Parse and process XML (and HTML) with xml2

April 21, 2015

(This article was first published on RStudio Blog, and kindly contributed to R-bloggers)

I’m pleased to announced that the first version of xml2 is now available on CRAN. Xml2 is a wrapper around the comprehensive libxml2 C library that makes it easier to work with XML and HTML in R:

  • Read XML and HTML with read_xml() and read_html().
  • Navigate the tree with xml_children(), xml_siblings() and xml_parent(). Alternatively, use xpath to jump directly to the nodes you’re interested in with xml_find_one() and xml_find_all(). Get the full path to a node with xml_path().
  • Extract various components of a node with xml_text(), xml_attrs(), xml_attr(), and xml_name().
  • Convert to list with as_list().
  • Where appropriate, functions support namespaces with a global url -> prefix lookup table. See xml_ns() for more details.
  • Convert relative urls to absolute with url_absolute(), and transform in the opposite direction with url_relative(). Escape and unescape special characters with url_escape() and url_unescape().
  • Support for modifying and creating xml documents in planned in a future version.

This package owes a debt of gratitude to Duncan Temple Lang who’s XML package has made it possible to use XML with R for almost 15 years!


You can install it by running:


(If you’re on a mac, you might need to wait a couple of days – CRAN is busy rebuilding all the packages for R 3.2.0 so it’s running a bit behind.)

Here’s a small example working with an inline XML document:

x <- read_xml("

#> [1] "foo"
#> {xml_nodeset (3)}
#> [1] text 
#> [2] 2
#> [3] 

# Find all baz nodes anywhere in the document
baz <- xml_find_all(x, ".//baz")
#> {xml_nodeset (2)}
#> [1] 
#> [2] 
#> [1] "/foo/bar[1]/baz" "/foo/baz"
xml_attr(baz, "id")
#> [1] "a" "b"


Xml2 is still under active development. If notice any problems (including crashes), please try the development version, and if that doesn’t work, file an issue.

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