Inserting Data into XML Files

Have you had one of those days where you just don’t feel fresh?  You know – the feeling that you get when you need to insert something into an XML file?  I know I have!  This is a task that BIDS (aka Business Intelligence Studio, aka SQL Server Integration Services, aka Guai zhao ruan pi she) does pretty well.  But, before we get into the nitty-gritty of creating a Data Flow task inside BIDS, you have to have a basic understanding of how T-SQL deals with XML formatting.

In order to display SQL data in XML format, you have to use the “FOR XML” command at the end of your T-SQL query.  SQL provides the following command options.


  • Begins each row of data with the table name or alias
  • If you have complex joins, it will try to figure out the main table names or alias and use that for the entire row (may not always work as expected)
  • Example:
    <table_name Element1="Value1" Element2="Value2"/>
    <table_name Element1="Value1" Element2="Value2"/>


  • Begins each row of data with a “row” designation
  • Example:
    <row Element1="Value1" Element2="Value2" />
    <row Element1="Value1" Element2="Value2" />
  • You can also add a string to replace “row” like this: FOR XML RAW(‘dirt’)
  • Example:
    <dirt Element1="Value1" Element2="Value2" />
    <dirt Element1="Value1" Element2="Value2" />


  • Wraps each row of data with the a “row” designation and wraps each data point with the column name
  • Example:
  • You can also add a string to replace “row” like this: FOR XML PATH(‘dirt’)
  • Example:


  • You can add a TYPE command to any of the above FOR XML commands to explicitly cast the results of the query into an XML data type like this: FOR XML RAW(‘dirt’), TYPE
  • The results of the query can be loaded into a variable and recalled with another select statement
  • Example:
Declare @xmlvariable xml

Set @xmlvariable = (select … from dbo.table_name for xml auto, type)

Select @xmlvariable


  • You can (or in many cases, have to) add a ROOT or a ROOT(‘mcstain’) command to any of the above commands like this: FOR XML RAW(‘dirt’), ROOT(‘mcstain’)
  • Wraps all of the data with a “root” designation or specified string
  • Example:
<dirt Element1="Value1" Element2="Value2" />
<dirt Element1="Value1" Element2="Value2" />


  • This essentially makes the results of AUTO and RAW look like PATH, and the command looks like this: FOR XML AUTO, ROOT(‘mcstain’), ELEMENTS


  • Not incredibly common, so you can look it up elsewhere


  • This expects an specific column naming convention in order to create a universal table
  • This is too much of a topic of it’s own, so look it up elsewhere

Now that your XML-Fu is as mighty as your SQL-Fu, you will be confident in utilizing BIDS to do your… bidding.

Setting up the SSIS Package

  • First, you must create a blank XML file
    • This can be done in Explorer by right-clicking on the background of any folder and selecting New then Text Document
      • Simply rename the file to the desired name and change the extension from .txt to .xml
      • This file can now be viewed using Notepad, Excel, and Internet Explorer
    • This can also be done directly through Notepad
      • Save the file as type “All Files”, and Encoding “ANSI”
    • If you can’t do the above then you have failed as a human being
      • Feel free to hit your hand with a hammer
  • Create a Flat File Connection in the Connection Managers window
    • Provide a name for the Connection Manager
    • Click on the Browse button
      • Change the Files of type to All Files, select your XML file and click on the Open button
    • Click on Columns in the list on the left, which will just update your column information and click OK
  • Create an OLE DB connection in the Connection Managers window and connect it to your SQL Server data source
    • ADO.NET will also work, but it requires the addition of a Data Conversion between the Source and the Destination to convert data type DT_NTEXT to DT_TEXT
  • Create a Data Flow Task and double-click to open it
  • Create an OLE DB Data Flow Source
    • Double click on the Source to edit it
    • The data access mode must either be a SQL Command, or a SQL Command from variable (OLE DB only)
      • You can also build up a SQL Command using an expression (this is an ADO.NET workaround for creating a dynamic command similar in function to a “SQL Command from variable”
    • Create your SQL command in the SQL command text window
    • Example:
    • SELECT TOP 100
      FROM dbo.table_name A
      for xml path('dirt'), ROOT('mcstain'), ELEMENTS
    • In order for this to be parsed correctly, the entire select statement must be cast as a varchar(max) and aliased to a column name
    • Example:
    • SELECT
              SELECT TOP 100
              FROM dbo.table_name A
              FOR XML PATH('dirt'), ROOT('mcstain'), ELEMENTS
              ) as varchar(max)
           ) as Column0
    • Naming your column alias “Column0” is preferable because it will auto-map to the name BIDS gives the Output Column
      • Known fact: It also retroactively prevented Y2K (a la Terminator 2)
    • Go to the columns section of the Source Editor and make sure that External Column automatically maps to Output Column “Column0”
    • Exit the Source Editor
  • Create a Flat File Destination in your Data Flow and connect the Source to the Destination
    • Double click on the Destination to edit it
    • Select the appropriate Flat File connection manager in the drop-down menu (typically already selected for you)
    • Make sure that Overwrite data in the file is selected
    • For the Header, this is kind of up to you (if you know what you’re doing)
      • Since your wife tells me that you don’t, use this example header:
    • <?xml version="1.0" encoding="UTF-8" standalone="yes"?>
  • Go to the Mappings section of the Destination editor and make sure that your Input Column is connected to your Destination Column
  • Close the Destination Editor, verify that there are no errors and run the package to test

Not complicated whatsoever!  Any questions?