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Read and Write application parameters in XML

, 30 Jun 2003
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This article provides an easy way to load and save the parameters of an application in XML format.

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<!------------------------------- STEP 3 ---------------------------><!-- Add the article text. Please use simple formatting (


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This article provides an easy way to load and save the parameters of an application in XML format.

XML is a convenient format to deal with the parameters of applications for the following reasons:

  • It's text, so you can easily check the values and modify them with a classical editor (by the way, IE 5.0 shows XML in a very nice way).
  • It's based on a tree so you can have your parameters saved in a structured way.
  • It's platform and language independent.
My goal was not to parse an XML file, but to give an easy way to read and write the data. So the code is based on A simple STL based XML parser by David Hubbard. I would really like to thank him for his parser, it's a very good work! Moreover it saved me a lot of time, even if I made a few modifications in his original code to fulfill my goals.

The code is entirely based on STL. It compiles on linux, too. I guess it will compile on any other platform/compiler that supports STL.

Using the code

Now let's take an example to explain more precisely what you can do with ParamIO. Let's assume you have an application to show some text on the screen in a given color and in a given font (the demo project). The parameters of your application will be the text (1 string), the color (3 values RGB) and the font (1 string for the font name and 1 double for the font size). You want to be able to save those parameters on the disk and load them for a later use. A nice XML file containing those values can look like this:

  <TEXT>Hello world</TEXT>
Let's say we have the following variables in the application :
std::string _text;                 // The text
int _red, _green, _blue;           // color
std::string _fontName;             // font name
double _fontSize;                  // font size
The code to write the previous file will be :
ParamIO outXml;

outXml.write("PARAMS:TEXT", _text);

outXml.write("PARAMS:COLOR:RED",   _red);
outXml.write("PARAMS:COLOR:GREEN", _green);
outXml.write("PARAMS:COLOR:BLUE",  _blue);

outXml.write("PARAMS:FONT:NAME", _fontName);
outXml.write("PARAMS:FONT:SIZE", _fontSize);

outXml.writeFile("filename.xml"); // Finally write the file to disk
As you can see, it's very easy. In the write method, the first parameter is a char* that defines the position in the XML tree. This is similar to XPath, but I didn't know XPath at the time I wrote this code, I would have used the '/' instead if I had known. The second parameter gives the value you want to write. write is a templated method so you can write almost any kind of variable, from int to std::string. Reading the file is also straightforward :
ParamIO inXml;

inXml.readFile("filename.xml"); // Read the file from disk"PARAMS:TEXT", _text, std::string("Hello world"));"PARAMS:COLOR:RED",   _red,   0);"PARAMS:COLOR:GREEN", _green, 0);"PARAMS:COLOR:BLUE",  _blue,  0);"PARAMS:FONT:NAME", _fontName, std::string("Arial"));"PARAMS:FONT:SIZE", _fontSize, 12.0);
You may be surprised by the third parameter of the read method. What does it mean? It's the default value of the parameter you try to read. Imagine you want to read a file like the previous one and the size of the font is not specified, then _fontSize will be automatically set to its default value 12.0. It's a very useful behaviour when you have several versions of a same application and some versions have parameters that didn't exist in older ones. It ensures that you still can read the old files, filling the missing values with default ones. It also lets you load a file that doesn't exist and set all the parameters with their default values.

ParamIO lets you read and write XML coming from streams also, it should be useful if you want some applications to exchange data through sockets for example.

The demo application includes a XML dialog box. With this dialog box (CXML_Dialog), you can visualise and modify any XML tree. I used it a lot, it's working really well. In case your parameter name contains FILENAME inside (e.g FONT_FILENAME), you'll see a button appear, and if you click on it, you'll obtain an open file dialog where you can find your file. I used this CXML_Dialog dialog box a lot and I'm very happy about it, it works really fine. CXML_Dialog uses a class from Easy Navigation Through an Editable List View by Lee Nowotny. I really thank him for the job, it works perfectly.

