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117 XML
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starts at the selected node and, if necessary, works up from node to node in the hierarchy using the Parent property of a node until the node has no parent, at which point it must be a top-level node The required matric value is then the Text property of this top-level node There are still many features that could be added to this application to make it genuinely useful, such as the ability to edit a student or a subject or make deletions However, it is more likely that you would want to re-use the methods used here in other applications, and particularly the ways of handling XML Because of the way the classes have been built using encapsulation, it would be no more dif cult to extend the hierarchy further to produce very complex data models and stream these to and from XML documents
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1179 XML vs simple serialization
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As you have seen, XML is simply a format that is useful because the values stored in a document are accompanied by their own descriptions In this respect, they are an improvement on straightforward serialized object data since it will always be possible to examine a XML document and work out an appropriate object-model However, the penalty for this is that a XML document is much bigger than one saved to a binary stream due to the overhead of the tags It is quite common for a XML document to be several times the size of the same information serialized as plain text or binary data For this and other reasons, XML is most useful for moving data between systems rather than as a way of storing data In fact, all forms of serialized data (in which we can include XML) have one very serious limitation When we de-serialize data from a storage device, it is normally an all or nothing operation It is usually quite awkward to read only a part of a XML document or any serialized data, because these storage methods rely on a structure that involves a whole hierarchy While for many
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11 n Files, Streams and Serialization
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types of application, this is a perfectly acceptable limitation, there are many more applications where the data stored is the most important and biggest component We may create a XML document that represents a single class of students in a college, but we would be less likely to write a single document that contained all the data for every student, subject and exam result for a whole college Working with objects in memory on that scale is neither ef cient nor desirable; it would be a bit like taking an entire row of ling cabinets home because you want to work on one customer s sales records Once we start needing to work with large data sets, thousands of students, tens of thousands of customers or millions of orders, the methods we ve examined in this chapter will all run out of steam The larger the data set, the more likely that the computer we are using will not be able to cope with all of it in memory at one time, and the less likely that we would want it to In the next chapter, we will go on to look at the subject of databases and how Visual Basic NET can be used to work with them
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Exercise 115
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The very rst example program in this chapter showed how to store the size and location of a form in the Windows Registry Write this code so that instead, it stores size and location in a XML document stored in the le FormDataxml in the executable application s folder Also write the code to read the data back from XML Why do you think that it would be a bad idea to store the Windows Registry in XML format
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