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Nodes, NodeLists an other such things

From: David Peterson <david.peterson@iname.com>
Date: Thu, 1 Jan 1998 09:39:19 +1000
To: "DOM Mailing List" <www-dom@w3.org>
Message-ID: <01bd1645$5055d9c0$0200a8c0@down>
Hi there. Throwing caution to the wind, I've attempted to make a concrete
implementation of DOM (9th Dec) in Java, using the current Java API.  In
doing so, I've come across a few difficulties and inefficiencies.  Most of
the problems so far are with Node and NodeList/NodeEnumerator.  Thus, I have
a couple of proposals.

1. Revamp NodeList/NodeEnumerator

Rational: NodeList is a very simple interface and is easy to map to your
average list-based data structure, which is a good thing, but while it
generally allows you to discover most things about it, it definitely doesn't
do it the most efficient way.

    Node getPreviousSibling()

    In order to retrieve the previous sibling of a node using the standard
DOM interface, the follow steps must be taken.

    i. Get the parent node's children:
    ii. Cycle through the children, starting at 0.  Probably the best way to
go is with NodeEnumerator, since there's no telling if NodeList.item() is a
really inefficient call.  This is the really bad step, especially if the
node you're working on happens to be number 90000.  You also have to keep
track of the previous node, since there's no going back with
NodeEnumerators.  Cycling could require a LOT of method calls which add's
even more overhead.
    iii. return the discovered sibling.

There are similar problems with insertBefore, removeChild and replaceChild,
since to insert using the standard DOM EditableNodeList, an index is
required, and all that is provided is a reference node.

Thus, I propose an improved interface that provides for both (fairly)
efficient indexing, while also providing a better way to handle referenced
nodes.  The best I've been able to come up with so far is a single, hybrid
interface.  It's based around a cursor position, and allows both indexed and
reference access with a fairly simple interface.  In very sparse form:

    public interface NodeIterator {

    // returns the node at the cursor
    Node getCurrent()

    Node toNext();
    Node toPrevious();
    Node toFirst();
    Node toLast();
    Node toIndex(long index);
    Node toNode(Node node);

    long getLength();
    long getCurrentIndex();

Basicaly, the 'get' methods don't modify the cursor location, while the 'to'
methods do.   The 'to' methods return the node that they end up at as a
"convenience".  'toIndex' provides the ordinal access, while 'toNode'
provides for reference-based access.  It also allows the implementation to
attempt to move the cursor around in the most efficient way possible, as
appropriate to the implementation.

Advantages: Simplifies and combines the two interfaces, allows the
implementation to determine the most efficient way to traverse the list,
provides better 'referencing' abilities
Disadvantages: Doesn't map as readily to conventional data-structures, in a
threaded environment, it could be difficult to ensure that the cursor is not
being shifted about by more than one thread (which could lead to serious

The following is a quick proposal for an Editable extension.

public interface EditableNodeIterator extends NodeIterator{

void addBefore(Node newNode);
void addAfter(Node newNode);
Node replace(Node newNode);
Node remove();

Each method is based on the cursor also.  In fact, if you add 'Current'
after each method name, it's even clearer what they do.

Proposal 2:  Add an EditableNode extension.

Rational: Insertion and removal of children has the additional problem of
associating the parent with the child.  That is, making sure that when
'getParentNode()' is called on a child, the correct parent is returned.
Using the standard DOM interface, it is impossible to change the parent node
of a child.

Possible Solution: Create the EditableNode interface.  This would provide a
standard way to edit tricky stuff without unnecessarily exposing it to the
general public.  A starting implementation:

public interface EditableNode extends Node {
    // Sets the parent node.  returns the old parent, or null.
    Node setParentNode(Node newParent);

This allows Nodes to attempt a cast to a standard interface, which is better
that a stab in the dark at their own implementation.

Basicaly, it comes down to whether implementations are expected to cast to
non-standard implementations in order to provide basic functionality.
Overall, IMHO, that is a bad thing.  DOM is trying to be
language/processor/browser/implementation agnostic, and that means that a)
as little casting as possible should be required and b) what casting is
required should be to other, standard, interfaces.

In the case of setting the parent, there are quite a few good reasons why
'setParentNode()' isn't in the standard Node interface, since it's easy to
stuff up.  But there should be a standard way to 'guess' at a possible route
of action.

Anyway, appologies for the length.  Thanks for your time.

David Peterson.
Received on Wednesday, 31 December 1997 19:16:44 UTC

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