Adventures in Machine Learning

Unleashing the Power of HTMLParser for Web Scraping

HTMLParser: A Guide to Creating Web Scrapers and More

Have you ever wanted to scrape data from a website but didn’t know how to start? Look no further than HTMLParser, a versatile tool for parsing HTML in a nested fashion.

In this article, we will explore HTMLParser and its uses, from identifying tags to creating your own parsers. What is HTMLParser?

At its core, HTMLParser is a Python module for parsing HTML and other similar markup languages. It is built upon a standard Parser module that comes with Python, making it simple yet powerful.

HTMLParser works by identifying tags and their attributes, then performing actions based on the information it finds. This includes handling tags such as “img”, “a”, “div”, and more.

How to Use HTMLParser

The beauty of HTMLParser lies in its simplicity. By subclassing the base parser class, we can override its default functionality and add our own.

This allows us to tailor our parser to our specific needs. For example, we might want to scrape a website for all its links.

To do so, we would create a parser that prints out the href attribute of every “a” tag it finds.

Subclassing HTMLParser

Subclassing HTMLParser is straightforward. When we create our subclass, we can override the default functionality for any of several methods.

These include handle_starttag, handle_endtag, handle_data, handle_comment, and handle_decl. Each of these methods is called by the base parser when it encounters the corresponding element.

We can then add our own functionality to these methods as desired.

Finding Names of the Called Methods

When subclassing HTMLParser, it can be helpful to know the names of the methods that will be called. By default, these methods are prefixed with “handle_”.

For example, the method that handles the start of an “a” tag is handle_starttag. Keep in mind that the full name of the method will depend on the type of tag being encountered.

Creating Your HTMLParser

Creating your own HTMLParser is a straightforward process. The basic code involves creating a subclass, adding any desired functionality to the handle_* methods, and then feeding data into the parser.

Once the parser has completed parsing the data, any desired output can be obtained by looking at the state of the parser. What Can HTMLParser Be Used For?

HTMLParser is a useful tool for a wide variety of applications. One common use case is web data scraping.

By parsing through HTML, we can extract the data we need and save it to a file or database. This can be useful for market research, competitor analysis, or any other scenario where we need access to large amounts of data.

HTMLParser Real World Example

To give you an idea of the power of HTMLParser, let’s take a look at a real-world example. Suppose we want to pull all the links from a webpage and store them in a list.

We could achieve this using the following code:


from html.parser import HTMLParser

class LinkParser(HTMLParser):

def __init__(self):


self.links = []

def handle_starttag(self, tag, attrs):

if tag == “a”:

for attr in attrs:

if attr[0] == “href”:


parser = LinkParser()




In this code, we create a LinkParser subclass that adds any href attributes it encounters to a list. We then create an instance of this parser and feed it some sample data.

Finally, we print out the list of links.


In conclusion, HTMLParser is a powerful and versatile tool for parsing HTML and related markup languages. With its simple yet flexible design, HTMLParser can be used for a wide variety of tasks, including web data scraping.

By subclassing the base parser class and adding our own functionality, we can tailor our parsers to meet our specific needs. So the next time you need to scrape a website or extract data from HTML, consider using HTMLParser to get the job done.

In this article, we explored the power and versatility of HTMLParser, a Python module for parsing HTML and similar markup languages. We discussed how HTMLParser works, its various methods, and how to create our own parsers by subclassing the base parser class.

We also looked at practical real-world examples and applications of HTMLParser, particularly in web data scraping. Through HTMLParser, we can easily extract data from websites and save it to a file or database, making it a valuable tool for various tasks that require access to large amounts of data.

With its straightforward and flexible design, HTMLParser is a must-have tool for any data scientist or web developer who needs to interact with the web.