Comparison of web scraping tools
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If any business wants to succeed, then proper surveys and top-notch market research is the prime motivator. The services of web scraping and data extraction are quite helpful in searching out the information of relevance for your business. It so happens that people copy-paste the data from the web or download the whole website, which is quite a wasteful process.

Instead of this, if they had considered web scraping, then it would have borne better results. Web scraping tools help us extract the specified information through millions of websites and save it in a database. The saved database might be in any user-friendly format, such as a comma-separated value (CSV) file or in the web-based XML file. These files could be used in the future for any of the references made for the business’s benefit.

The Need of Web Scraping

The data displayed by most of the websites available to us can only be accessed through a web browser. Most of the time, it is not allowed explicitly by the website’s functionality that you can copy and use that data for your personal or professional use.

Hence, general users of the internet are only left with the option of merely copying and pasting manually. This manual maneuvering might prove tedious, which might take up many days to be completed. Hence, web scraping proves to be an automated exercise of extracting the relevant data from the web resources.

As it is clear, it will not only save precious time in data collection but shall also provide us with the functionality of sorting and searching. The benefits of proper web scraping instrumentalities are not specific to any industry, company, or service. It has got universal usage and applications.

Let us perform a comparative study of a few of the web scraping tools available with us. In the following section, we shall be comparing the thick and thins of the popular tools of web scraping available in the market.

Web Scraper Google Chrome ExtensionGoogle chrome

Web Scraper Google Chrome Extension is one of the most popular web extraction tools available to us on a free basis. Its data acquisition capabilities are just too awesome! Also, the user interface is quite visually enticing. It provides a whole toolkit for the proper functionality of Google Chrome to be unleashed on the web. By the effective use of this tool, one can set up a fully furnished sitemap. The navigation from one page to another becomes a child’s play with this tool.

The multifaceted plan of web page navigation provides additional powerful capabilities for your web extraction requirements. The dynamic feature set of Web Scraper Google Chrome Extension makes handling AJAX and JavaScript pages an efficient task, on a different plane altogether.

Moreover, you can also reproduce the extracted data in a comma-separated value (CSV) file. The choice of a multiplicity of data sets is an added advantage of this tool. The script data is either stored over a cloud platform or downloaded on the local machine. The inbuilt browsing feature of the scraped web pages makes it a cakewalk for naive users.

Downsides

How so ever, this tool has its downsides as well. One of the downsides of this tool is that the full automation features are absent. As it is clear that this tool could only be used in the Google Chrome browser, so it proves to be a major hurdle for other web browsers’ users. Interoperability features to make it work on a cross-web-browser basis are yet to be developed by its originators.

Outwit Hub

Outwit Hub is a software tool that provides data extraction techniques in a reasonably simple manner. One can operate this software tool without having to have much technical or programming knowledge. The most impressive feature of this tool is that it works in a general way by harvesting everything! One can extract images, text, as well as links.

Afterward, one can choose what is required and what is not. This is fully appropriate mechanization towards the cause of web scraping whereby the user is provided the choice of kind of data one needs for his purpose. This software is available in both light as well as professional versions. In the light version, web scraping has been constrained to 100 links or records to be extracted.

Howsoever, one can extract unlimited pictures in the light version. In the professional version of this web scraping tool, all the latest features are incorporated, including:

  • The feature of downloading of documents such as PPT, XLS, PDF, DOC, and RTF.
  • The feature of extracting recurring words along with an additional element of grouping essential words.
  • Grabbing of RSS feeds and email.
  • Setting up numerous scrapping methodologies as per the need.
  • The deployment of macros can achieve automation.
  • Jobs could be scheduled as per the available constraints.

The standalone versions of this web scraping tool to extract documents or images are also available with OutWit Docs and OutWit Images. Microsoft Excel

Not just the links, images, and documents, but one can also export the data in MS Excel format. Everything is so organized that it becomes a child’s play to manipulate the extracted data with this web extraction tool. The strength of this tool lies in the inbuilt navigation facility. One can export the extracted data into SQL scripts, MS Excel format, HTML format, or Comma Separated Values format.

Downsides

However, this tool has impressed many critics; still, certain specific features seem to be missing. Those features are automated sending features of web-based forms, IP proxy features, and CAPTCHA bypass mechanization. The tool is still in the development stage, and the programming minds behind this application have promised to come up with these features in the future. We are in high anticipation of these features to get added for the expansion of its capabilities.

Spinn3r

Spinn3r is a great choice to scrape social media needs, RSS feeds, and blogs. It utilizes FireHose API, which alone tackles 90% of its indexing and crawling work. It is also provided with the option of filtering of data by which it manages to scrape keywords. This ultimately helps in seeding-out non-required information. It utilizes the same scraping mechanizations which are used by Google.

The scraped data is stored in the format of the JSON file. This tool keeps on working in the background for web scanning and updating of data sets. You are also provided with the console for the administration, which is fully packed with the features which allow you to perform searching operations on the extracted data. Spinn3r is an awesome web service for indexing blogs and media websites. It can provide real-time raw access for every one of the blog posts or news items being published.

By its effective utilization, one can focus on the main application itself. The data extraction needs could be left to this top-rated web scraping tool to be done. The feature set of Spinn3r for the scrapping of news, web content, and blogs is available to be extracted in any of the languages and in whatever big amount as is required. It has also got an inbuilt text searching API based on the engine of Elasticsearch to be done in tandem with the content index of high quality.

