Python Xml Files Tutorial – Complete Guide

Demystifying Python XML Files

XML or eXtensible Markup Language is a popular data format used in everything from web development to game design. If you’re a coder, or aspire to be one, understanding how to work with XML files in Python can be a valuable and powerful skill. This tutorial aims to break down the topic, making it accessible and engaging for all.

What is XML and Why Should You Learn How to Use it?

XML is a markup language that defines rules for encoding documents in a machine-readable format. It’s immensely versatile and is used all over the tech world.

So, why should you learn how to use it? Let’s cover that next.

Why XML is a Must-Know for Coders

Regardless of your coding level, understanding XML could be a game-changer for your projects. Let’s see why:

  • XML’s human-readable nature makes it great for storing data that you want to view and verify.
  • Its scalable and portable nature makes it easy to use across different systems and platforms.
  • Many APIs use XML, so knowing how to work with it opens up a world of possibilities in data retrieval and manipulation.

In the following parts of this tutorial, we’ll dive into Python’s XML processing facilities, and how you can use them to enhance your coding toolkit.

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Part 2: Parsing XML with Python

Python makes it easy to work with XML files using the built-in ‘ElementTree’ module. Let’s start using this by parsing an XML file.

import xml.etree.ElementTree as ET

tree = ET.parse('sample.xml')
root = tree.getroot()

In the above snippet, ‘ElementTree’ lets you parse the data in a simpler, tree-like structure. ‘sample.xml’ is our XML data file which we parse into a tree (ET.parse) and get the root element of that tree (tree.getroot).

Accessing Elements

Once we have the root, we can navigate the tree to access its elements. Let’s find out the first child element of our root.

first_child = root[0]


‘tag’ is used to get the name of the element. The output will be the name of the first child element of your XML file.

Iterating Through XML Elements

In most cases, your XML file will contain numerous elements, and you’d likely want to iterate over them. Here’s how to do it:

for child in root:
    print(child.tag, child.attrib)

This should print all child elements and their attributes.

Searching For Specific Elements

The ‘find’ function can be used to search for specific elements, whereas ‘findall’ returns a list of matching elements:

for movie in root.findall(".//movie[year='1992']"):

This would find and print out the attributes for all movies from the year 1992.

Accessing Element Attributes

Attributes are additional values that can be included in a tag. You can fetch an element’s attribute dictionary using the ‘attrib’ keyword:

for child in root:
    print(child.tag, child.attrib)

This will output each child element’s name, along with a dictionary of their attributes.

Extracting Text from Elements

To extract the text between tags of an element, we use the ‘text’ keyword:

for description in root.iter('description'):

This snippet will print out the text for all ‘description’ tags in the XML file.

Modifying XML Files

Python’s ElementTree module allows us to make changes to our XML files. Let’s modify an element’s tag:

for elem in root.iter('description'):
    elem.tag = 'content'

This changes all ‘description’ tags to ‘content’.

Adding and Deleting Elements

With ‘SubElement’, a new tag can be added to our XML:

new_element = ET.SubElement(root, "new_element")
new_element.text = "This is a new element"

The ‘remove’ function deletes elements:

for elem in root.findall(".//movie[year='1992']"):

This snippet will remove all movies from the year 1992.

Writing Back to XML

After modifying your XML tree, you can save the changes back to the file with the ‘write’ method:


This saves your changes to a new or existing XML file named ‘new_sample.xml’.

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Understanding XML in Python is one step in the fantastic journey of coding, but the learning never stops. Taking that next determined step towards mastering the full potential of Python—that’s where the real fun begins.

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