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Octoparse vs Import.io: which is the best for web scraping and extracting data?

7 min read

Web scraping software, also known as a data extraction tool, is the software used to collect the data from the website. It’s usually not easy for us to pick up a web scraping tool as there are so many web scraping tools available now (refer to Top 28 Free Web Scraping Software to learn more). That’s why I decided to put Octoparse head to head with import.io to see how the two tools compare. Here is everything you need to know when deciding which web scraping tool best suits you.

Feature Comparison

Here is a general comparison between Octoparse and Import.io features:

Feature

Octoparse

Import.io

Environment

Desktop app for Windows (available for MAC with virtual machine)

Web based application, support Chrome,Firefox,Safari

Selecting elements

Point-and-click, XPath

Point-and-click, XPath

Pagination

Clicking on pagination links or manually entering the XPath(websites without “Next page” links)

Entering a list of pages

Scraper logic

Variables, loops, conditionals

Selecting and extracting only

Drop downs, tabs,hovering, pop-ups

Yes

No

Infinitely scrolling pages

Yes

No

Entering into search boxes

Yes

No

Captcha

Yes with local machine

No

Signing in to accounts

Yes

Yes

Javascript

Yes

Yes

Transforming data

Regex, javascript expressions

Regular expression

Speed

Fast parallel execution

Fast parallel execution

Hosting

Hosted on cloud of Octoparse servers if subscribed to Octoparse cloud or on local machine with basic version

Hosted on cloud of Import.io servers

IP Rotation

Included in paid plans or manual IP proxy(free version)

Yes

Scheduling runs

With a premium Octoparse account

With a premium import.io plan

Data export

CSV, Excel, Txt, Databases

CSV, JSON, API, Google Sheets

Smart Mode

Yes

No

Cloud service

Yes

Yes

Up-to-date data

Yes (Incremental extraction)

Yes

Image and files extraction

No, only able to extract the image or file URLs

Yes

Coding

No

No

Support

Free professional support, tutorials, community support

Community support or professional support for paid users, customer success training

What could both web scrapers do for you?

Both interfaces are built according to the point-and-click principle, which is easy for you to extract data without coding. Both of the scrapers could deal with Javascript and AJAX pages and are able to scrape behind a login. Like a bot, they could follow the links to go into the deeper web pages by clicking the items and extracting the data on the other pages. Also, they are able to get data in CSV format and transform data by manually modifying Regular expression or XPath.

They all provide cloud services, which are able to offer API options, IP rotation and services to schedule extractors running in real time. With that, it is easy to get up-to-date data regularly without having to keep your computer on.

What could Octoparse do for you?

The biggest difference between Octoparse and its web scraping alternatives is that Octoparse can get data from interactive websites. It totally mimics human behaviour when browsing a website.

You can instruct Octoparse to scrape data from very complex and dynamic sites, because it can:

  • Sign in to accounts to scrape behind a login
  • Select choices from dropdown menus (single and multiple), tabs, pop-up windows
  • Enter keywords and search with a search bar
  • Go to a new page simply by clicking on the “next” button
  • Get data from infinitely scrolling pages
  • Able to input Captcha on local machine
  • Visual workflow to understand the logic of the scraper (Variables, loopsand conditionals) and could be changed easily with point-and-click interface
  • Smart mode to deal with a simple website just by entering the target URL
  • Extract inter and outer HTML and attributes and customize the values for further extraction
  • Advanced RegEx tool and XPath tool to modify the regular expression or XPath, which means you don’t need to know how regular expression and XPath are written(see the screenshots below)

And more! Except for the first one, these are all things that import.io cannot handle.

Here is the full list of Octoparses scraping features:

Automatic IP Rotation

API

Loops, variables and conditionals logics

Extract text, HTML and attributes

Scheduled Runs

Cloud servers to store data

Extract files and images URLs

Search through forms and inputs

Get data from drop-downs, tabs, pop-ups and hovers

Databases integration

Pagination and navigation

Scrape content from infinitely scrolling pages

RegEx and XPath Tool

Get data from tables and maps

Content that loads with AJAX and JavaScript

The downside of using Octoparse as an alternative to import.io is that you need to install the application on your own computer. And because the software is written in .Net, it only supports Windows system. A Mac visual machine is needed if you want to run Octoparse on Mac. You would also be annoyed if the Internet is unstable and the scraper stopped unexpectedly, you need to rerun the crawler from scratch. The other one is that it may take longer to learn Octoparse for you to easily make mistakes if you don’t understand the logic of the workflow. Luckily, there are plenty of tutorials and great support if you get stuck!

