One also has to remember, that XML::LibXML is an interface to libxml2 nodes which actually reside on the C-Level of XML::LibXML. This means each node is a reference to a structure different than a perl hash or array. The only way to access these structure's values is through the DOM interface provided by XML::LibXML. This also means, that one can't simply inherit a XML::LibXML node and add new member variables as they were hash keys.
The DOM interface of XML::LibXML does not intend to implement a full DOM interface as it is done by XML::GDOME and used for full featured application. Moreover, it offers an simple way to build or modify documents that are created by XML::LibXML's parser.
Another target of the XML::LibXML interface is to make the interfaces of libxml2 available to the perl community. This includes also some workarounds to some features where libxml2 assumes more control over the C-Level that most perl users don't have.
One of the most important parts of the XML::LibXML DOM interface is, that the interfaces try do follow the DOM Level 3 specification rather strictly. This means the interface functions are named as the DOM specification says and not what widespread Java interfaces claim to be standard. Although there are several functions that have only a singular interface that conforms to the DOM spec XML::LibXML provides an additional Java style alias interface.
Also there are some function interfaces left over from early stages of XML::LibXML for compatibility reasons. These interfaces are for compatibility reasons only. They might disappear in one of the future versions of XML::LibXML, so a user is requested to switch over to the official functions.
More recent versions of perl (e.g. 5.6.1 or higher) support special flags to disinguish between UTF8 and so called binary data. XML::LibXML provides for these versions functionality to make efficient use of these flags: If a document has set an encoding other than UTF8 all strings that are not already in UTF8 are implicitly encoded from the document encoding to UTF8. On output these strings are commonly returned as UTF8 unless a user does request explicitly the original (aka. document) encoding.
Older version of perl (such as 5.00503 or less) do not support these flags. If XML::LibXML is build for these versions, all strings have to get encoded to UTF8 manualy before they are passed to any DOM functions.
NOTE: XML::LibXML's magic encoding may not work on all plattforms. Some platforms are known to have a broken iconv(), which is partly used by libxml2. To test if your platform works correctly with your language encoding, build a simple document in the particular encoding and try to parse it with XML::LibXML. If your document gets parsed with out causing any segmentation faults, bus errors or whatever your OS throws. An example for such a test can be found in test 19encoding.t of the distribution.
Namespaces and XML::LibXML's DOM implementation
XML::LibXML's DOM implementation follows the DOM implementation of libxml2. This is important to know if namespaces are used. Namespaces cannot be declared on an document node. This is basicly because XPath doesn't know about document nodes. Therefore namespaces have to be declared on element nodes. This can happen explicitly by using XML::LibXML:Element's setNamespace() function or more or less implicitly by using XML::LibXML::Document's createElementNS() or createAttributeNS() function. If the a namespace is not declared on the documentElement, the namespace will be localy declared for the newly created node. In case of Attributes this may look a bit confusing, since these nodes cannot have namespace declarations itself. In this case the namespace in internally applied to the attribute and later declared on the node the attribute is appended to.
The following example may explain this a bit:
my $doc = XML::LibXML->createDocument; my $root = $doc->createElementNS( "", "foo" ); $doc->setDocumentElement( $root );
my $attr = $doc->createAttributeNS( "bar", "bar:foo", "test" ); $root->setAttributeNodeNS( $attr );
This piece of code will result in the following document:
<?xml version="1.0"?> <foo xmlns:bar="bar" bar:foo="test"/>
Note that the namespace is declared on the document element while the setAttributeNodeNS() call.
Here it is important to repeat the specification: While working with namespaces you should use the namespace aware functions instead of the simplified versions. For example you should never use setAttributeNode() but setAttributeNodeNS().