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4.1.0 • Public • Published


A fast, safe, compliant XML parser for Node.js and browsers.

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npm install @rgrove/parse-xml

Or, if you like living dangerously, you can load the minified bundle in a browser via Unpkg and use the parseXml global.


  • Returns a convenient object tree representing an XML document.

  • Works great in Node.js and browsers.

  • Provides helpful, detailed error messages with context when a document is not well-formed.

  • Mostly conforms to XML 1.0 (Fifth Edition) as a non-validating parser (see below for details).

  • Passes all relevant tests in the XML Conformance Test Suite.

  • Written in TypeScript and compiled to ES2020 JavaScript for Node.js and ES2017 JavaScript for browsers. The browser build is also optimized for minification.

  • Extremely fast and surprisingly small.

  • Zero dependencies.

Not Features

While this parser is capable of parsing document type declarations (<!DOCTYPE ... >) and including them in the node tree, it doesn't actually do anything with them. External document type definitions won't be loaded, and the parser won't validate the document against a DTD or resolve custom entity references defined in a DTD.

In addition, the only supported character encoding is UTF-8 because it's not feasible (or useful) to support other character encodings in JavaScript.


Basic Usage


import { parseXml } from '@rgrove/parse-xml';
parseXml('<kittens fuzzy="yes">I like fuzzy kittens.</kittens>');


const { parseXml } = require('@rgrove/parse-xml');
parseXml('<kittens fuzzy="yes">I like fuzzy kittens.</kittens>');

The result is an XmlDocument instance containing the parsed document, with a structure that looks like this (some properties and methods are excluded for clarity; see the API docs for details):

  type: 'document',
  children: [
      type: 'element',
      name: 'kittens',
      attributes: {
        fuzzy: 'yes'
      children: [
          type: 'text',
          text: 'I like fuzzy kittens.'
      parent: { ... },
      isRootNode: true

All parse-xml objects have toJSON() methods that return JSON-serializable objects, so you can easily convert an XML document to JSON:

let json = JSON.stringify(parseXml(xml));

Friendly Errors

When something goes wrong, parse-xml throws an error that tells you exactly what happened and shows you where the problem is so you can fix it.



Error: Missing end tag for element bar (line 1, column 14)

In addition to a helpful message, error objects have the following properties:

  • column Number

    Column where the error occurred (1-based).

  • excerpt String

    Excerpt from the input string that contains the problem.

  • line Number

    Line where the error occurred (1-based).

  • pos Number

    Character position where the error occurred relative to the beginning of the input (0-based).

Why another XML parser?

There are many XML parsers for Node, and some of them are good. However, most of them suffer from one or more of the following shortcomings:

  • Native dependencies.

  • Loose, non-standard parsing behavior that can lead to unexpected or even unsafe results when given input the author didn't anticipate.

  • Kitchen sink APIs that tightly couple a parser with DOM manipulation functions, a stringifier, or other tooling that isn't directly related to parsing and consuming XML.

  • Stream-based parsing. This is great in the rare case that you need to parse truly enormous documents, but can be a pain to work with when all you want is a node tree.

  • Poor error handling.

  • Too big or too Node-specific to work well in browsers.

parse-xml's goal is to be a small, fast, safe, compliant, non-streaming, non-validating, browser-friendly parser, because I think this is an under-served niche.

I think parse-xml demonstrates that it's not necessary to jettison the spec entirely or to write complex code in order to implement a small, fast XML parser.

Also, it was fun.


Here's how parse-xml's performance stacks up against a few comparable libraries:

While libxmljs2 is faster at parsing medium and large documents, its performance comes at the expense of a large C dependency, no browser support, and a history of security vulnerabilities in the underlying libxml2 library.

In these results, "ops/s" refers to operations per second. Higher is faster.

Node.js v18.14.0 / Darwin arm64
Apple M1 Max

Running "Small document (291 bytes)" suite...
Progress: 100%

  @rgrove/parse-xml 4.1.0:
    191 553 ops/s, ±0.10%   | fastest

  fast-xml-parser 4.1.1:
    142 565 ops/s, ±0.11%   | 25.57% slower

  libxmljs2 0.31.0 (native):
    74 646 ops/s, ±0.30%    | 61.03% slower

  xmldoc 1.2.0 (sax-js):
    66 823 ops/s, ±0.09%    | slowest, 65.12% slower

Finished 4 cases!
  Fastest: @rgrove/parse-xml 4.1.0
  Slowest: xmldoc 1.2.0 (sax-js)

Running "Medium document (72081 bytes)" suite...
Progress: 100%

  @rgrove/parse-xml 4.1.0:
    1 065 ops/s, ±0.11%   | 49.81% slower

  fast-xml-parser 4.1.1:
    637 ops/s, ±0.12%     | 69.98% slower

  libxmljs2 0.31.0 (native):
    2 122 ops/s, ±2.48%   | fastest

  xmldoc 1.2.0 (sax-js):
    444 ops/s, ±0.36%     | slowest, 79.08% slower

Finished 4 cases!
  Fastest: libxmljs2 0.31.0 (native)
  Slowest: xmldoc 1.2.0 (sax-js)

Running "Large document (1162464 bytes)" suite...
Progress: 100%

  @rgrove/parse-xml 4.1.0:
    93 ops/s, ±0.10%    | 53.27% slower

  fast-xml-parser 4.1.1:
    48 ops/s, ±0.60%    | 75.88% slower

  libxmljs2 0.31.0 (native):
    199 ops/s, ±1.47%   | fastest

  xmldoc 1.2.0 (sax-js):
    38 ops/s, ±0.09%    | slowest, 80.9% slower

Finished 4 cases!
  Fastest: libxmljs2 0.31.0 (native)
  Slowest: xmldoc 1.2.0 (sax-js)

See the parse-xml-benchmark repo for instructions on how to run this benchmark yourself.


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