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Simple web application for viewing PDX (Product Data eXchange) XML files

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A simple web application for viewing PDX (Product Data eXchange) XML files


From the Wikipedia article on PDX: “the PDX (Product Data eXchange) standard for manufacturing is a multi-part standard, represented by the IPC 2570 series of specifications.”

As the name implies, it is a standard for exchanging product definition between companies or organizations, and can include bill of material (BOM), approved manufacturer list, drawings, documents, etc.; pretty much anything can be included if desired.

In simple terms, a *.pdx file (usually exported from Agile/Oracle) is really just a ZIP file that contains all the files (“attachments”) associated with the product (assembly), plus a special XML file called pdx.xml. This XML file contains the particulars of the various Items and their properties/attributes, the relationship between the Items, which forms the bill-of-materials (BOM), and also information about the various files that are inside the PDX/ZIP file.

The DTD of this XML file (identified as “DTD 2571 200111”) can be found on the IPC website. Free PDX viewers are available, one of the most popular being PDXViewer from PDXplorer.

Since the *.pdx file is simply a ZIP file, it is easy to extract all the attachments (documents, schematics, drawings, etc.) from the ZIP file, and there are several ways one can view XML files. However, trying to make sense of the assembly from a generic XML viewer is not really feasible, and although there are specialized free (and non-free) viewers, there are times when you might want to extract the data for your own use. To this end I have written a simple PDX XML file parser, pypdx for doing this (for details, please head over to the github page or the Python Package Index site.

The pypdx program can be used as a Python module, but also as a command-line stand-alone program that is more or less ready to use. But after storing the data into the database, you have to figure out how to view it. To make life easier for people who just want a quick view of what the items and bill of materials looks like, there is now a separate program pdxdisplay that will let you import and display the items. (I had wanted to call it pdxviewer, but that name is already taken.)

The pdxdisplay program is a web application written in Flask that provides a simple interface (via a web browser) to upload and display a PDX XML file. The program depends on the pypdx module.

Please note that this is not intended to be a full-fledged viewer for PDX XML files (never mind managing the complete PDX file with all the attachements). In particular it does not run on HTTPS (although it is trivial to do that with a simple add-on module), there is no user authentication, and it does not allow any editing of the data. There is minimal sorting providing, but no additional filtering or searching. Also note that some of the data from the PDX XML file is not included (see the pypdx module). In particular, none of the AdditionalAttribute fields in the XML file are included (I might add those at a later time, but no promises).

Nevertheless, I hope this might still be useful to some people. This is of course provided at no cost, and with no warranty. Use at your own risk!

Installation and Usage

To install the module and program, run

pip install pdxdisplay

This should install all the necessary dependencies, and create an executable pdxdisplay. Before you run this program, you will need a database: either a SQLite3 database or a PostgreSQL database, as described in document for the pypdx module. You specify the DSN by setting up the environment variable PDX_DSN; the pdxdisplay program will not run without this.

If you are using the SQLite3 file-based database, do something like this:

% set PDX_DSN=mydatabase.sqlite3
% pdxdisplay

(the extension of the SQLite3 database file needs to end with the extension .sqlite3 for the program to recognize it as a SQLite3 file). For a PostgreSQL database, do something like this

% set PDX_DSN="dbname='pdx' user='pdxuser' host='localhost' password='billofmaterials' port=5432"
$ pdxdisplay

If you are connecting to the default PostgreSQL database pdx (as listed above), you can also use the short-hand:

% set PDX_DSN=pg
% pdxdisplay

Running the pdxdisplay program will start the Flask web server at


You can then connect to this URL with your web browser.

By default Flask does not accept external connections (i.e., connections from outside your computer). If you really want to accept external connections, set the environment variable PDX_EXTACCESS to 1:

% export PDX_EXACCESS=1

before running pdxdisplay (but keep in mind that the connection is not encrypted, nor is there any authentication).

Note that you do not really need to install the PostgreSQL component if you do not care for the PostgreSQL database. You should still be able to use the program without installing the psycopg2 module, since it is not imported unless you specify the PostgreSQL database option. But there maybe dependencies issues when trying to install this through pip.

Issues with Python2

The pdxdisplay program was tested primarily with Python3, and for best results you should use the Python3. If you are running one of the Ubuntu derivates, it is likely that your python is Python2, and Python3 is listed as python3. In this case you may try to change “#!” line in the pdxdisplay file to point to python3. The program should run under Python2 also, but there were some issues having to do with non-ASCII characters that caused the program to fail. Specifically, it seems that non-ASCII characters sent to the render_template() method (from Flask) will cause it to break. This only occurs with Python2; Python3 does not have this problem.

As a work-around, the program will filter out all non-ASCII characters in the description fields (of the Item, Attachments, etc. tables), but only if it detects the script running under Python2. However, the program does not check for this in other fields. If there are non-ASCII characters in those fields, the program will likely crash (but, as I said, only if you are using Python2).

Even in Python3, you may need to set your locale to UTF-8 when using a SQLite3 database file. In particular, if you are running this in a Ubuntu docker container, set the environment variables:

% export LC_ALL=C.UTF-8
% export LANG=C.UTF-8

Closing Remarks

I have only seen a very small number of PDX files, and there does not seem to be any sample PDX files that you can download from the Internet (likely because the only PDX files available contain proprietary manufacturing information!). Naturally the testing of the pypdx module and the pdxdisplay program has been very limited. While I believe the implementation to be correct (if incomplete), there is always the possibility of bugs. So use at your own risk; you have been warned!

(Last Revised 2018-02-01)

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