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XML Object Serialization in .NET
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As mentioned previously, another form of serialization in .NET is XML serialization. Unlike binary serialization, the serializer for XML generates XML code, and the representation of the object in XML isn t similar to the object in memory. Using the same class as in the binary serialization, the following class declaration is used for XML serialization:
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CHAPTER 8 DATA PERSISTENCE
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[XmlRoot("SampleClass")] public class SampleClass { private int _value; private string _buffer; public SampleClass() { } public SampleClass(int value, string buffer) { _value = value; _buffer = buffer; } [XmlElement( "Value")] public int Value { get { return _value; } set { _value = value; } } [XmlElement( "Buffer")] public string Buffer { get { return _buffer; } set { _buffer = value; } } } In contrast to the binary serialization implementation of SampleClass, this has more attributes, and the set parts of the properties have been implemented. The added attributes fine-tune how the data is serialized to XML. The biggest difference between XML serialization and binary serialization is that XML serialization doesn t read the private data members, rather it reads the public properties. And unlike the binary serialization example, a parameterless constructor is required. Following is the source code used to serialize and deserialize SampleClass to and from XML: public void TestSampleClassSerialization() { SampleClass cls = new SampleClass( 10, "hello"); XmlSerializer s = new XmlSerializer( typeof(SampleClass ) ); TextWriter w = new StreamWriter( @"c:\sampleclass.xml" ); s.Serialize( w, cls ); w.Close(); }
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public void TestSampleClassDeserialization() { SampleClass cls; XmlSerializer s = new XmlSerializer( typeof(SampleClass ) ); TextReader r = new StreamReader( @"c:\sampleclass.xml" ); cls = (SampleClass)s.Deserialize( r ); r.Close(); } The XML serialization process is identical to the binary serialization in that the serializer is separate from the stream. For XML serialization, XmlSerializer performs the serialization to and from the stream. Because XML is a text format, the stream that is being serialized to and from must be text based, which when writing to a stream involves the classes TextWriter or TextReader. The generated file that represents the serialized SampleClass is as follows: < xml version="1.0" encoding="utf-8" > <SampleClass xmlns:xsd="http://www.w3.org/2001/XMLSchema" xmlns:xsi="http://www.w3.org/2001/XMLSchema-instance"> <Value>10</Value> <Buffer>hello</Buffer> </SampleClass> What should be noticed is that the XML tag identifiers (SampleClass, Value, and Buffer) are identical to the .NET attributes used to describe the properties for SampleClass. The identifiers used by the .NET attributes don t need to be identical to the actual .NET type descriptors. The identifiers can be any text values that you d like them to be.
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Serialization Has Issues!
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Two things are obvious when implementing the Serialization pattern using a runtime environment like .NET. The first is that you don t need the WriteTo and ReadFrom methods, because a runtime environment like .NET has the ability to use metadata. Using metadata is a better solution, because this makes the serializer more flexible to do what is necessary, and it s in control of the serialization. Going back to the C++ MFC example, one of the problems was the inability to convert the serialization routines to XML. Using metadata, that problem is solved. When using a metadata approach, fine-tuning is required, and this is made possible using .NET attributes. In general, this is a good approach. What is tedious is that each serialization (binary or XML) requires its own attributes. Now imagine wanting to serialize to five different mediums does that mean you use five different sets of serialization attributes The second thing to consider is based on the first specifically, the need to use custom attributes for each medium. Those attributes are necessary, but the real question that must be asked is whether it s even possible to implement a universal Serializer pattern. Ideally, you d like to be medium independent for now and in the future. The trouble is that it s a holy grail, and not attainable. Binary serialization isn t XML serialization, and each serialization technique requires its own set of fine-tuning. And when I cover O/R mapping, there is yet another set of attributes to learn. Additionally, the following problems make implementing a Serializer pattern very complicated:
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