Using XPath's 'preceding-sibling' Axis Correctly - Greg Collins

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Using XPath's 'preceding-sibling' Axis Correctly

The XPath axis, preceding-sibling, can be a bit confusing to use. It doesn't work the way one would expect at all. In fact, it is quite backward from what one would expect.

To me it made sense that if I wanted the sibling just before where I was currently at I would use an XPath like this:


That made sense to me... but it didn't work. After some digging around I discovered that preceding-sibling works in a reverse direction. If I were to diagram it out, using an 'X' to represent the current location, it would look like this:













Thus, using last(), I would really end up with the first one in the list (as we humans think). So if I want access to the immediate preceding-sibling, I would instead use an XPath like this:


This would correctly provide me with the immediate preceding-sibling (this technique is demonstrated in the InfoPathDev example form: Reordering Table Rows). I could increase the number used if I wanted to walk further back the chain.

So in essence, as you go forward (following-sibling) or backward (preceding-sibling), the number of steps you take is based off of where you currently are, with last() being the furthest possible away from where you are, in the direction you are going.

©2005 Greg Collins. All rights reserved. Licensed to Autonomy Systems, LLC for display on

Published Jun 13 2005, 09:38 AM by Greg Collins
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GLazkano said:

Can 'preceding-sibling' be used from another node by using a path like ../../Node?

November 29, 2007 2:00 AM

Greg Collins said:

Yes. The axis can be used from any valid node within a valid XPath.

January 15, 2008 9:54 AM

Remember the XPath Axes « Two Guys Arguing said:

Pingback from  Remember the XPath Axes « Two Guys Arguing

March 10, 2009 9:27 PM

.debug » Blog Archive » “Preceding-sibling” May Not Work Like You Think It Works… said:

Pingback from  .debug  » Blog Archive   » “Preceding-sibling” May Not Work Like You Think It Works…

June 4, 2009 7:57 PM
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