Bug #4328

saxon:get-pseudo-attribute() returns empty string on no match

Added by Tony Graham 12 months ago. Updated 10 months ago.

Saxon extensions
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Due date:
% Done:


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Applies to branch:
9.9, trunk
Fix Committed on Branch:
9.9, trunk
Fixed in Maintenance Release:


saxon:get-pseudo-attribute() is documented [1] as returning an empty sequence on no match. It instead returns an empty string. This complicates checking for pseudo-attributes since it is not possible to distinguish an absent pseudo-attribute from one with a zero-length value.

The result of running the attached stylesheet:

$ java -jar c:/SaxonEE9-9-1-5J/saxon9ee.jar -it -xsl:get-pseudo-attribute.xsl
version: EE
pseudo: 'value' (true)
bogus: '' (true)


get-pseudo-attribute.xsl (1.05 KB) get-pseudo-attribute.xsl Tony Graham, 2019-10-01 21:52


#1 Updated by Michael Kay 12 months ago

  • Category set to Saxon extensions
  • Status changed from New to In Progress
  • Assignee set to Michael Kay
  • Priority changed from Low to Normal

Thanks for reporting it. I haven't looked at this code for about 20 years and it appears to be only very skimpily tested. This particular problem is easily fixed, but while I was about it I wrote some tests for other edge cases and found a few issues -- partly because the spec is very vague, e.g. what happens if there's more than one pseudo-attribute with the same name. The worst bug I found was that if the data contains


then a search for "m" will return "eggs".

#2 Updated by Michael Kay 12 months ago

We use the same code internally for parsing the xml-stylesheet processing instruction, so I think we should follow the spec for "pseudo-attributes" that appears in

The simplest way to do this is to wrap the string value into an element <e + value + />, parse this as XML, and then look for the corresponding attribute. This means that bad syntax (including invalid character references, duplicated attribute names, etc) becomes an error. That's a breaking change so I will leave it till the next major release.

The xml-stylesheet spec allows colons in names (including at the start of a name). I don't know if we can handle that by configuring the XML parser to be non-namespace-aware. I'll do some experiments. If we can't then it's not really important.

#3 Updated by Tony Graham 12 months ago

That's all fine by me. I personally don't use duplicate pseudo-attributes (that's taking 'pseudo' a bit too far) or put colons in pseudo-attribute names.

I'm currently using:

      <!-- saxon:get-pseudo-attribute('nocharge') with no 'nocharge' returns an empty string. -->
      <let name="nocharge" value="saxon:get-pseudo-attribute('nocharge')[. ne '']" />
      <assert test="empty($nocharge) or $nocharge = ('error', 'not-error')"
        >'nocharge' must be either 'error' or 'not-error'. Value is: '<value-of select="$nocharge"/>'.</assert>

which will be forwards-compatible and which is better than when I had:

      <assert test="$nocharge = ('', 'error', 'not-error')">...</assert>

#4 Updated by Michael Kay 12 months ago

  • Status changed from In Progress to Resolved
  • Applies to branch 9.9, trunk added
  • Fix Committed on Branch 9.9, trunk added

Resolved. For 9.9 I have fixed the reported bug only; there is still some sloppy parsing and sloppy matching of pseudo-attribute names.

For 10.0 I have rewritten the code to parse the pseudo attributes using a non-namespace-aware XML parser, which as far as I can see ensures that the rules of the xml-stylesheet processing instruction are followed exactly. An error SXCH0005 is raised if the pseudo-attribute syntax is incorrect, e.g. if there are duplicate attributes, attributes containing <, or invalid character references.

#5 Updated by O'Neil Delpratt 10 months ago

  • Status changed from Resolved to Closed
  • Fixed in Maintenance Release added

Patch committed to the Saxon maintenance release.

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