If you have any comments, suggestions or improvements let me know.


20 Nov 2002 : first version with GUI demo, with comparison capabilities

20 June 2003:

  • modified the website, added src download without the GUI demo
  • Added support for MFC CString has been added thanks to Paul Kissel : to enable CString read/write, just define _PARAMIO_CSTRING_SUPPORT_ in the compilation options.
  • Added a method to erase a node or an entire subtree as been added, thanks to Ogi's suggestion.


This article has no explicit license attached to it but may contain usage terms in the article text or the download files themselves. If in doubt please contact the author via the discussion board below.

A list of licenses authors might use can be found here


About the Author

Arnaud Brejeon
Web Developer
China China
I've been living & working in Tokyo since 2000 . I'm currently working in Gentech Corp. (, developing computer vision applications, especially in the field of face detection.

I've been interested in C++ for quite a while and recently discovered Ruby.

My hobbies are trekking, japanese food, yoga & onsens.

Comments and Discussions

QuestionErrors in VS2005 PinmemberMember 83284986-Jan-12 0:33 
QuestionVS2010 compilation error PinmemberTheSpad1-Sep-11 0:50 
AnswerRe: VS2010 compilation error PinmemberSebastian Michalski7-Aug-12 0:43 
Generalgood code PinmemberDonsw8-May-09 17:17 
GeneralUpdate to XML ParamIO for Visual Studio 2008 PinmemberRudolf Cardinal24-Apr-09 4:48 
GeneralAttribute Read/Write Needed.... PinmemberJasonAw23-Mar-09 17:22 
Generalsome clarification Pinmembervinodkumar subramaney31-Jan-09 6:59 
Generalthank u da mandaya Pinmemberprithivintpl22-May-08 2:41 
Generalthank you for your code Pinmembertjroamer12-May-08 7:08 
Question as first line in the file PinmemberArmandopoulos26-Apr-08 11:04 
Questionapplication parameter Pinmembernithin kumar4-Dec-07 20:11 
QuestionHi anyone got this working on VS2005? Pinmembermagiceyes11823-Jul-07 18:46 
GeneralAttributes again Pinmembersamcct31-Oct-06 7:24 
QuestionParamIO and VisualStudio2005 Pinmembermexicanchili19-Sep-06 3:11 
AnswerRe: ParamIO and VisualStudio2005 Pinmembergyarmit8-Jan-07 5:07 
GeneralNode searching error PinmemberGintas28-Oct-05 9:36 
Generalstatic_cast error PinmemberApex Watson22-Aug-05 11:25 
GeneralRe: static_cast error PinsussAnonymous31-Aug-05 13:46 
GeneralW3C compliance PinmemberUmut Alev25-Jul-05 22:03 
GeneralReading with two or more same elements Pinmembersdarisi27-Apr-05 0:12 
GeneralFor Dev-C++ 3.4.2 PinmemberV.Kotov17-Mar-05 0:55 
GeneralRe: For Dev-C++ 3.4.2 PinmemberDenis Chekhlov16-May-05 7:54 
GeneralWhite Spaces Pinsussbdm14-Mar-05 8:11 
GeneralUpdate Pinmemberbobbymihalca8-Feb-05 23:32 
GeneralRe: Update PinmemberArnaud Brejeon10-Feb-05 8:46 
Generallinker errors on new Project PinmemberLennin7-Jun-04 5:36 
QuestionwriteFile() will truncate the existing file ??? Pinmembersongge18-May-04 6:35 
Questionkey and value in the xml file ? PinmemberDominque le Gros23-Apr-04 0:08 
GeneralThanks PinmemberTheBigW1-Apr-04 0:38 
GeneralRe: Thanks PinmemberArnaud Brejeon3-Apr-04 1:55 
GeneralRe: Thanks PinmemberNelis Willers6-Jun-04 13:13 
