Resolving Grails XML references in ActionScript / Flex

Grails uses XPath in its XML converter, which requires additional processing in the Flex / ActionScript world. This post introduces a very simple solution that converts XML references into non-reference nodes.

This is a quick and dirty solution to a question posted by _HATES in the comments. Thanks for reading my blog.

The problem:

When you use Content Negotiation and the result has two references to the same item, Grails will render the second reference in an xml like the following:

<customer id=”1″>

<country reference=”/list/grill/grillvariations/grillVariation/customers/customer/country”/>


ActionScript e4x lacks native support for the XPath format ( although there are external libraries like XPath-as3 that will do this for you).

For a recent project, I had to write my own resolver ( due to problems in SWF loading that affect ActionScript libraries ). Since this is something that might come up when you’re using Flex as a client for Grails, I thought I would share the funciton:

To use it, simply call:

var resolvedValue = xml ( fileWithAPotentialReference, GrailsResult );

private function xml(reference : XML, parentXML : XML) : XML {
  var resolved : XML = null;
  if ( reference!=null && reference.@id !=null &&  reference.@id.toString() != "") {
    resolved = reference;
  } else {
    var path : String = reference.@reference;
    var tokens : Array = path.split( "/" );
    var currentLocation : XML = parentXML;

    for each( var token : String in tokens ){
        var index : int = 0;
        if( token!= "" && token!="list"){
            if( token.indexOf("[") > 0 ) {
                var check : String = token.substr( token.indexOf("[")+1, token.indexOf("]")-1 );
                index = parseInt(check )-1;
                token = token.substr( 0, token.indexOf( "[" ));
             var nextLocation:XML = currentLocation.elements(token)[index];
             if( nextLocation!= null ){
                currentLocation = nextLocation;
    resolved = currentLocation;
  return resolved;

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