HOW TO: Locate and Replace Special Characters in an XML File with Visual Basic .NET

For a Microsoft Visual C# .NET version of this article, see
316063 .
For a Microsoft Visual Basic 6.0 version of this article, see
251354 .


This article describes how to replace special characters in an Extensible Markup Language (XML) file by using Visual Basic .NET.

Description of the Technique

XML predefines the following five entity references for special characters that would otherwise be interpreted as part of markup language:

You can use entity and character references to escape the left angle bracket, the ampersand, and other delimiters. You can also use numeric character references; they are expanded immediately when they are recognized and they are treated as character data, so you can use the numeric character references

If you are declaring either of the following two entities
  • lt
  • amp
you have to declare them as internal entities whose replacement text is a character reference to the respective character (the left angle bracket or the ampersand) that is being escaped; the double escaping is required for these entities so that references to them produce a well-formed result.

If you are declaring any of the following three entities
  • gt
  • apos
  • quot
you have to declare them as internal entities whose replacement text is the single character being escaped.

Determine Whether a Special Character Replacement Is Required

Not Required: XML Files in Which the Data Is Retrieved from a Database

When you are using the Microsoft .NET Framework, data is retrieved and stored in a DataSet. When you are writing data from a DataSet to an XML file by using the WriteXml method, the special characters that are referred to in the "Summary" section are replaced with the respective character references; therefore, when you are writing XML files and you are using a DataSet, no special replacement process is required.

Required: An XML File with Special Characters

Sometimes the XML file or the XML data that is coming from a third party may use these special characters; in this scenario, the data generates errors when you load it into an XmlDocument object or an XmlReader object.

The following error is generated when the ampersand character is encountered:
An Error occurred while parsing entity_name, line
#, position #.
where line # and position
# represent the exact position of the special character.

The following error occurs when a left angle bracket is encountered:
The '<' character, hexadecimal value 0x3C,cannot be included in a name. Line #, position
In this error message, the line
# and position # do not indicate the position where the left angle bracket exists, but where the second left angle bracket is encountered.

If the XML file contains a right angle bracket (>), a straight quotation mark (") or an apostrophe ('), these are handled by the XmlReader and the XmlDocument objects because only single character replacement is required for these characters.

Replace the Special Characters

To replace the ampersand and the left angle bracket characters:
  1. Create the XML file.
  2. Create the Visual Basic .NET application, and then insert the code.

Create the XML File

Copy and paste the following code into Notepad, and then save the file as customers.xml:
<?xml version="1.0" standalone="yes"?>
<CompanyName>Blauer See Delikatessen</CompanyName>
<ContactName>Hanna Moos</ContactName>
<CompanyName>Split Rail Beer & Ale</CompanyName>
<ContactName>Art raunschweiger</ContactName>

Create Visual Basic .NET Project

  1. Create a new Visual Basic .NET Windows application.
  2. Use a drag-and-drop operation to move a TextBox, two Button controls, and a DataGrid.
  3. Set the Multiline property of the TextBox to True.
  4. Import the following namespaces:
    Imports System.Xml
    Imports System.IO
    Imports System.Data.SqlClient
  5. After the following section
    Inherits System.Windows.Forms.Form
    copy and paste the following code sample:
     Dim filepath As String = "C:\customers.xml"
    Private Sub ReplaceSpecialChars(ByVal linenumber As Long)
    Dim strm As StreamReader
    Dim strline As String
    Dim strreplace As String

    Dim tempfile As String = "C:\temp.xml"
    FileCopy(filepath, tempfile)
    Catch ex As Exception
    End Try

    Dim strmwriter As New StreamWriter(filepath)
    strmwriter.AutoFlush = True

    strm = New StreamReader(tempfile)

    Dim i As Long = 0
    While i < linenumber - 1
    strline = strm.ReadLine
    i = i + 1
    End While

    strline = strm.ReadLine
    Dim lineposition As Int32
    lineposition = InStr(strline, "&")
    If lineposition > 0 Then
    strreplace = "&amp;"
    lineposition = InStr(2, strline, "<")
    If lineposition > 0 Then
    strreplace = "<"
    End If
    End If
    strline = Mid(strline, 1, lineposition - 1) + strreplace + Mid(strline, lineposition + 1)

    strline = strm.ReadToEnd

    strm = Nothing

    strmwriter = Nothing

    End Sub

    Public Function LoadXMLDoc() As XmlDocument
    Dim xdoc As XmlDocument
    Dim lnum As Long
    Dim pos As Long
    Dim Newxml As String
    xdoc = New XmlDocument()
    Catch ex As XmlException
    lnum = ex.LineNumber

    xdoc = LoadXMLDoc()

    End Try
    Return (xdoc)
    End Function
  6. Copy and paste the following code into the Click event of Button1:
    Dim xmldoc As New XmlDocument()
    xmldoc = LoadXMLDoc()
    Dim nextnode As XmlNode
    nextnode = xmldoc.FirstChild.NextSibling
    TextBox1.Text = nextnode.OuterXml
  7. Copy and paste the following code into the Click event of Button2:
    Dim ds As New DataSet()
    Dim xdoc As New XmlDocument()
    Dim cnNwind As New SqlConnection("Data source=myservername;user id=myuser;Password=mypassword;Initial catalog=Northwind;")
    Dim daCustomers As New SqlDataAdapter("Select customerid,companyname,contactname, region from customers where region='WY'", cnNwind)
    Dim filepath As String
    daCustomers.Fill(ds, "Customers")
    DataGrid1.DataSource = ds.Tables(0)
    Dim nextnode As XmlNode
    nextnode = xdoc.FirstChild.NextSibling
    TextBox1.Text = nextnode.OuterXml.ToString
    Catch ex As Exception
    End Try
  8. Change the server name, the user name, and the password to connect to your server that is running Microsoft SQL Server.
  9. Build the project, and then run it.
  10. Click Button1.

    The errors that you receive are consistent with the description of the errors that are explained in the "Required: An XML File with Special Characters" section. The XML data is then displayed in the TextBox; the ampersand is replaced with
  11. Click Button2.

    In the DataGrid, companyname has an ampersand and the TextBox shows the XML data with


For additional information, click the article number below to view the article in the Microsoft Knowledge Base:
251354 HOW TO: Locate and Replace Special Characters in an XML Document with Visual Basic

Article ID: 308060 - Last Review: Mar 23, 2009 - Revision: 1