Using Returned XML with C#

Once you have retrieved data from a web service you will need to do something with it. This HOWTO describes the various built-in methods .NET provides to use XML returned by a web service.


The .NET Framework provides excellent support for XML. Combined with the databinding support of WinForms and ASP.NET applications you have an easy and powerful set of tools. ASP.NET 2.0 takes databinding another step further by providing the DataSource control which lets you declaratively provide data access to data-bound UI controls.

Returned Data to a String

The simplest way to view the returned data is to get the response stream and put it into a string. This is especially handy for debugging. The following code gets a web page and returns the contents as a string.

C# String Sample

Using XmlReader

XmlReader provides fast forward-only access to XML data. It also allows you to read data as simple-typed values rather than strings. XmlReader can load an XML document without having to use HttpRequest, though you won't have the same amount of control over the request. If you use HttpRequest, you can just pass the stream returned by the GetResponseStream() method to XmlReader. Fast write-only functions are provided by XmlTextWriter.

With .NET 2.0 you should create XmlReader instances using the System.Xml.XmlReader.Create method. For the sake of compatibility and clarity the next sample uses the .NET 1.1 creation method.

C# XmlReader Sample

Using XmlDocument

XmlDocument gives more flexibility and is a good choice if you need to navigate or modify the data via the DOM. It also works as a source for the XslTransform class allowing you to perform XSL transformations.

C# XmlDocument Sample

Using XPathNavigator/XPathDocument

XPathDocument provides fast, read-only access to the contents of an XML document using XPath. Its usage is similar to using XPath with XmlDocument.

C# XPathDocument Sample

Using a DataSet

Using a DataSet from the System.Data namespace lets you bind the returned data to controls and also access hierarchical data easily. A dataset can infer the structure automatically from XML, create corresponding tables and relationships between them and populate the tables just by calling ReadXml().

C# DataSet Sample

Further reading

Related information on the web is listed below.

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