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JSaPar is a Java library providing a schema based parser and composer of almost all sorts of delimited (CSV) and fixed width files.

The schema

The schema is what describes the structure of the input or output data. The same schema can be used for both parsing and composing. Usually the easiest way to work with a schema is to use the XML format but you may also create a schema directly in java code. The documentation below is however based on the XML form. The example below describes a simple schema for a CSV file taken from the first example above.

<?xml version="1.0" encoding="UTF-8"?>
<schema xmlns="" xmlns:xsi=""
   <csvschema lineseparator="\n">
    <line occurs="*" linetype="Person" cellseparator=";" quotechar="&quot;">
      <cell name="First name" />
      <cell name="Middle name" ignoreread="true"/>
      <cell name="Last name" />
      <cell name="Has dog"><format type="boolean" pattern="yes;no"/></cell>

The schema of the schema

In the schema above, I have added the xsi:schemaLocation which helps intelligent xml editors to find the XSD that is used for JSaPar schemas. The XSD itself provides a lot of documentation about the details of each allowed element and attribute within the schema xml. A published version of the schema is located at.

If you want to download the XSD as a file, you will probably need to right click on the link above and choose “Save link as…” depending on your browser.

The Schema xml

After the leading root <schema> element you need to define what type of input or output you have. There are two choices:

  1. <csvschema>
  2. <fixedwidthschema>

Depending on the choice here, the rest of the schema will be different. Please note that csvschema can be used for any type of delimited input/output, not only comma separated.

The line separator

On this level you may also specify what type of line separator your input or output have. You can use any character sequence as line separator but for convenience the following escaped characters will also work within the xml:

You can also specify the line separator by using the hex code but in that case you need to use the XML-standard for escaping. E.g. in order to use LF as line separator you need to write lineseparator="&#10;"

For Unix systems the normal line separator is \n and for Windows systems the normal line separator is \r\n. Omitting the lineseparator attribute will result in that the system default is used. Be aware though that if you rely on system default, the schema will behave differently if you move it to a different platform. It is therefore recommended to always specify the line separator explicitly.

For fixed width files you may also specify an empty string if lines are determined only by the length of the line which can be the case for Mainframe computers (COBOL).

When parsing, if you have specified one of either \n or \r\n as line separator, then the parser will consider both of them to be valid line separators but when composing, only the specified line separator will be used.

The Schema xml for CSV


The <line> element describes a type of line that can occur in your input or output data. For instance, you may have a different header line that has a different set of columns than the rest of the file. The occurs attribute describes how many lines to expect of a certain type. By setting occurs="*" you indicate that the line may occur infinite number of times.

The attribute linetype sets the name of the type of line described by the line element. When parsing, the line type is present in all parsed Line objects and can be used to determine how to treat the Line. When composing, you need to set the lineType of all Line objects that you provide to the Composer in order to make it produce lines of a specific type. This also means that when converting from one format to another, the line type names of the input and the output schemas needs to match.

On this level you need to specify the cellseparator attribute which should describe how cells/columns are separated within the input/output. You can use any character sequence and you can use the same escaped characters as with the line separator described above. Please note that if the cell separator may occur as valid text also within a value of a cell, you will need to quote the cell. See chapter about Quoted values below.

The attributes ignoreread and ignorewrite can be used to indicate that the line should be ignored while parsing or composing.

Line condition

Sometimes the type of line is not determined by position but instead by the value of one of the cells. If you for instance have the following file to parse:


In this file, the value of the first column determines how to parse the rest of the line. H means header, B means body and F means footer.

When parsing this file you need a condition on the first cell on each line where a specific value should map to the type of the line. By adding a line condition on the first cell you can specify a pattern that needs to match in order to use that line type.

The schema could look like this:

<?xml version="1.0" encoding="UTF-8"?>
<schema xmlns="">
  <csvschema lineseparator="\n">
    <line linetype="Header" cellseparator=";">
      <cell name="Type" default="H"><linecondition><match pattern="H"/></linecondition></cell>
      <cell name="FileName"/>
      <cell name="Created date"/>
    <line linetype="Person" cellseparator=";" quotechar="&quot;">
      <cell name="Type" default="B" ><linecondition><match pattern="B"/></linecondition></cell>
      <cell name="First name"/>
      <cell name="Middle name" ignoreread="true"/>
      <cell name="Last name" />
    <line linetype="Footer" cellseparator=";">
      <cell name="Type" default="F"><linecondition><match pattern="F"/></linecondition></cell>
      <cell name="Rowcount"/>

When parsing a file with a schema like this, it is important that you check the line type of the returned Line instance.

