Packaging System w3c-designation EXPath Candidate Module 18 November 2009 XML Florent Georges H2O Consulting

This proposal defines a packaging system for various core XML technologies: XSLT, XQuery, and XProc. The goal is to define it in a way enough generic so to adapt it to other technologies in the future (such as XML Schema, XForms, etc.) using the same framework. Besides enabling the delivery of libraries written in standard XSLT, XQuery and XProc, it provides support for extensions specific to some processors, as well as enabling new processors to be supported by using the same framework.

Must be ignored, but is required by the schema...




XSLT, XQuery and XProc are amazing programming languages. But they lack a large choice of libraries, and when such libraries do exist, this is a challenge to install. There is no automatic install process, the rules are different for each processor, library authors do not follow the same rules regarding the info they provide, the cataloging, the way they reference third-party libraries, etc.

All those problems (well, most of them) can be addressed by a packaging system that would be broadly adopted by processor vendors and library authors. The cornerstone of such a system is the packaging format: a description of the information to be provided by the library authors and how to provide and structure them.


A library is a set of files fulfilling a common purpose. An XSLT library can for instance provide a set of template rules and functions to help formating a particular XML document type. A package is a way to bundle those files into a single ZIP file, following a defined structure and providing more information within the package descriptor. The package descriptor is a plain XML file, named expath-pkg.xml at the root of the ZIP file, and containing information about the library (like its name and its version number) and about the files it provides and how to reference them (for instance stylesheets and query modules.)

The ZIP file structure (aka the package structure) must have exactly two entries at the top level: the package descriptor and one directory entry. This directory contains all the library files, and all file references in the package descriptor are relative to this directory. This directory is called the library directory.

All the elements in the package descriptor are defined in the namespace All the elements defined in this specification or used in samples and in text are in this namespace, even if no prefix is used. The root element is package, and contains exactly one child element module:

<package> module </package> <module name = NCName version = string> title, (xslt |xquery |xproc |xsd |rng |rnc |...)+ </module>

name is the library name. The top-level directory in the package structure must have the exact same name. The module has also a version number, and a human-readable title. It then provides information about one or several files. Those files are called the components. In addition to those standard file descriptors, it can also contain elements specific to some processors (for instance an element for Saxon, eXist, etc.) Details are provided below.

The components are the files exported by the module. But the whole library directory must be preserved. Indeed, it can contain other, private files, aimed to be used only from within library files, not from the outside.

The components are accessed from the outside of the package by using a URI. This URI is the public URI, and absolute URI, which cannot be of scheme file:. Its exact usage depends on the kind of component (for instance, with XSLT it is aimed at be used in xsl:import, and in XQuery this is the target namespace of an XQuery library module.) Each kind of component defines its own URI space. So to uniquely identify a component in the repository, one needs the public URI and the URI space to use.

Standard components

Here is the description of the standard component kinds supported by this specification, and how they contribute to the package descriptor document type.


An XSLT file is associated a public import URI.This is the URI to use in an XSLT import instruction (aka xsl:import) to import the XSLT file provided in the package. This file is configured with the element xslt.

<xslt> import-uri, file </xslt>

The element file contains the path to the file within the package structure, relative to the library directory. Both elements import-uri and file are of type anyURI.


An XQuery library module is referenced by its namespace URI. Thus the xquery element associates a namespace URI to an XQuery file. An importing module just need to use an import statement of the form import module namespace xx = "<namespace-uri>";.

<xquery> namespace, file </xquery>

Note that there is no way to set any location hint (as the at clause in the import statement.) To use this packaging system, an XQuery library module must be referenced by its target namespace.


An XProc pipeline, like an XSLT stylesheet, is associated a public import URI, aimed to be used in an XProc p:import statement.

<xproc> import-uri, file </xproc>
XML Schema

An XML schema can be imported using its target namespace. Like for XQuery, there is no way to use any schemaLocation instead. There is neither the ability to set several files as several sources for the schema. If the schema is spread over multiple files, there must be one top-level file that includes the other files.

<xsd> namespace, file </xsd>

(TODO: Should we support schemas with empty target namespace? I am not sure this is a good idea in a packaging system...) (TODO: This does not support xs:redefine, as it requires a hint, not a TNS)


A RelaxNG schema, like an XSLT stylesheet, is associated a public import URI, aimed to be used in an import statement (either the include element for an RNG schema or an import directive for an RNC schema.)

<rng> import-uri, file </rng> <rnc> import-uri, file </rnc>

A Schematron schema is associated a public URI.

<schematron> import-uri, file </schematron>

An NVDL script is associated a public URI.

<nvdl> import-uri, file </nvdl>
Not supported file kinds

Documentation (like result of XSLStyle or xqDoc) is not taken into account in the packaging format, though that could be used by IDEs for instance to provide documentation for functions in an editor with a live completion feature. Some support for documentation can of course be added as a product-specific feature to the package descriptor.

Processor behaviour

A processor is any program that use packaged components. For instance, an XSLT processor uses XSLT stylesheets (as well as XML schemas for an XSLT 2.0 SA processor), an XML database can use XQuery modules, XSLT stylesheets or any other kind of component, etc. But processors include also IDEs, editors, and any program that could want to use packaged components and that supports this specification.

The installed package list is implementation-defined. Each implementation (for a specific processor) can define its own way to install and remove packages, as long as it properly documents it. A processor should use, when appropriate, the on-disk repository layout as defined below.

When a reference to a file of a specific kind is done via an absolute URI, a processor must look up for this URI in the corresponding URI space in the repository. How the repository is set to the processor is implementation-defined (a processor can also use a list of repositories, and enable or disable some libraries in any implementation-defined way.)

