What Java XML library do you recommend (to replace dom4j)?

By | July 21, 2019


I’m looking for something like dom4j, but without dom4j’s warts, such as bad or missing documentation and seemingly stalled development status.

Background: I’ve been using and advocating dom4j, but don’t feel completely right about it because I know the library is far from optimal (example: see how methods in XSLT related Stylesheet class are documented; what would you pass to run() as the String mode parameter?)

The library should make basic XML handling easier than it is when using pure JDK (javax.xml and org.w3c.dom packages). Things like this:

  • Read an XML document (from file or String) into an object, easily traverse and manipulate the DOM, do XPath queries and run XSLT against it.
  • Build an XML document in your Java code, add elements and attributes and data, and finally write the document into a file or String.

I really like what dom4j promises, actually: “easy to use, open source library for working with XML, XPath and XSLT […] with full support for DOM, SAX and JAXP.” And upcoming dom4j 2.0 does claim to fix everything: fully utilise Java 5 and add missing documentation. But unfortunately, if you look closer:

Warning: dom4j 2.0 is in pre-alpha
stage. It is likely it can’t be
compiled. In case it can be compiled
at random it is likely it can’t run.
In case it runs occasionally it can
explode suddenly. If you want to use
dom4j, you want version 1.6.1. Really.

…and the website has said that for a long time. So is there a good alternative to dom4j? Please provide some justification for your preferred library, instead of just dumping names and links. 🙂


Sure, XOM 🙂

XOM is designed to be easy to learn
and easy to use. It works very
straight-forwardly, and has a very
shallow learning curve. Assuming
you’re already familiar with XML, you
should be able to get up and running
with XOM very quickly.

I use XOM for several years now, and I still like it very much. Easy to use, plenty of documentation and articles on the web, API doesn’t change between releases. 1.2 was released recently.

XOM is the only XML API that makes no
compromises on correctness. XOM only
accepts namespace well-formed XML
documents, and only allows you to
create namespace well-formed XML
documents. (In fact, it’s a little
stricter than that: it actually
guarantees that all documents are
round-trippable and have well-defined
XML infosets.) XOM manages your XML so
you don’t have to. With XOM, you can
focus on the unique value of your
application, and trust XOM to get the
XML right.

Check out web page http://www.xom.nu/ for FAQ, Cookbook, design rationale, etc. If only everything was designed with so much love 🙂

Author also wrote about What’s Wrong with XML APIs (and how to fix them). (Basically, reasons why XOM exists in the first place)

Here is also 5-part Artima interview with author about XOM, where they talk about what’s wrong with XML APIs, The Good, the Bad, and the DOM, A Design Review of JDOM, Lessons Learned from JDOM and finally Design Principles and XOM.

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