What is the difference between Python ElementTree and BeautifulSoup?

Feb 5, 2024 ยท 2 min read

When working with HTML or XML data in Python, two popular parsing modules are ElementTree and BeautifulSoup. But what's the difference between them and when should you use each?

ElementTree for XML Parsing

Python's ElementTree module provides a simple way to parse and generate XML data. Some key things to know about ElementTree:

  • Best for working with valid XML documents
  • Provides methods to parse XML into an ElementTree object
  • Enables easy traversal and manipulation of XML structure
  • Supports XPath queries to find elements
  • Can output modified XML
  • For example:

    import xml.etree.ElementTree as ET
    
    tree = ET.parse('data.xml')
    root = tree.getroot()
    
    for child in root:
      print(child.tag, child.attrib)

    So if you need to extract data from or modify XML, ElementTree is a great choice.

    BeautifulSoup for Scraping HTML

    BeautifulSoup is designed for parsing potentially malformed real-world HTML. Key features:

  • Can handle poorly formatted HTML
  • CSS selector queries to find elements
  • Built-in methods like get_text() to extract data
  • Can turn scrambled HTML into well-formed XML
  • For example:

    from bs4 import BeautifulSoup
    
    soup = BeautifulSoup(html_doc, 'html.parser')
    
    links = soup.find_all('a')
    for link in links:
      print(link.get('href'))

    So if you are working with HTML scraping or need to handle "wild" HTML, go with BeautifulSoup.

    ElementTree provides XML oriented capabilities while BeautifulSoup is more focused on real-world HTML and scraping tasks. Consider the structure and format of your data when choosing between them.

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