is all we will be using the Secure Shell Client application for; you can click the “Disconnect” button in the row of small buttons at the top of the screen, and then exit the program.

In order to actually access files on the Blaze server, the Secure File Transfer Client is used. Open it and click the “Quick Connect” button located near the top of the window, entering the same Host Name as with the Secure Shell Client, your new password, and make sure the other settings are the same. Click “Connect.” You will be presented with a Windows Explorer-type screen where you can browse through the files on the Blaze server. To access our Cocoon installation go to the “opt” folder, then the “tomcat5” folder, then the “webapps” folder, then the cocoon folder. Most of our work will be done in the “otc” folder within. To download a file for editing, simply highlight it and click the “Download” button in the row of small buttons at the top of the screen. Once you select a download location and click “Download.” You can then open it in your editor of choice. To upload a file to the server, simply do the reverse – click the “Upload” button in the row of small buttons as the top of the screen, select a file to upload, and click “Upload,” which will put the file in the folder you are currently viewing on the Blaze server.