19. XML Services

19.1 Calling specifications

Calling XML services

GeoNetwork provides access to several internal structures through the use of XML services. These are much like HTML addresses but return XML instead. As an example, consider the xml.info service: you can use this service to get some system’s information without fancy styles and graphics. In GeoNetwork, XML services have usually the xml. prefix in their address.


Each service accepts a set of parameters, which must be embedded into the request. A service can be called using different HTTP methods, depending on the structure of its request:

GET The parameters are sent using the URL address. On the server side, these parameters are grouped into a flat XML document with one root and several simple children. A service can be called this way only if the parameters it accepts are not structured. Figure 19.1, “A GET request to a XML service and its request encoding” shows an example of such request and the parameters encoded in XML. POST There are 3 variants of this method:

ENCODED The request has one of the following content types: application/x-www-form-urlencoded or multipart/form-data. The first case is very common when sending web forms while the second one is used to send binary data (usually files) to the server. In these cases, the parameters are not structured so the rules of the GET method applies. Even if the second case could be used to send XML documents, this possibility is not considered on the server side.

XML The content type is application/xml. This is the common case when the client is not a browser but a specialised client. The request is a pure XML document in string form, encoded using the encoding specified into the prologue of the XML document. Using this form, any type of request can be made (structured or not) so any service can be called.

SOAP The content type is application/soap+xml. SOAP is a simple protocol used to access objects and services using XML. Clients that use this protocol can embed XML requests into a SOAP structure. On the server side, GeoNetwork will remove the SOAP structure and feed the content to the service. Its response will be embedded again into a SOAP structure and sent back to the caller. It makes sense to use this protocol if it is the only protocol understood by the client.

Figure 19.1. A GET request to a XML service and its request encoding

    <any /> 


The response of an XML service always has a content type of application/xml (the only exception are those services which return binary data). The document encoding is the one specified into the document’s prologue. Anyway, all GeoNetwork services return documents in the UTF-8 encoding.

On a GET request, the client can force a SOAP response adding the application/soap+xml content type to the Accept header parameter.

Exception handling

A response document having an error root element means that the XML service raised an exception. This can happen under several conditions: bad parameters, internal errors et cetera. In this cases the returned XML document has the following structure:

  • error: This is the root element of the document. It has a mandatory id attribute that represents an identifier of the error from a common set. See Table 19.1, “Summary of error ids” for a list of all id values.

    • message: A message related to the error. It can be a short description about the error type or it can contain some other information that completes the id code.

    • class: The Java class of the raised error (name without package information).

    • stack: The server’s stacktrace up to the point that generated the exception. It contains several at children, one for each nested level. Useful for debugging purposes.

      • at: Information about a nested level of called code. It has the following mandatory attributes:

        class Java class of the called method. method Java called method. line Line, inside the called method’s source code where there the method call of the next nested level. file Source file where the class is defined.

    • object: An optional container for parameters or other values that caused the exception. In case a parameter is an XML object, this container will contain that object in XML form.

    • request: A container for some useful information that can be needed to debug the service.

      • language: Language used when the service was called.

      • service: Name of the called service.

Table 19.1. Summary of error ids


Meaning of message element

Meaning of object element


General message, human readable





Name of the parameter

Parameter’s bad value



File’s name





Name of the parameter

XML container where the parameter should have been present.



Object’s name


Reason of abort

If present, the object that caused the abort






Resource’s name



Service’s name



Service’s name


User login failed message

User’s name



User’s id or name


The requested metadata was not found

Metadata’s id

Figure 19.2, “An example of generated exception” shows an example of exception generated by the mef.export service. The service complains about a missing parameter, as you can see from the content of the id attribute. The object element contains the xml request with an unknown test parameter while the mandatory UUID parameter (as specified by the message element) is missing.

Figure 19.2. An example of generated exception

        <at class="jeeves.utils.Util" file="Util.java" line="66" 
        <at class="org.fao.geonet.services.mef.Export" file="Export.java" 
            line="60" method="exec"/> 
        <at class="jeeves.server.dispatchers.ServiceInfo" file="ServiceInfo.java" 
            line="226" method="execService"/> 
        <at class="jeeves.server.dispatchers.ServiceInfo" file="ServiceInfo.java" 
            line="129" method="execServices"/> 
        <at class="jeeves.server.dispatchers.ServiceManager" file="ServiceManager.java" 
            line="370" method="dispatch"/> 

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