The URI space to use is defined by the nature of the reference. An XSLT href attribute on xsl:import will use the xslt URI space, while it will use the xsd space for xsl:import-schema.

XProc pipelines

An XProc processor in particular has to pay great attention to the space it use regarding the step that is beng evaluated. Any xsl:import instruction encountered on the stylesheet port of the step p:xslt has to be looked for in the xslt space (regardless if the stylesheet document is inlined in the pipeline, computed, loaded from the file system or retrieved from the Internet, or if the containing stylesheet has been imported itself.)

The XProc elements p:document and p:data, as well as the step p:load are handled specially. They can be used to access any kind of resource, including but not limited to components in a repository. The user has to tell explicitely the processor what kind of component is looked for by using the pkg:kind extension attribute. For instance, a stylesheet can be loaded from a repository as input to the step xslt as following:

<p:xslt> <p:input port="stylesheet"> <p:document href="..." pkg:kind="xslt"/> </p:input> ... </p:xslt>
On-disk repository layout

This section defines a standard structure for on-disk repositories. An implementation can choose to not support this kind of repository and to define its own one (or even to not define it publicly, just to provide the ability to install and remove packages, in a clearly documented way.) However, there are several advantages to support this structure, the most obvious one is to be able to benefit from existing tools to manage such repositories as well as existing libraries to access those repositories.

The resolving machinery is based on OASIS XML Catalogs . The repository is a simple directory, each subdirectory of which is an installed package (aka a package dir.) The only exception to this is the subdirectory .expath-pkg/ which is dedicated to store working information about the installed packages, among which the catalogs (aka the admin dir.)

[repository-dir]/ .expath-pkg/ xquery-catalog.xml xslt-catalog.xml lib1/ xquery-catalog.xml xslt-catalog.xml lib2/ ... lib1/ query.xq style.xsl lib2/ ...

The package dirs are really simple: they are simply an unzipped version of the XAR file. The name of the directory is simply the same as the name of the module in the package. The admin dir contains a catalog for each URI space (the catalog for one specific URI space can not be there if there is no one file in that URI space in the whole repository.) The name of such a catalog is [space]-catalog.xml where [space] is either xslt, xquery, rnc, etc. Those catalogs are called repository catalogs. It also contains a subdirectory for each installed package, with the same naming convention. In turn, those directories contain catalog files, containing the mappings defined in the corresponding package descriptors (pointing to the actual files installed in the package dirs.) Those are called the package catalogs. They follow the same naming convention than the repository catalogs (divided by URI spaces.) The repository catalogs just include the several package catalogs for the same URI space.

[ ... TODO ... ]


This section provides a non-normative example to illustrate the concepts defined here. Instead of using a hello world example, it describes the packaging of the existing FunctX library. This library consists of a standard XQuery 1.0 library module and a standard XSLT 2.0 stylesheet (both provide the same set of functions to either XQuery or XSLT, but this is not relevant to packaging.)

The first thing to do is to create a ZIP file with both of those components, alongside a package descriptor. The constraints are: 1/ the package descriptor is named expath-pkg.xml at the root of the package, 2/ the library content is in a directory at the root of the package (aka the library directory), and 3/ the name of this directory must be the name of the library, and must be a valid NCName. The structure (the content) of the library directory is completely free. In our case, let's just put both component files directly in the library directory, and define the library name as functx:

expath-pkg.xml functx/ functx.xql functx.xsl

The XQuery library module's target namespace is defined by the module itself. For the XSLT stylesheet, we have to define its public URI, used to identify it within an xsl:import (or any other means, for instance within XProc or an IDE scenarii system). Let's define it as The package descriptor thus looks like the following:

<package xmlns=""> <module name="functx" version="1.0"> <title>FunctX library</title> <xquery> <namespace></namespace> <file>functx.xql</file> </xquery> <xslt> <import-uri></import-uri> <file>functx.xsl</file> </xslt> </module> </package>

We just have to create a ZIP file with this structure and content. The convention is to call this file functx-1.0.xar (that is, [name]-[version].xar). That's all for the package itself.

[... TODO ...] (directory layout)

[repository-dir]/ .expath-pkg/ xquery-catalog.xml xslt-catalog.xml functx/ xquery-catalog.xml xslt-catalog.xml functx/ functx.xql functx.xsl

[ ... ] (content of .expath-pkg/xslt-catalog.xml)

<nextCatalog catalog="functx/xslt-catalog.xml"/>

[ ... ] (content of .expath-pkg/functx/xslt-catalog.xml)

<!-- TODO: Should there be a system entry as well? --> <uri name="" uri="../../functx/functx.xsl"/>

[ ... ] (processor behaviour)


[ ... TODO ... ]

Editorial notes

Should the package system define a set of XPath functions? Instead of just defining the package format and letting everything else as implementation-defined, should it in addition define a module of functions to install, delete, and more generally manage packages from within a processor?

Drawback: potential problems if the processor requires to be stopped?

Advantages: enables writing tools on top of the system (one single graphical package manager for one system, simply using the XPath functions, as well as easy integration within IDEs; or even other systems could be more easily be built on top of it, like a packaging system for XRX applications for instance.)

Should we add a generic "xml" URI space, for any XML document?

Should we add a restriction on public URIs: prohibiting the FILE scheme?

Interesting use case with XProc and NVDL: How to configure the XSLT processor in Calabash with the NVDL URI space for an NVDL implementation for XProc written using XSLT as a plain library step?

About the standard directory layout: should we still use XML Catalogs, or just a simple format to map public URIs to files?

Should we add support for XML Catalogs (written by the library author), in any way?

Add in the package descriptor an element for a description, or at very least a URL to the home of the project.

Package descriptor schema

[ ... TODO ... ]

References XML Catalogs, OASIS Standard V1.1, 7 October 2005