How much do you know about web scraping? Don’t worry even if you are new to this concept. In this article, we will brief you on the basics of web scraping, and teach you how to assess web scraping tools to get one that best fits your needs. Last but not least, we present a list of free web scraping tools for your reference.
What Is Web Scraping and How It Is Used
Web scraping is a way of gathering data from web pages with a scraping bot, hence the whole process is done in an automated way. The technique allows people to obtain web data at a large scale fast. In the meantime, instruments like Regex (Regular Expression) enable data cleaning during the scraping process, which means people can get well-structured clean data one stop.
How does web scraping work?
- Firstly, a web scraping bot simulates the act of human browsing the website. With the target URL entered, it sends a request to the server and gets information back in the HTML file.
- Next, with the HTML source code at hand, the bot is able to reach the node where the target data lies and parse the data as it is commanded in the scraping code.
- Lastly, (based on how the scraping bot is configured) the cluster of scraped data will be cleaned, put into a structure, and ready for download or transference to your database.
How to Choose A Web Scraping Tool
There are ways to get access to web data. Even though you have narrowed it down to a web scraping tool, tools that popped up in the search results with all confusing features still can make a decision hard to reach.
There are a few dimensions you may take into consideration before choosing a web scraping tool:
- Device: if you are a Mac or Linux user, you should make sure the tool supports your system.
- Cloud service: cloud service is important if you want to access your data across devices anytime.
- Integration: how you would use the data later on? Integration options enable better automation of the whole process of dealing with data.
- Training: if you do not excel at programming, better make sure there are guides and support to help you throughout the data scraping journey.
- Pricing: yep, the cost of a tool shall always be taken into consideration and it varies a lot among different vendors.
10 Web Scraping Tools FREE in 3 Types
Now you may want to know what web scraping tools to choose from. In this part, we list 10 free web scrapers based on different platforms. Some of them are desktop so you need to download and install them, but they always have more powerful functions than those based on web extensions or cloud services. The lists below are the best web scraping tools free or at a low cost and would satisfy most scraping needs with a reasonable amount of data requirement.
4 Web Scraping Tools Desktop-based
1. Octoparse – Auto-detect Supported
Octoparse is not only a robust web scraping tool but also provides web scraping services for business owners and enterprises. Generally, the free version can meet your basic scraping needs, Or you can upgrade to advanced plans. Here are some main features you can learn from.
- Device: It can be installed on both Windows and macOS, just download and install from the Octoparse download page.
- Data: It supports almost all types of websites for scraping, including social media, e-commerce, marketing, real estate listing, etc.
– extract data from a complex website that requires login and pagination.
– deal with information that is not showing on the websites by parsing the source code.
- Use Cases: As a result, you can achieve automatic inventory tracking, price monitoring, and lead generation at your fingertips.
Octoparse offers different options for users with different levels of coding skills.
- The Task Template Mode enables non-coding users to turn web pages into structured data instantly. On average, it only takes about 6.5 seconds to pull down the data behind one page and allows you to download the data to Excel. Check out what templates are most popular.
- The Advanced mode has more flexibility. This allows users to configure and edit the workflow with more options. Advance mode is used for scraping more complex websites with a massive amount of data.
- The brand-new Auto-detection feature allows you to build a crawler with one click. If you are not satisfied with the auto-generated data fields, you can always customize the scraping task to let it scrape the data for you.
- Cloud services enable large data extraction within a short time frame as multiple cloud servers concurrently are running for one task. Besides that, the cloud service will allow you to store and retrieve the data at any time.
Scraping Bot is a great tool for web developers who need to scrape data from a URL, it works particularly well on product pages where it collects all you need to know (image, product title, product price, product description, stock, delivery costs, etc.). It is a great tool for those who need to collect commerce data or simply aggregate product data and keep it accurate.
ScrapingBot also offers several APIs specializing in various fields such as real estate, Google search results, or data collection on social networks (LinkedIn, Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, TikTok).