Besides, Octoparse is not able to extract the images and files directly; you need to extract their URLs and download them with other applications. And the function of API is quite limited.

What import.io could do for you?

First of all, import.io is a cloud-based platform, which means you don’t need to run the scraper on your machine and the data could be kept in the cloud. Therefore, you can access your data from any computer connected to the Internet. Also, you don’t need to worry about scraping process maintenance and scalability.

Unlike Octoparse advanced mode, import.io tries to guess what you want from the page, and would build an extractor for you in just a few seconds. Other features include:

  • Connect one data source with another and thus produce new, valuable, real-time data sets
  • Integrate with Google Sheets and Tableau
  • Able to extract images and files
  • API integration

Here is the full list of Imports scraping features:

Automatic IP Rotation

Cloud servers to store data

Content that loads with AJAX and JavaScript

Extract files and images

Scheduled Runs

XPath and Regular Expressions Selectors

Pagination

Get data from tables and maps

API,Tableau and Goolge Sheet integration

The downside of using import.io is that it’s not as widely used as Octoparse to deal with websites. As mentioned above, it couldn’t deal with websites with dropdown menus, pop-up windows and captcha. It’s also not possible to scrape with infinite scrolling pages, which are quite common for most web pages. There’s also no scraper logic like conditions for further extraction to specifically locate the web page or items.

And for pagination, it’s not easy as you need to enter a list of pages. As for transforming the data into regular expression and XPath, there are no built-in tools for you and you need to enter the expression yourself, which means you need to master XPath and regular expression if you want to explore more on import.io.

Cost Comparison

There’s no doubt that Octoparse has overwhelming advantages. It provides a free version with powerful functions! To summarize, that is:

Brand

Octoparse

Import.io

Basic

Standard

Professional

Essential

Professional

Enterprise

Monthly plan ($)

19

89

249

299

Yearly plan ($)

 

900

2499

1999

4999

Import.io Pricing 

Octoparse’s plans are limited by:

  • the number of crawlers
  • the number of crawlers you can concurrently run on your machine
  • the speed at which you can collect data (different cloud servers)

There are unlimited pages for each crawler and unlimited computer license for each version, including the free one.

(Note: When you enter URLs in URL list, it would suggest LESS THAN 20,000 URLs. All versions are limited to numbers such as Octoparse and need to ensure that the CPU runs the crawler at one time. But you can copy the crawler to extract the rest URLs.)

Import.io’s plans are limited by: 

  • the number of queries per month or year
  • the expiry date of the queries
  • limited functionality like image and file download, API, and up-to-date reporting
  • support

It’s sad to find out that import.io doesn’t provide free version anymore.

Most people build one or two crawlers per website on Octoparse. One is to extract the separate web pages URLs and the other one is to use URL lists to bulk extract the data with the extracted URLs. It’s highly recommended when using the cloud service.  

On the other hand, Import.io counts an extractor as one query and it doesn’t provide URL lists to bulk extract the web pages. Therefore, you either need to spin over these separate web pages in one extractor (which usually means missing data) in import.io, or you need to upgrade your version for more queries.

For both Octoparse and Import.io, you have to subscribe to a premium plan for scheduling feature —— the ability to collect data from a website continuously on a schedule (real-time, daily, weekly, monthly).

If you don’t want to learn how to use a tool and just want your data on demand, both Octoparse and Import.io provide data service extracting data for you. Just contact the sales of both companies and they will scrape the data from the website you want —— delivering them in CSV/Excel or API format.

Conclusion

It is not difficult to start a project either with Octoparse or import.io. They all deal well with both static and dynamic websites. XPath and regular expression are needed if you want to explore more, though they claim that no programming knowledge is needed. Also, both have their limits.

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