ASPNetHostingNews.com Tutorial – How to Scrape Content Using HTML Agility Pack

What is HTML Agility Pack?

HTML Agility Pack is an HTML parser, which can extract data out of HTML pages, either by using XPATH language or by using simple search queries (we’ll cover both methods).

HTML and XML

HTML is a markup language same as XML, but still there are differences which make dealing with them a bit different. Basically HTML is a strict structure in terms of node sets and attribute sets, but in general more documents online are not exactly following the proper structure since browsers usually manage to deal with rendering out the document in UI.

However, this makes it more difficult to read them in case you want to from website itself as you cannot apply all XML rules since structure is not strictly followed.

It makes sense to use standard .NET classes which work with XML to parse HTML and in some cases it works, but for dynamic content websites, where content is updated daily or even more often and possibility of errors in structure are great, this might be not so useful.

Faking your request and introduce to website as a browser

You might face problems in the beginning later on if the website discovers that you are actually crawling it. To avoid this you need to modify you request to be the same as the one coming from the browser.

Acquring XPath filter for elements

To obtain element XPath you can use the tool build in GoogleChrome or use add-on called FirePath for Firefox browser. XPath that you get from these tools is not actualy the bet since it does not include filtering by attribute, but you can modify it. Still a lot better than writing the whole XPath from the scratch.

For GoogleChrome there is a nice extension called XPath Helper which generates XPath with including attributes of the elements.

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