I have a large and complex XML document in a file. I would like to do a text search of the XML document and have it give me the full XML path of the found text.

There is similar functionality in the RegEdit tool for Windows. If I search for "Clock Rate", I can see the full path in the status bar at the bottom of the window.


I would like the same thing for XML files. For example, if I have


and I search for "test", I should see the full path foo\bar\baz

1 Answer 1


Sorry, I'm not familiar with any application (apart of Firebug - we'll return to that in a moment) that will do that out of the box. If it's really big - you might have to roll out a custom solution - it shouldn't be too complicated to use some XML/HTML parser and traverse through nodes until you find your wanted text - at which point you'd use some built in function to get XPath of the current element.

About the mentioned Firefox plugin - Firebug. I don't have enough reputation to show you a picture - but it's simple enough process to do this:

  • open XML file in Firefox - it probably doesn't have style defined, so you'll see the familiar:

    This XML file does not appear to have any style information associated with it. The document tree is shown below.

  • press F12 to call Firebug, you should see that the file is now rendered a bot like html - with every element being inline and thus the text is "merged" to a blob. That's of no import - the important part is that in the Firebug's HTML tab you can see your XML file parsed.

  • in Firebug's search input box type what you want to find, it'll be focused upon in the HTML tab.
  • right-click on the wanted element in the HTML tab, and at the top you should see two options of some interest:
    • Copy XPath
    • Copy CSS path

You can also try this with Firefox native Developer Tools:

  • open XML file in Firefox and press F12 twice to call and hide Firebug - I haven't found a way to make the file load up "correctly", instead of the tree view - Firebug does that.
  • open up Developer Tools (click "Open Menu" button -> Developer -> Toggle Tools)
  • click on your (poorly) rendered XML file to focus on it, Ctrl+F to search a phrase, it'll be highlighted just like with any other search
  • click on inspector tool ("Pick an element from the page") and click on the highlighted text
  • right-click on the found element in the Inspector tab, and choose "Copy Unique Selector" - though in my Firefox it'll sometimes return "undefined" instead of the top node, even though the XML in question does validate...

For a test file:

<?xml version="1.0"?>
   <book id="bk101">
      <author>Gambardella, Matthew</author>
      <title>XML Developer's Guide</title>
      <description>An in-depth look at creating applications 
      with XML.</description>

Where our searched phrase is "Computer", and thus out wanted node is:


The results are:

  • Firebug "Copy XPath"


  • Firebug "Copy CSS Path"

catalog book#bk101 genre

  • Firefox Developer Tools "Copy Unique Selector"

#bk101 > genre:nth-child(3)

My only concern is that you wrote your file is large. If it's really, really large - well, you know how browsers like to act from time to time. ;)

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