Domain-specific language for extracting structured data from HTML documents
C++ HTML CSS CMake Shell Other Other
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Hext — Extract Data from HTML

Hext is a domain-specific language for extracting structured data from HTML documents.

See for documentation, build instructions and a live demo.

The Hext project is released under the terms of the Apache License v2.0.


Suppose you want to extract all hyperlinks from a web page. Hyperlinks have an anchor tag <a>, an attribute called href and a text that visitors can click. The following Hext snippet will produce a dictionary for every matched element. Each dictionary will contain the keys link and title which refer to the href attribute and the text content of the matched <a>.

# Extract links and their text
<a href:link @text:title />

» Load example in editor

Visit Hext's project page to learn more about Hext. For examples that use the libhext C++ library check out /libhext/examples and the main page of the doxygen documentation.


  • htmlext: Command line utility that applies Hext snippets to an HTML document and produces JSON.
  • libhext: C++ library that contains a Hext parser but also allows for customization.
  • libhext-test: Unit tests for libhext.
  • Hext bindings: Bindings for scripting languages. There are extensions for Node.js, Python, Ruby and PHP that are able to parse Hext and extract values from HTML.

Project layout

├── build             Build directory for htmlext
├── cmake             CMake modules used by the project
├── htmlext           Source for the htmlext command line tool
├── libhext           The libhext project
│   ├── bindings      Hext bindings for scripting languages
│   ├── build         Build directory for libhext
│   ├── doc           Doxygen documentation for libhext
│   ├── examples      Examples making use of libhext
│   ├── include       Public libhext API
│   ├── ragel         Ragel input files
│   ├── scripts       Helper scripts for libhext
│   ├── src           libhext implementation files
│   └── test          The libhext-test project
│       ├── build     Build directory for libhext-test
│       └── src       Source for libhext-test
├── syntaxhl          Syntax highlighters for Vim and ACE
└── test              Blackbox tests for htmlext

Dependencies for development

  • Ragel generates the state machine that is used to parse Hext
  • The unit tests for libhext are written with Google Test
  • libhext's public API documentation is generated by Doxygen
  • libhext's scripting language bindings are generated by Swig


There are unit tests for libhext and blackbox tests for Hext as a language, whose main pupose is to detect unwanted change in syntax or behaviour.
The libhext-test project is located in /libhext/test and depends on Google Test. Nothing fancy, just build the project and run the executable libhext-test. How to write test cases with Google Test is described here.
The blackbox tests are located in /test. There you'll find a shell script called This script applies Hext snippets to HTML documents and compares the result to a third file that contains the expected output. For example, there is a test case icase-quoted-regex that consists of three files: icase-quoted-regex.hext, icase-quoted-regex.html, and icase-quoted-regex.expected. To run this test case you would do the following:

$ ./ case/icase-quoted-regex.hext will then look for the corresponding .html and .expected files of the same name in the directory of icase-quoted-regex.hext. Then it will invoke htmlext with the given Hext snippet and HTML document and compare the result to icase-quoted-regex.expected. To run all blackbox tests in succession:

$ ./ case/*.hext

By default will look for the htmlext binary in $PATH. Failing that, it looks for the binary in the default build directory. You can tell which command to use by setting HTMLEXT. For example, to run all tests through valgrind you'd run the following:

$ HTMLEXT="valgrind -q ../build/htmlext" ./ case/*.hext


  • GumboAn HTML5 parsing library in pure C99
    Gumbo is used as the HTML parser behind hext::Html. It's fast, easy to integrate and even fixes invalid HTML.
  • RagelRagel State Machine Compiler
    The state machine that is used to parse Hext snippets is generated by Ragel. You can find the definition of this machine in /libhext/ragel/hext-machine.rl.
  • RapidJSONA fast JSON parser/generator for C++
    RapidJSON powers the JSON output of the htmlext command line utility.
  • jqA lightweight and flexible command-line JSON processor
    An indispensable tool when dealing with JSON in the shell. Piping the output of htmlext into jq lets you do all sorts of crazy things.
  • AceA Code Editor for the Web
    Used as the code editor in the "Try Hext in your Browser!" section and as a highlighter for all code examples. The highlighting rules for Hext are included in this project in /syntaxhl/ace. Also, there's a script in /libhext/scripts/syntax-hl-ace that uses Ace to transform a code snippet into highlighted HTML.
  • ProxygenA collection of C++ HTTP libraries including an easy to use HTTP server
    The HTTP server behind the "Try Hext in your Browser!" section is built with proxygen.


All source code of the Hext project is released under the Apache License v2.0, with the sole exception of /libhext/doc/doxygen/resources/bootstrap.min.css, which was authored by a third party and is included in this project under the terms of the MIT license. See /libhext/doc/doxygen/resources/bootstrap.min.css.LICENSE for the full license text. Visit Bootstrap on Github.

About me

I am a freelancing software developer living in Munich. Visit for my email address and let me know what you think about Hext!