Looking for fast and memory friendly Python XML processing ?

Wed 15 February 2006 By nuxeo

You don't how to optimize your Python based XML application anymore
? Are you tired of running out of RAM ? You got memory leaks all around

I've been in this situation until last week for one year.

I spent the last week rewriting a customer application written in cDomlette using cElementTree (note when I
wrote it at this time cELementTree didn't

My cDomlette experience has been a real pain last
year with this project for the reasons I described above.

Don't get me wrong about cDomlette. This is a library really
well documented and much more better than the available DOM libraries in the standard Python
but you can't use it for applications such as the one I've been working on. Simply it's not enough.

The application I'm talking about is an application for financial auditors. This is based on CPS
and make an heavy use of OpenOffice.org calc documents. Lots and lots of OOo calc documents to process,
modify according to complex financial rules every transaction.

So two weeks ago I had problems with my application heavily requestedby several users. Too slow, the servers were overloaded processing
XML documents. For those who know what I'm talking about note the bad performances weren't only related to the XML processing. Not

I couldn't optimize the XML processing part anymore then I decided to recode from scratch all the XML processing modules I wrote with cDomlette using cElementTree this time. And oh dude, it rocks ! It
really really rocks ! It works amazingly well now. The code is much more readable and maintainable,

because of the elementtree API, it's fast and it's not consuming lots of memory. The same transactions are now completed ten times quicker than
before !

Thank you Fredrik Lundh. You're the man

I'm more than happy for several reasons here :

  • my application is working and my customer is happy.

  • having cElementTree working this way (meaning working so well)

    makes Python a first candidate language for XML processing.Java,

    for instance, doesn't have such module available it seems.

  • elementtree will be soon available within the Python standard

What about lxml ?

I considered using lxml for
production but this library is too young right now. These are the problems I met trying to use it in production

  • The dependencies are far too high. (libxml2 and libxslt bleeding

    edge revisions) This makes it hard to use everywhere and it seems

    to be the reason why Zope3 can't
    makes it a dependency for instance.

  • missing iterparse() method of elementtree for SAX-like processing
    (this one is a real killing
    in elementtre)

lxml should be pretty close to cElementTree performances

Of course, lxml has some nice
features that elementtree does not provide yet because lxml is based
on libxml2 and libxslt. But for 90% of the applications, I might need to write, elementtree does the
job. And it does it really well.

(Post originally written by Julien Anguenot on the old Nuxeo blogs.)

Category: Product & Development