Extract data from any website right in Chrome
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README.md
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README.md

What is ScrapeMe?

ScrapeMe is a Chrome extension for web scraping. With its help, you can automate data extraction from dynamic websites or web applications and export the data to a CSV file.


Main features

  • Import URLs or search queries
  • Replay sequences of browsing actions
  • Simulate user input (e.g. clicking, scrolling, typing)
  • Extract page data with jQuery selectors
  • Export scraping results to CSV files
  • Simultaneously execute multiple data extraction tasks

ScrapeMe-demo

To get more impressions you can watch the smashing video clip about ScrapeMe.

Yet another tool?

"Tools and frameworks come and go. Choose the one that fits the job."

Scraping tools exist for almost every programming language, but there is still a demand for tools that require "less coding," like import.io. Here are some of the more popular “no coding” tools among Chrome extensions:

  1. Web Scraper project on GitHub
  2. David Heaton's "Scraper" on GitHub
  3. Helena project by Berkley university on GitHub

However, these extensions can perform complex data extractions only if their cores are modified, whereas ScrapeMe does not require any core modification for these tasks.

I have used ScrapeMe to successfully scrape data from major social networking websites (e.g. Facebook, LinkedIn) and several different web applications (e.g. JIRA, Telegram).

Below are examples of scraping tasks completed using ScrapeMe. Download ScrapeMe to work through the examples. It is important to mention that a solid understanding of JavaScript is required to maximize the utility of ScrapeMe.

Example of a problem solved with ScrapeMe (easy)

Task: Extract the names of Telegram channels from the tlgrm.ru catalog.

Background: The list of channels is partially loaded by default. Fully loading the list requires scrolling all the way down until new channels stop loading, like in Instagram. Once all the channels are loaded, their names can be easily scraped.

Actions:

  • Step 1: Import the list of URLs (may be collected manually)
  • Step 2: Start ScrapeMe and add scraping threads
  • Step 3: Export the results

Result: A list of the channel names and their IDs.

Example of a problem solved with ScrapeMe (hard)

Task: Extract the creation dates of Telegram channels.

Background: The creation dates can be found in the first messages of the channel threads. There are many ways to access the channel threads, ranging from command line interface to [web] interface. In this example, use the web interface of the official Telegram Web Client. First, we search for the channel. Next, we scroll up to the beginning of the thread. Finally, we extract the creation date.

Actions:

  • Step 1: Import the list of channel IDs (can be taken from the first example)
  • Step 2: Start the ScrapeMe
  • Step 3: Export the results

Result: A list of channel names and their creation dates

Short lesson on jQuery selectors

jQuery selectors work well as long as the data that will be scraped is on a single page. Tasks of any higher complexity (e.g. pagination, dynamic pages, CAPTCHA, searching with parameters) are more quickly solved with scraping tools like ScrapeMe. Below is an example of how to successfully complete a scraping task without ScrapeMe using jQuery selectors.

Example: Look at the Craigslist page with used Triumph motorcycles and determine their average price

  1. Open the page in a browser, right-click any price badge, and select “Inspect.” The HTML for each price badge is displayed in a single row like this:
<span class="result-price">$5000</span>

You can select all price badges with jQuery like this:

$(“span.result-price”)
  1. Notice that the "local" results are displayed above the results from "nearby areas."

a. Right-click on any word in the bolded sentences "Few local results found. Here are some from nearby areas. Checking 'include nearby areas' will expand your search," and select "Inspect." This is the HTML that will result:

<h4 class="ban nearby">
	<span class="bantext">Few local results found. Here are some from nearby areas. Checking 'include nearby areas' will expand your search.</span>
</h4>

b. The jQuery selector for "Few local results found. Here are some from nearby areas. Checking 'include nearby areas' will expand your search" is

$("h4.ban.nearby")
  1. Enter the JavaScript console to complete the following 3 tasks:

a. Copy and paste this JavaScript code into the console to import jQuery

var jq = document.createElement('script');
jq.src = "https://ajax.googleapis.com/ajax/libs/jquery/2.1.4/jquery.min.js";
document.getElementsByTagName('head')[0].appendChild(jq);

b. Copy and paste this Javascript code into the console to prevent possible conflicts with other JavaScript libraries

var jq = $.noConflict();

c. Copy and paste this JavaScript code into the console to calculate the average price of the motorcycles and print it to the console

var sum = 0
jq("h4.ban.nearby").prevAll().each(function(){
	sum += parseInt($(this).find("span.result-price:eq(0)").text().replace("$","")); 
});
console.log(Math.round(sum / jq("h4.ban.nearby").prevAll().length));

Developer's corner

How to

How to add a task to ScrapeMe

  1. Create a name for the task. "myTask" is the name used for this example.

  2. Create a button to run the task by pasting a piece of HTML to /control-panel/index.html:

<div class="group">
	<h3 class="groupTitle">My title</h3>
        <ul class="groupButtons">
                <li><button class="action" taskName="myTask">My task name</button></li>
        </ul>
</div>
  1. Add the name of the task to taskNames in /tasks/tasks.js
var taskNames = ["...",
                 "...",
                 "myTask"];
  1. Copy and paste this JavaScript code into the taskManager function to describe the task in /tasks/tasks.js.
case "myTask":
	bufferTask = new Task({taskName: taskName, rootPageHost: "mysite.com", rootPageSubref: "/page/1/"});
        	bufferTask.addSubtask({purpose: "scraping", action: "save"});
            	break;
  1. Create a "myTask.js" file in the "/scripts/" folder. Copy and paste this JavaScript code into the newly created "myTask.js" file. This code has the minimum required content ScrapeMe needs to successfully scrape the data.
function myTask() {
    var myData = new Object();
    
    var myRecord = new Object();
    myRecordId = "myId";
    
    myRecord.taskId = subtaskPublic.taskId;
    myRecord.pageUrl = subtaskPublic.currentPageUrl;
    myRecord.timestamp = String(Date.now());

    myData[myRecordId] = JSON.stringify(myRecord);
    
    return myData;
}

Assuming the third step was completed correctly, the myTask function will run once https://mysite.com/page/1 loads. myData is used to save the structured content of the scraped page. The ScrapeMe controller requires the taskId, pageUrl, and timestamp variables to manage the scraped data. If these variables are missing, the scraped data cannot be exported.

  1. Add "myTask.js" to the list of content scripts in manifest.json
"content_scripts": [{
        ...
        "js": [
            ...
            "/scripts/myTask.js",
	    ...
        ],
	...
    }],
  1. Reload the extension, and try to run the task. When you click the "My task name" button in the ScrapeMe control panel, your browser should open a new window and load https://mysite.com/page/1. The myTask() function will run in the background, and then the window will close. ScrapeMe will add a data point to its cache, which you can see by clicking "Show scraping cache" on the export page.

To debug the scraper, check the logs in the console of ScrapeMe's background page and in the console of the scraped page itself.

Farewell

I would be happy to hear any feedback about your use of ScrapeMe. Feel free to write me at devrazdev@gmail.com. Thank you.

P.S.

Please never try to automate Internet Explorer by writing VBA macroses in Microsoft Excel.