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What's the Difference between Web Scraping and Screen Scraping

Monday, August 9, 2021

When it comes to data extraction, there are variable terms such as data scraping, web scraping, and screen scraping. What are the differences? Generally speaking, they are all techniques to gather data for different uses and sometimes can be used interchangeably. Under certain circumstances, they may differ.


Table of contents

What is data scraping

Web scraping: data from websites

Screen scraping: data from the screen

Closing thoughts


1 What Is Data Scraping?

Data scraping is a process that undertakes automatic capturing of data on websites, applications, or legacy systems. As data or information is scattered around a great number of different places on the Internet, data scraping is a powerful technique for people to integrate needed data and information spanning across various channels. 



Below we will look into two main branches of data scraping: Web Scraping and Screen Scraping.

data scraping get data from websites 


2 Web Scraping: Scraping Data from Websites

We browse websites using a browser. That’s because the information is written in an HTML form and the browser is the tool to help display it in a readable way. Scraping data from websites is very much like human behaviors browsing over a number of sites. The difference is that to get information available in a local file, web scraping extracts data from web pages into neatly organized documents for download.


Some of the web scraping tools are capable of API connection. In this case, the application can be tuned to work in harmony with another system. As they are well connected, scraped data in the application will be simultaneously updated on the given system. 


Web scraping is the most part of data scraping that generates business values. The use of web scraping may be more extensive than you think, ranging from e-commerce, consulting industry, journalism to gambling.


Web scraping is widely used in cases like:

    • E-commerce Marketing: with a scheduled scraping, users can get real-time data from various online marketplaces simultaneously. Pricing information will be used for price monitoring. Sensational analysis can be made as buyers’ reviews are scraped. Data such as sales, stocks, rankings will help marketers make a wiser decision.
    • Content Aggregation: many people and businesses are making money by sourcing valuable content online, reworking and aggregating them into an organized structure. People would love to pay for such service to prevent themselves from being swallowed by a sea of information. Building a job board is a bit like this - gathering valuable job postings from different channels. However, there is more about content aggregation.
    • Academic Research: Octoparse is serving more than 400 educational institutes in support of their research projects, both quantitative and qualitative. Research topics involve financial data, development of a specific industry, and linguistic studies, social media analysis, etc. 


Web scraping tool: Octoparse

Octoparse turns web pages into structured spreadsheets within clicks.

    • Free-for-life plan
    • Easy to use with auto-detection of web data
    • Templates to scrape from popular sites like Amazon, Facebook, Yelp.
    • Advanced functions to keep the process smooth: IP rotation, Schedule scraping, API, Cloud service.


octoparse interface


Octoparse is a handy tool for non-coders to get data from the web and also offers advanced services for enterprises to get specific dataIt is friendly for new starters with great user support. You can find tutorials in the Help Center and the community is also available for Q&A. 

More web scraping tools await your exploration.


3 Screen scraping: scraping data from the screen

Screen scraping is also one of the data scraping techniques. Unlike web scraping, screen scraping does not specifically target information on websites or help parse the information selected. It’s more like a visual detector to extract directly from the computer terminal screen. 


screen scraping

Screen scraping is applicable to scrape information from the UI of the applications or texts from scanned documents (See Copyfish below). OCR (Optical Character Recognition) is applied - if you have ever used a tool to transfer PDF into WORD, you know what I am talking about.


And for many companies, screen scraping is also used to retrieve data from Legacy systems. The system itself is outdated by today’s standards but still contains vital data. For many reasons, rewriting the source code as a way to update the Legacy system could be such a costly project, or even impossible. Thus, people would use screen scraping to get the data from the screen and pass it to a modernized UI for display. In this way, screen scraping can help save heavy IT costs as a modernization solution to an obsolete system.


Screen scraping tool


“Screen Scraping that works everywhere”

    • Screen OCR for Citrix or virtualized applications
    • Works everywhere - Flash, PDF, Legacy, Siebel
    • Screen scraper - extract screen text from running apps



Uipath offers 100% accurate text capture from applications like MS Office, WPF, PDF, Flash, etc. Besides, Uipath also offers solutions pertaining to automation and Artificial Intelligence.



“Copy, paste and translate text from any image, video or PDF.”

Copyfish is a Chrome extension for easy screen scraping. It’s browser-based. You can extract texts from the UI of the browser, no matter if it is an image or a video clip. Anytime you want to copy the content which is protected and not allowed to select by click, this could be a helpful tool to crack it.


Closing Thoughts

Only profound, solid data analysis can guide corporations with valuable insights and shed light on what decision should be made to further boost the business. Data scraping, therefore, is widely adopted by all businesses. Pick a tool and start your journey on data scraping. The efforts will pay back.



Author: Cici 

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