A lot of care has been taken to ensure compatibility between etree and ElementTree. Nonetheless some differences and incompatibilities exist:
Importing etree is obviously different; etree uses a lower case package name, while ElementTree a combination of upper-case and lower case in imports:
# etree from lxml.etree import Element # ElementTree from elementtree.ElementTree import Element # ElementTree in the Python 2.5 standard library from xml.etree.ElementTree import Element
When switching over code from ElementTree to lxml.etree, and you're using the package name prefix 'ElementTree', you can do the following:
# instead of from elementtree import ElementTree # use from lxml import etree as ElementTree
lxml.etree offers a lot more functionality, such as XPath, XSLT, Relax NG, and XML Schema support, which (c)ElementTree does not offer.
etree has a different idea about Python unicode strings than ElementTree. In most parts of the API, ElementTree uses plain strings and unicode strings as what they are. This includes Element.text, Element.tail and many other places. However, the ElementTree parsers assume by default that any string (str or unicode) contains ASCII data. They raise an exception if strings do not match the expected encoding.
etree has the same idea about plain strings (str) as ElementTree. For unicode strings, however, etree assumes throughout the API that they are Python unicode encoded strings rather than byte data. This includes the parsers. It is therefore perfectly correct to pass XML unicode data into the etree parsers in form of Python unicode strings. It is an error, on the other hand, if unicode strings specify an encoding in their XML declaration, as this conflicts with the characteristic encoding of Python unicode strings.
ElementTree allows you to place an Element in two different trees at the same time. Thus, this:
a = Element('a') b = SubElement(a, 'b') c = Element('c') c.append(b)
will result in the following tree a:
and the following tree c:
In lxml, this behavior is different, because lxml is built on top of a tree that maintains parent relationships for elements (like W3C DOM). This means an element can only exist in a single tree at the same time. Adding an element in some tree to another tree will cause this element to be moved.
So, for tree a we will get:
and for tree c we will get:
Unfortunately this is a rather fundamental difference in behavior, which is hard to change. It won't affect some applications, but if you want to port code you must unfortunately make sure that it doesn't affect yours.
etree allows navigation to the parent of a node by the getparent() method and to the siblings by calling getnext() and getprevious(). This is not possible in ElementTree as the underlying tree model does not have this information.
When trying to set a subelement using __setitem__ that is in fact not an Element but some other object, etree raises a TypeError, and ElementTree raises an AssertionError. This also applies to some other places of the API. In general, etree tries to avoid AssertionErrors in favour of being more specific about the reason for the exception.
When parsing fails in iterparse(), ElementTree raises a low-level ExpatError instead of a SyntaxError as the other parsers. lxml.etree follows the other parts of the parser API and raises an (XML)SyntaxError.
The iterparse() function in lxml is implemented based on the libxml2 parser and tree generator. This means that modifications of the document root or the ancestors of the current element during parsing can irritate the parser and even segfault. While this is not a problem in the Python object structure used by ElementTree, the C tree underlying lxml suffers from it. The golden rule for iterparse() on lxml therefore is: do not touch anything that will have to be touched again by the parser later on. See the lxml parser documentation on this.
ElementTree ignores comments and processing instructions when parsing XML, while etree will read them in and treat them as Comment or ProcessingInstruction elements respectively. This is especially visible where comments are found inside text content, which is then split by the Comment element.
You can disable this behaviour by passing the boolean remove_comments and/or remove_pis keyword arguments to the parser you use. For convenience and to support portable code, you can also use the etree.ETCompatXMLParser instead of the default etree.XMLParser. It tries to provide a default setup that is as close to the ElementTree parser as possible.
ElementTree has a bug when serializing an empty Comment (no text argument given) to XML, etree serializes this successfully.
ElementTree adds whitespace around comments on serialization, lxml does not. This means that a comment text "text" that ElementTree serializes as "<!-- text -->" will become "<!--text-->" in lxml.
When '*' is used as filter in the Element.getiterator() method, ElementTree returns all elements in the tree, including comments and processing instructions. lxml.etree only returns real Elements, i.e. tree nodes that have a string tag name. Without a filter, both libraries iterate over all nodes.
Note that currently only lxml.etree supports passing the Element factory function as filter to select only Elements. Both libraries support passing the Comment and ProcessingInstruction factories to select the respective tree nodes.
ElementTree merges the target of a processing instruction into PI.text, while lxml.etree puts it into the .target property and leaves it out of the .text property. The pi.text in ElementTree therefore correspondents to pi.target + " " + pi.text in lxml.etree.
Because etree is built on top of libxml2, which is namespace prefix aware, etree preserves namespaces declarations and prefixes while ElementTree tends to come up with its own prefixes (ns0, ns1, etc). When no namespace prefix is given, however, etree creates ElementTree style prefixes as well.
etree has a 'prefix' attribute (read-only) on elements giving the Element's prefix, if this is known, and None otherwise (in case of no namespace at all, or default namespace).
etree further allows passing an 'nsmap' dictionary to the Element and SubElement element factories to explicitly map namespace prefixes to namespace URIs. These will be translated into namespace declarations on that element. This means that in the probably rare case that you need to construct an attribute called 'nsmap', you need to be aware that unlike in ElementTree, you cannot pass it as a keyword argument to the Element and SubElement factories directly.
etree elements can be copied using copy.deepcopy() and copy.copy(), just like ElementTree's. However, copy.copy() does not create a shallow copy where elements are shared between trees, as this makes no sense in the context of libxml2 trees. Note that lxml can deep-copy trees considerably faster than ElementTree, so a deep copy might still be fast enough to replace a shallow copy in your case.