Data scraping, sometimes called web scraping, data extraction, or web harvesting, is simply the process of collecting data from websites and storing it on your local database or spreadsheets. For the uninitiated, data scraping may sound one of those scary tech buzzwords. But it’s more conceivable than you think. Data scraping tools come in handy not only for recruitment purposes, but also in marketing, finance, e-commerce and many other industries.
As there are different web scrapers, a problem appeared: which one is the best custom scraper focused on our specific needs and scrape everything? Most off-the-shelf web scrapers are often quite generic and mostly designed to perform common and simple task. That’s to say, they may not appear to be as flexible and universal as you’d expect. To this end, I would discuss the pros and cons of 10 best popular data scraping tools for your reference. You may find the most suited data scraping tool that’s tailored to your needs.
Octoparse is a free and powerful web scraper with comprehensive features used for extracting almost all kinds of data you need from the website. You can use Octoparse to rip a website with its extensive functionality and capabilities. With its point-and-click UI, Octoparse allows you to grab all the text from the website and thus you can download almost all the website content and save it as a structured format like Excel, HTML, CSV, or your databases without coding. And you could extract many tough websites with difficult data block layout using its built-in Regex tool, and locate web elements precisely using the XPath configuration tool. You will not be bothered by IP blocking any more, since Octoparse offers IP Proxy Servers that will automates IP’s leaving without being detected by aggressive websites.
Pros: Octoparse is the best free data scraping tool I’ve met. The free version provides the most powerful functionality with unlimited pages for crawling compared to other data scraping tools I list below. The premium versions are also competitive. More advanced, with customized settings you could scrape almost every tough websites.
Cons: Unfortunately, Octoparse couldn’t scrape data from PDFs. Nor could it download the images directly though it allows you to extract the URLs of the images.
Pros: Parsehub supports more systems compared to Octoparse. And it is also very flexible to scrape data online with different needs.
Cons: Parsehub is more user-friendly for programmers with API access. The free version is quite limited with only 5 projects and 200 pages per run. Like Octoparse, it didn’t support documentation extraction. And some of the more advanced functions are tricky sometimes.
3. Content Grabber
Content Grabber is a powerful multi-featured visual web scraping tool used for content extraction from the web. It can automatically collect complete content structures such as product catalogs or search results. It's very user-friendly, yet sophisticated enough to extract data from highly dynamic websites including AJAX websites.
It is more suitable for people with advanced programming skills, since it offers many powerful scripting editing, debugging interfaces for people in need. Users are allowed to use C# or VB.NET to debug or write script to control the crawling process programmingly. For example, Content Grabber can integrate with Visual Studio 2013 for the most powerful script editing, debugging and unit test for a advanced and tactful customized crawler based on users’ particular needs.
Pros: Content Grabber provides more options for users with many third-party tools. Users are allowed to debug the script that isn’t supported by Octoparse or Parsehub.
Cons: Content Grabber doesn’t provide free version and its pricing starts from $149/month, which is quite expensive especially considering that the functionality of the lower version are available to Octoparse free version. Besides, it’s a little hard to understand at first, which is not as easy-to-use as Octoparse and Parsehub.
Mozenda is a cloud web scraping service (SaaS) with useful utility features for data extraction. There’re two parts of Mozenda’s scraper software: Mozenda Web Console and Agent Builder. Mozenda Web Console is a web-based application that allows you to run your Agents (scrape projects), view and organize your results, and export or publish the extracted data to cloud storage such as Dropbox, Amaznon and Microsoft Azue. Agent Builder is a Windows application used to build your data project. The data extraction is processed at the optimized harvesting servers in Mozenda’s Data Centers, thus relieving the client of loading web resources and threats of IP-address banning if detected.
Pros: Mozenda provides comprehensive Action Bar, which is very easy to capture AJAX and iFrames data. It also supports documentation extraction and image extraction. Besides multi-threaded extraction and smart data aggregation, Mozenda provides Geolocation to prevent IP banning, Test Mode and Error-handling to fix bugs.
Cons: Mozenda is a little pricey, charging from $99 per 5000 pages. There’s no enough logical functionality. And it requires Windows PC to run and has stability issues when dealing with extra large websites.
Pros: Scrapinghub is a powerful web scraping platform which provides different web services for different kinds of people, including the open source framework Scrapy and the visual data scraping tool Portia.
Cons: Scrapy is available for programmers. Portia is not easy to use and needs to add many extensive add-ons if you want to deal with complex websites.
Pros: Dexi.io CAPTCHA solving is more convenient for it is fully browser based. It supports many 3rd party services (captcha solvers, cloud storage, etc) which you can easily integrate into your robots.
Cons: As a commercial service, it doesn’t provide free version. Also, it's pretty complicated to understand flow. Sometimes the bots are annoying to debug.
WebHarvy Data Extractor is a lightweight, visual, point-to-click web scraping tool. It enables you to extract text, URLs, and images from different kinds of websites. Extracted data can be saved into common formats(CSV, Txt, XML) and also SQL for database input. It also provides Proxy Servers / VPN to scrape anonymously and to prevent the web scraping software from being blocked by web servers.
Pros: WebHarvy is stable and simple to use and easy to learn. It’s good for quick web scraping with several export data formats.
Cons: It doesn’t support documentation extraction and provide free version.
80legs is a powerful yet flexible data scraping tool that can be configured based on customized requirements. It supports fetching huge amounts of data along with the option to download the extracted data instantly. 80legs provides high-performance web crawling that works rapidly and fetches required data in mere seconds. Its ‘Datafiniti’ lets you search the entire data quickly. Developers can incorporate 80legs API into their applications to spread the crawling net.
Pros: 80legs makes web crawling technology more accessible to small companies and individuals by allowing leased access and letting customers pay only for what they crawl.
Cons: 80legs is not as flexible as the tools I mentioned above. If you want to get a huge amount of data, you must choose between custom set crawled data, pre-built API and crawl application to be developed.
Scraper is a Chrome extension with limited data extraction features for facilitating online research, and exporting data to Google Spreadsheets quickly. Scraper is intended for beginners as well as experts who can easily copy data to the clipboard or store to the spreadsheets using OAuth. Scraper is a free web crawler tool, which works right in your browser and auto-generates smaller XPaths for defining URLs to crawl. It may not offer all-inclusive crawling services, but novices also needn’t tackle messy configurations.
Here is how it works: you select a specific data point, a price, a rating etc and then use your browser menu- click Scrape Similar and you will get multiple options to export or copy your data to Excel or Google Docs. This plugin is really basic but does the job it is build for: fast and easy screen scraping.
Pros: As the extension of Chrome, Scraper is very easy and fast to do the simple scraping job.
Cons: It could only do the simple crawling projects with limited extraction features for simple webpage. A very basic crawler.
Import.io is a web scraping platform which facilitates the conversion of semi-structured information in web pages into structured data, which can be used for anything from driving business decisions to integration with apps and other platforms. All of the storage and technology is into a cloud-based system, and the user need only add a web browser extension to enable the tool. The point and click style of selecting pages and data fields is simple and intuitive.
It offers real-time data retrieval through JSON REST-based and streaming APIs, integration with many common programming languages and data manipulation tools.
Pros: Import.io uses cutting-edge technology supporting almost every system to fetch millions of data. It's fairly easy to use - nice clean interface, simple dashboard, screen capture and how-to videos that are user friendly.
Cons: Each sub-page costs a credit. It can quickly get expensive if you are extracting data from a number of sub-pages. And it doesn't work on every website. It depends a lot on the website's information architecture.
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