- Features :
– Headless chrome
– Response time
– Concurrent requests
– Allows for large bulk scraping needs
- Pricing: Free to test out with 100 credits every month. Then the first package at 39€, 99€, 299€ then 699€ per month. You can test live by pasting a URL and getting the results straight away to see if it works.
- Device: The desktop application of Parsehub supports systems such as Windows, Mac OS X, and Linux, or you can use the browser extension to achieve instant scraping.
- Pricing: It is not fully free, but you still can set up to five scraping tasks for free. The paid subscription plan allows you to set up at least 20 private projects.
- Tutorial: There are plenty of tutorials at Parsehub and you can get more information from the homepage.
Import.io is a SaaS web data integration software. It provides a visual environment for end-users to design and customize the workflows for harvesting data. It covers the entire web extraction lifecycle from data extraction to analysis within one platform. And you can easily integrate into other systems as well.
- Function: large-scale data scraping, capture photos and PDFs in a feasible format.
- Integration: integration with data analysis tools.
- Pricing: the price of the service is only presented through consultation case by case.
Top 4 Web Scraping Plugins and Extensions
1. Data Scraper (Chrome)
Data Scraper can scrape data from tables and listing-type data from a single web page. Its free plan should satisfy most simple scraping with a light amount of data. The paid plan has more features such as API and many anonymous IP proxies. You can fetch a large volume of data in real-time faster. You can scrape up to 500 pages per month, you need to upgrade to a paid plan.
Web Scraper has a Chrome extension and a cloud extension. For the Chrome extension version, you can create a sitemap (plan) on how a website should be navigated and what data should be scrapped. The cloud extension is can scrape a large volume of data and run multiple scraping tasks concurrently. You can export the data in CSV, or store the data in Couch DB.
3. Scraper (Chrome)
The scraper is another easy-to-use screen web scraper that can easily extract data from an online table, and upload the result to Google Docs. Just select some text in a table or a list, right-click on the selected text, and choose “Scrape Similar” from the browser menu. Then you will get the data and extract other content by adding new columns using XPath or JQuery. This tool is intended for intermediate to advanced users who know how to write XPath.
4. Outwit hub (Firefox)
Outwit hub is a Firefox extension, and it can be easily downloaded from the Firefox add-ons store. Once installed and activated, you can scrape the content from websites instantly.
- Function: It has outstanding “Fast Scrape” features, which quickly scrapes data from a list of URLs that you feed in. Extracting data from sites using Outwit hub doesn’t demand programming skills.
- Training: The scraping process is fairly easy to pick up. Users can refer to their guides to get started with web scraping using the tool.
Outwit Hub also offers services of tailor-making scrapers.
2 Web-based Scraping Applications
1. Dexi.io (also known as Cloud scrape)
Dexi.io is intended for advanced users who have proficient programming skills. It has three types of robots for you to create a scraping task – Extractor, Crawler, and Pipes. It provides various tools that allow you to extract the data more precisely. With its modern feature, you will be able to address the details on any website. With no programming skills, you may need to take a while to get used to it before creating a web-scraping robot. Check out their homepage to learn more about the knowledge base.
The freeware provides anonymous web proxy servers for web scraping. Extracted data will be hosted on Dexi.io’s servers for two weeks before being archived, or you can directly export the extracted data to JSON or CSV files. It offers paid services to meet your needs for getting real-time data.
Webhose.io enables you to get real-time data by scraping online sources from all over the world into various, clean formats. You even can scrape information on the dark web. This web scraper allows you to scrape data in many languages using multiple filters and export scraped data in XML, JSON, and RSS formats. The freeware offers a free subscription plan for you to make 1000 HTTP requests per month and paid subscription plans to make more HTTP requests per month to suit your web scraping needs.
Now, you might have exact ideas about how to choose the right free web scraping tools. Select the one that can meet your needs most according to the supported platforms, types of scraped data, free and higher plans, etc.