4.2. Unmarshalling is not working! Help!

There are a few common causes for this problem. These causes often exhibit similar symptoms:

  1. Instance documents are invalid
  2. JAXBContext is not created correctly.

4.2.1. Make sure your instance document is valid

First, use an independent schema validator to check if your document is really valid with respect to the schema you compiled. When the root element of a document is invalid, then the unmarshaller will issue "unexpected element" errors. When a portion of a document is invalid, JAXB skips that portion, so the end result is that the unmarshalling returns normally, yet you notice that a part of the content tree is missing. This is often the desirable behavior, but it sometimes ends up masking a problem.

Also, try to install ValidationEventHandler on the unmarshaller. When a portion of a document is skipped, the unmarshaller notifies a ValidationEventHandler, so it allows you to see what's going on.

Installing ValidationEventHandler

Unmarshaller u = ...;
// this implementation is a part of the API and convenient for trouble-shooting,
// as it prints out errors to System.out
u.setEventHandler(new javax.xml.bind.helpers.DefaultValidationEventHandler());

u.unmarshal(new File("foo.xml"));

Also consider installing a Schema object to the unmarshaller, so that the unmarshaller performs a schema validation while unmarshalling. Earlier I suggested that you try an independent schema validator, but for various reasons (not all tools are reliable, you might have made an error and used a different schema/instance), using validating unmarshalling is a better way to guarantee the validity of your instance document being unmarshalled. Please follow the JAXP tutorial for more about how to construct a Schema object from your schema.

If you are unmarshalling from XML parser APIs (such as DOM, SAX, StAX), then also make sure that the parser/DOM is configured with the namespace enabled.

4.2.2. Check if your JAXBContext is correct

(TODO: This also applies to the marshaller. Think about moving it.)

The other possibility is that JAXBContext is not set up correctly. JAXBContext "knows" a set of classes, and if it doesn't know a class that it's supposed to know, then the unmarshaller may fail to perform as you expected.

To verify that you created JAXBContext correctly, call JAXBContext.toString(). It will output the list of classes it knows. If a class is not in this list, the unmarshaller will never return an instance of that class. Make you see all the classes you expect to be returned from the unmarshaller in the list. When dealing with a large schema that spans across a large number of classes and packages, this is one possible cause of a problem.

If you noticed that a class is missing, explicitly specify that to JAXBContext.newInstance. If you are binding classes that are generated from XJC, then the easiest way to include all the classes is to specify the generated ObjectFactory class(es).


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