Loading HTML Files into BeautifulSoup for Web Scraping

Oct 6, 2023 ยท 2 min read

When using BeautifulSoup for web scraping in Python, you'll need to load the target HTML document into a BeautifulSoup object to start parsing and extracting data. Here's how to properly read an HTML file from disk using BeautifulSoup.

Opening the File

First, open the HTML file in read-binary mode:

with open("page.html", "rb") as file:
    html_doc = file.read()

The "rb" mode will read the HTML as raw bytes, which BeautifulSoup needs.

Creating the BeautifulSoup Object

Pass the raw HTML bytes into the BeautifulSoup constructor:

soup = BeautifulSoup(html_doc, "html.parser")

This creates a BeautifulSoup object containing the document structure.

Choosing a Parser

By default BeautifulSoup uses Python's built-in html.parser. But you can choose others like:

  • lxml - Faster, used for production web scraping.
  • html5lib - Most lenient against malformed HTML.
  • xml - For parsing XML documents.
  • For example:

    soup = BeautifulSoup(html_doc, "lxml")
    

    Direct String Input

    For short samples, you can also pass a raw HTML string directly:

    html_str = "<h1>Hello World</h1>"
    soup = BeautifulSoup(html_str, "html.parser")
    

    Great for testing code snippets.

    Limitations

    One limitation is that Beautiful Soup won't execute any JavaScript on the page. A module like Selenium may be needed for dynamic pages.

    Overall, BeautifulSoup makes it very straightforward to load up an HTML document ready for parsing and extraction. With the file loaded into a soup object, all the BeautifulSoup methods are ready to use for scraping data!

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