For instance, in your LineEventListener you should have a check like this:

void lineParsedEvent(LineParsedEvent event){
   Line line = event.getLine();
      case "Header":
      case "Person":
      case "Footer":

You may add a line condition on any cell within your schema. If you add more than one line condition on the same line, all of them need to comply in order for the line type to be used.

You may combine the a line condition with the occurs attribute. In this case, the occurs value indicates the maximum number of times that a line type is used when parsing.

When composing, you set the value of the line condition cell as with any other cell so the line condition as no effect when composing. By assigning a default value for the line condition cell as we do above, we make sure that we do not need to explicitly assign any value to that cell while composing.

See this example in the jsapar-examples project


The <cell> element describes the format of a particular cell or column. Each cell needs to have a name. By default the cell type is string so if you do not want the library to do any type conversion, the minimal configuration for a cell is:

<cell name="TheName"/>

With the attribute mandatory="true", you can specify that an error is generated if a cell does not have any value. See chapter about error handling in the basics article.

The attribute default can be used to assign a default value that will be used if the cell does not contain any value. This works both while parsing and while composing.

As with lines, you can use ignoreread and ignorewrite on cell level to skip reading while parsing or to skip writing a cell value while composing. If ignorewrite=true, an empty cell will be written as if it contained an empty string.

You can specify a maximum length to read or write to a cell value with the maxlenght attribute. Input and output value will then be silently truncated to this length. If you want to get an error when field is to long, use the format regexp pattern described below instead.

Cell formats

If you want the library to do type conversion while parsing or composing, you need to specify the format of a cell. For example, by adding the format:

<cell name="Birthdate"><format type="date" pattern="YYYY-mm-DD"/></cell>

The parser will convert string date values into DateCell containing a java.util.Date with the parsed date.

The following types are supported:

The pattern attribute behaves differently depending on the type:

If the pattern attribute is omitted, the default system pattern is used.

Empty cell values while parsing

Sometimes empty cells in the input data are not really empty. They may contain a text like NULL or something like that. In that case you can still make the parser consider this to be an empty cell by specifying an <emptypattern> element within the cell. For example:

<cell name="TheName"><emptypattern><match pattern="NULL"/></emptypattern></cell>

This example will make sure that all cells that contain the string NULL will be regarded as empty. The pattern attribute can contain any regular expression that will be matched against the whole cell content. This means that for example if your input may contain white spaces before or after the text NULL and still should be considered empty you can change the match pattern to:

<match pattern="\s*NULL\s*"/>

While parsing a delimited (CSV) input, cells containing white space characters are by default not considered empty, instead white space characters are parsed as cell value. If you instead want the parser to consider all cells that contain only white spaces as empty, you may specify an empty pattern that matches any number of white space characters. Like this:

<match pattern="\s*"/>

Quoted values

The problem with delimited (CSV) data is that the value of a specific cell may also contain the delimiter character or even the line separator. In order to handle this scenario the JSaPar library is capable of handling quoted cells. It does not fully comply to the CSV standard RFC-4180 but we will get back to that in a moment.

You activate support for quoted values on a line type by specifying a quote character with the quotechar attribute:

    <line occurs="*" linetype="Person" cellseparator=";" quotechar="&quot;">

You can specify any character as quote character except the one you are using as line separator and cell separator. If you use a character that is reserved by the markup language (XML), you will need to escape it as in the example above.

Parsing quoted values

As long as you have activated quoting as described above, the parser will automatically detect if a cell is quoted or not. Not all cells needs quoting. A cell is considered to be quoted if and only if the first and the last character of the cell is the quote character. The quote characters will always be removed from the parsed value. This differs slightly from the CSV standard RFC-4180 which states that:

   7.  If double-quotes are used to enclose fields, then a double-quote
       appearing inside a field must be escaped by preceding it with
       another double quote.  For example:


JSaPar will instead only strip the first and the last quote of a cell regardless of if the cell content contains one or more additional quote characters. In the example above JSaPar would parse the value b""bb for the second cell. This applies better to the majority of the real life delimited files since most of them do not really comply to RFC-4180. This also means that if you have a correctly placed start quote and the end quote is not the last character of the cell, the cell is not considered to be quoted and the quote characters will instead be part of the cell value.

