HOW TO: Use the Encoding Property with System.Xml Classes in Visual C# .NET

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Article ID: 308061 - View products that this article applies to.
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This article refers to the following Microsoft .NET Framework Class Library namespace:
  • System.Xml


This step-by-step article explains how to use the Encoding property with XML in .NET Framework. The encoding declaration in the XML declaration identifies the encoding format of the XML data. In the System.Xml namespace, the Encoding property of the classes identifies the encoding format.

The System.Xml namespace in .NET Framework includes the following classes that have the Encoding property:
  • XmlDeclaration: represents XML declaration node
  • XmlParserContext: provides the context information required by the XML reader classes to parse an XML fragment
  • XmlTextReader: pull model parser; provides forward-only, fast, non-cached access to XML data
  • XmlValidatingReader: validates XML documents against XSD, XDR, or DTD
The Encoding property is a case insensitive string such as "UTF-8" or "ISO-8859-1" with the XmlDeclaration class. With the other classes, the Encoding property is of the type System.Text.Encoding class.

The Encoding Declaration

Specify the encoding declaration in the XML declaration section of the XML document. For example, the following declaration indicates that the document is in UTF-16 Unicode encoding format:
<?xml version="1.0" encoding="UTF-16"?>
Note that this declaration only specifies the encoding format of an XML document and does not modify or control the actual encoding format of the data.

For example, if you have the actual XML data in UTF-8 encoding format, but the encoding declaration is set to ISO-8859-1, you receive error messages similar to the following when you parse the document:
There is invalid data at the root level. Line n, position n.
To convert the actual encoding format of the data, you must use the classes under the System.Text.Encoding namespace.

The following example shows how to set or get the encoding declaration of an XML document.
  1. Save the following data in a new XML document named "Q308061.xml".
    <?xml version='1.0' encoding='ISO-8859-1'?>
          <Title>Priciple of Relativity</Title>
          <Author>Albert Einstein</Author>
          <Author>Carl Sagan</Author>
  2. Create a new Visual C# .NET console application and paste the following code in the Class1.cs file.
    using System;
    using System.Xml;
    namespace ConsoleApplication1
    	class Class1
    		static void Main(string[] args)
    				// Load the XML document
    				XmlDocument doc = new XmlDocument();
    				// The first child of a standard XML document is the XML declaration.
    				// The following code assumes and reads the first child as the XmlDeclaration.
    				if (doc.FirstChild.NodeType == XmlNodeType.XmlDeclaration)
    					// Get the encoding declaration.
    					XmlDeclaration decl = (XmlDeclaration) doc.FirstChild;
    					Console.WriteLine("Encoding declaration:\n\n Before = " + decl.Encoding);
    					// Set the encoding declaration.
    					decl.Encoding = "UTF-16";
    					Console.WriteLine(" After = " + ((XmlDeclaration) doc.FirstChild).Encoding + "\n");
    			catch(XmlException xmlex)
    				Console.WriteLine("{0}", xmlex.Message);
    			catch(Exception ex)
    				Console.WriteLine("{0}", ex.Message);
  3. Compile and then run the application.
NOTE: The Q308061.xml file must be in the same directory as the executable file.

The Encoding Property of the Readers

The XmlTextReader and the XmlValidatingReader classes provide a read-only Encoding property. These classes only read the encoding declaration value and do not determine the actual encoding format of the data.

The following is a Visual C# .NET code sample that shows how to access the encoding attribute of an XML document. To run this sample, paste the following code in the try block of the previous code sample:
            // Reading the encoding using the reader classes.
            XmlTextReader rdr = new XmlTextReader("Q308061.xml");
            Console.WriteLine("Encoding from the reader: {0} \n\n", rdr.Encoding.EncodingName);


For more information about System.Xml and System.Text classes, refer to the following topics in the Microsoft .NET Framework SDK documentation:
System.Xml Namespace

System.Text Namespace
For more information about character encoding, refer to the following topic in the Microsoft Developer Network (MSDN) Library:
How to Encode XML Data
For the latest XML download and information, refer to the following MSDN Web site:


Article ID: 308061 - Last Review: September 22, 2003 - Revision: 4.4
  • Microsoft Visual C# .NET 2002 Standard Edition
  • Microsoft Visual C# .NET 2003 Standard Edition
  • Microsoft .NET Framework 1.0
  • Microsoft .NET Framework 1.1
kbhowtomaster KB308061

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