GeneralRe: Thanks PinmemberTheBigW6-Jun-04 22:52 
GeneralRe: Thanks Pinmembergraysong14-Jun-04 8:07 
GeneralRe: Thanks Pinmemberboz27-Jul-04 16:13 
GeneralRe: Thanks PinmemberTheBigW28-Jul-04 4:17 
QuestionUsing the ParamIO ??? PinmemberDominque le Gros17-Mar-04 6:55 
GeneralUNICODE -- Very Important PinmemberExtraLean20-Feb-04 9:30 
GeneralRe: UNICODE -- Very Important PinmemberExtraLean20-Feb-04 10:03 
GeneralRe: UNICODE -- Very Important PinmemberArnaud Brejeon20-Feb-04 22:53 
QuestionHow to change the attributes of xml PinmemberBoggarapu Sateesh Kumar14-Feb-04 3:01 
GeneralIm having problems PinmemberTauri29-Jan-04 7:37 
GeneralRe: Im having problems PinmemberNitron19-Feb-04 10:47 
GeneralPerfect! PinmemberNitron7-Jan-04 8:13 
GeneralCannot compile in VC++6 - returns 252 errors! PinmemberAndrew Fox24-Dec-03 3:50 
GeneralRe: Cannot compile in VC++6 - returns 252 errors! PinmemberArnaud Brejeon24-Dec-03 5:43 
GeneralRe: Cannot compile in VC++6 - returns 252 errors! PinmemberAndrew Fox24-Dec-03 6:15 
Creating command line "link.exe @C:\DOCUME~1\ADMINI~1\LOCALS~1\Temp\RSP43D.tmp"
Output Window
D:\programming\C++projects\Polus\ParamIO.cpp(4) : error C2653: 'ParamIO' : is not a class or namespace name
D:\programming\C++projects\Polus\ParamIO.cpp(4) : error C2653: 'std' : is not a class or namespace name
D:\programming\C++projects\Polus\ParamIO.cpp(4) : error C2061: syntax error : identifier 'vector'
D:\programming\C++projects\Polus\ParamIO.cpp(6) : error C2065: 'access' : undeclared identifier
D:\programming\C++projects\Polus\ParamIO.cpp(6) : error C2228: left of '.clear' must have class/struct/union type
D:\programming\C++projects\Polus\ParamIO.cpp(13) : error C2653: 'std' : is not a class or namespace name
D:\programming\C++projects\Polus\ParamIO.cpp(13) : error C2065: 'istringstream' : undeclared identifier
D:\programming\C++projects\Polus\ParamIO.cpp(13) : error C2146: syntax error : missing ';' before identifier 'stream'
D:\programming\C++projects\Polus\ParamIO.cpp(13) : error C2065: 'stream' : undeclared identifier
D:\programming\C++projects\Polus\ParamIO.cpp(17) : error C2228: left of '.getline' must have class/struct/union type
D:\programming\C++projects\Polus\ParamIO.cpp(17) : fatal error C1903: unable to recover from previous error(s); stopping compilation
D:\programming\C++projects\Polus\XML_Node.cpp(5) : error C2653: 'XML_Node' : is not a class or namespace name
D:\programming\C++projects\Polus\XML_Node.cpp(7) : error C2550: 'XML_Node' : constructor initializer lists are only allowed on constructor definitions

.... & much more...

I'm sure that it is very small problem, but very hide for me \-:

Sample app is not problem for me to compile. It is work properly.
GeneralRe: Cannot compile in VC++6 - returns 252 errors! PinmemberArnaud Brejeon27-Dec-03 23:17 
GeneralRe: Cannot compile in VC++6 - returns 252 errors! PinmemberAndrew Fox27-Dec-03 23:53 
GeneralThis won't compile with Visual Studio .NET 2003 Pinmemberbenjamino19-Aug-03 5:40 
GeneralRe: This won't compile with Visual Studio .NET 2003 Pinmemberbobbymihalca19-Dec-03 6:43 

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