If the line separator or cell separator appears within the quotes of a cell it will be regarded as the content of the cell. A maximum of 25 line separators are allowed within the same cell. If that value is exceeded a JSaParException is thrown since the input is probably invalid in some sense. This means that if a start quote is found but no end quote within the following 25 lines or until the end of input data, it is considered an irreparable error.

Composing quoted values

If your data might contain characters like the line separator or the cell separator you will need to quote the output when composing a delimited file. You activate quoting by specifying the quote character as described above. Now you have the option to specify the quoting behavior on each cell by adding the quotebehavior attribute like this:

      <cell name="First name" quotebehavior="ALWAYS"/>

There are several options:

  1. ALWAYS - Always quote this cell in the output.
  2. AUTOMATIC - Quotes the cell only if needed, i.e. only if there is a cell separator, a line separator or a quote character present in the data. This is the default.
  3. NEVER - Never quote this cell. This may lead to invalid delimited output if the cell or line separator is present in the cell value.
  4. REPLACE - No quoting is done, instead it replaces all illegal characters with non breakable space in order to always guarantee consistency of the delimited output. Can be used if the consumer of the output does not support quoted cells. This is the default if no quote character is specified on the line.

You can change the default quote behavior for a whole line type by specifying the quotebehavior attribute on the line level:

    <line occurs="*" linetype="Person" cellseparator=";" quotechar="&quot;" quotebehavior="ALWAYS">

The first line describes cell layout

It is quite common in CSV files to have one header row that contains the name of the columns within the file. For instance, the file might look like this:

First name;Middle name;Last name;Has dog

This type of format is supported by the library out-of-the-box. All you need to do is to is to set the attribute firstlineasschema="true" on the <line> element. Then the order of the cell while parsing is no longer denoted by the order of the <cell> elements in the schema. Instead the order is fetched from the first header row. It is important though that the name of the cells within the schema matches the names in the header. The advantage of using such a format is that the producer of the CSV file can choose to re-arrange, add or remove columns without impacts on neither the code nor the schema.

Here is a schema that could be used to parse the file above:

<?xml version="1.0" encoding="UTF-8"?>
<schema xmlns="">
  <csvschema lineseparator="\n">
    <line occurs="*" linetype="Person" cellseparator=";" quotechar="&quot;" firstlineasschema="true">
      <cell name="Middle name" ignoreread="true"/>
      <cell name="Has dog"><format type="boolean" pattern="yes;no"/></cell>

As you can see in this example, not all cells are described in the schema. Only those cells, where additional information is needed from the schema, needs to be present. By default a string cell is otherwise expected. For instance the values of the First name column will still be parsed as if they are string value cells. This means that we could have omitted all the <cell> elements from the schema above but then the parser would have parsed also the Middle name cells which we have no interest in and the Has dog cell would have been parsed as string values "yes" and "no" instead of true boolean values.

It is important though that if you provide <cell> elements for such a schema, the cell names need to match exactly what is specified in the header line. Matching is case sensitive.

You may for instance provide default values for missing columns or specify that a cell is mandatory by adding a <cell> element for that column.

When composing, if firstlineasschema="true" then the output will be produced according to the cell layout of the schema and with an additional header line with the name of the cells as specified by the schema. So in this case it is important that all the cells are present and in the correct order.

The Schema xml for fixed width data


The line schema for fixed with data source is very similar to the CSV line schema described above. The difference is that you have two additional attributes:

As with CSV schema lines you can specify a line condition on any cell if the line type is determined by the value of one of the cells. See above.


The cell has these additional attributes compared to CSV cell schema:


The representation of the numbers and dates differ between different countries and regions around the world. The JSaPar library can handle different formats depending on the locale. By adding a locale element, you indicate that numbers and dates should be parsed and composed according to that locale.

For instance in the example below, the decimal symbol , will be used instead of the British and US . character.

<?xml version="1.0" encoding="UTF-8"?>
<schema xmlns="">
  <csvschema lineseparator="\n">
    <locale language="sv" country="SE"/>
    <line occurs="*" linetype="City" cellseparator=";">
      <cell name="Name" />
      <cell name="Latitude" /><format type="float" pattern="#.#####"/></cell>
      <cell name="Longitude" /><format type="float" pattern="#.#####"/></cell>

The locale of the schema affects both parsing and composing text.

You can override the locale with an additional locale element on cell level if one of the cells should be read/written using a different locale compared to the rest of the cells described in the schema.

The default locale is US.

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