Can BeautifulSoup parse XML?

Feb 5, 2024 ยท 2 min read

Beautiful Soup is a popular Python library for parsing HTML and XML documents. With its simple API, BeautifulSoup makes it easy to extract data from web pages by navigating, searching, and modifying the parse tree.

A common question that arises is: can BeautifulSoup parse XML documents in addition to HTML? The short answer is yes, but with some important limitations.

BeautifulSoup provides basic support for parsing XML. It leverages Python's built-in XML parsing libraries to load an XML document into a tree structure. From there, you can use BeautifulSoup's methods like find(), find_all(), etc to search and navigate through the tree.

Here is some sample code to load and search an XML document with BeautifulSoup:

from bs4 import BeautifulSoup

with open("data.xml") as f:
  content = f.read()
  
soup = BeautifulSoup(content, "xml")

items = soup.find_all("item")

for item in items:
  print(item.text)

However, there are some notable limitations to BeautifulSoup's XML parsing capabilities:

  • No full validation against DTDs or schemas
  • Limited namespace support
  • XML-specific objects like ElementTree are not available
  • So in summary, BeautifulSoup allows basic parsing and navigation of XML documents, but lacks more advanced XML-specific capabilities. If you need to extensively process or manipulate XML, you may be better served using Python's built-in XML libraries like xml.etree.ElementTree or third-party libraries like lxml.

    For simple XML parsing tasks, BeautifulSoup can get the job done. But for complex applications, consider a dedicated XML library instead. The choice comes down to your specific use case and needs.

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