This API can let you search for random strings of text, or you may also apply complicated Boolean algebra based logic. These advanced features of aggregating search results via the input string make this web tool an excellent choice.

Downsides

Spinn3r could be the ideal solution only if the requirements of data scraping constraint towards the media websites. For becoming an all-purpose web scraping tool, it has got a long distance to travel. We speculate that soon in the latest versions of this tool; we would see general-purpose web scraping features.

Fminer

Fminer is one of the best web scraping tools available with us, which provides us with top out-of-the-box features. It has an inbuilt visualized admin-panel, making it possible to have an intuitive way to extract data from the websites. Even in those cases, when our targeted website is a complicated project which can only be accessed by proxy servers, multi-layer crawling, and AJAX handling, this web extraction tool could easily be deployed. When your project is very much intricate, the Fminer web scraping tool is what you all need!

It is a popular software tool for web crawling, web harvesting, screen scraping, web data extraction, and web scraping. It has added support for the Mac Operating System and Windows as well. It is one of the simplest of the web extraction tools, making it possible that your data mining exercises become an easy breeze.

The most critical of the projects, such as – classified websites of real estate and the catalogs of products, could easily be handled via the Fminer web extraction tool. You have the liberty of choosing the data type and the set format of your output file while you use the Fminer web scraping tool.

You can choose to specify the type of output files such as SQL, CSV, or MS Excel, parsed as per your requirement. The most classic of the features which are provided by the Fminer web scraping tool is that it allows you to perform scheduling of certain websites of your choosing. Your project would auto-renew or increment the extracts of your data by going through its specified scheduling module.

This web scraping tool’s distinct feature is the allowance of the procedure of cracking in a visualized format via a diagram. One has the choice of recording the macros via navigating the web using a web browser.

The tool is pretty much powerful. It offers features like processing JavaScript and AJAX solutions of CAPTCHA, customized code for Python, and scheduler of tasks combined with the reports over email.

The coding of Fminer is done in Python language. Hence, the cross-scripting feature of Python allows it to be executed over both Mac and Windows machines.

Downsides

Because of its powerful features, it is highly recommended. However, it lacks certain aspects. We expect the developers to work on CAPTCHA solving, data adjustment post-extraction and regex support to enhance their abilities. The scraper Fminer shall become more powerful than it is now with this addendum.

ParseHub

ParseHub is a data extraction tool made in a visualized way to allow anyone to scrape data from the web. By effectively deploying ParseHub’s features, one would never require to rewrite a web scraper from scratch again. It allows the creation of APIs from even those websites which explicitly don’t allow it.

It becomes easy to handle AJAX, JavaScript, forms, dropdown authentication, infinite scrolling, nested comments, search, calendar, and even interactive maps by its proper deployment. It comes in both the versions free and customized enterprise-level plans for the enormous extraction of data. Specialized features of data extraction are made available with ParseHub, which are as follows:

  • Extraction of web data.
  • Pricing extraction.
  • Extraction of phone numbers.
  • Mining of IP addresses.
  • Image scraping.
  • Email scraping.
  • Disparate data collection.

The free version of ParseHub provides all the features for a limited time frame. It proves to be cost-effective in case one wants to scale the needs of data mining in the future. The scheduling of data scraping could be implemented more efficiently. Even those websites which implement IP rotation, ParseHub can easily extract the data. It can produce the output file directly towards the Google sheets. An additional visual feature that makes it stand apart from conventional web scraping tools is that-it posts screenshots of the different statistics of the system at different times.

The debugging mode provided within the ParseHub mix-set is one of the most visually pleasing experience. The learning graph of ParseHub rises exponentially as the interface is visually self-explanatory. Even those people who have less technical inclination can easily operate and learn its features in a very short period of time. However, there exist some of the functions which are relatively intricate, which are a bit difficult to grasp while in the first encounter. Still, the customer support provided fairly compensates for this.

Downsides

Despite having an awesome visualized user interface, it still lacks the power of formatting the extracted data in a presentable format. Hence, you have to do a lot of mental maneuvering with the extracted data. You can also reduce your workload by the intelligent application of macros across the Excel sheet produced, thereby posting directly into it.

OctoParse

OctoParse is one of those visually aesthetic web scraping tools which are quite easy to be configured. It comes with a pointing and clicking kind of user interface which allows you to let OctoParse learn to navigate and scrap the fields from a website. It performs its actions in a mimicking way by learning from the human user action over a website or a web-based resource.

An additional feature of OctoParse is that it lets you store the extracted data directly over the cloud. However, the option of storing on the local machine also exists. You are also provided with the possibility of exporting the extracted data in MS Excel, HTML, CSV, and text format. OctoParse, a data extraction tool, provides the options for bulk downloads of data even for less technical knowledge. For most of the tasks related to web scraping, almost zero experience of coding is required.

For a person not incline towards software technology, usage of OctoParse is like a child’s play. The self-learning capabilities of OctoParse make it stand apart from the traditional and conventional web scraping tools available in the market. The option of choosing the output format is also provided within the implicit features of OctoParse.

People who have any inclination towards research methodology of software technologies and emerging web technologies, this OctoParse web extraction tool is a boon in a certain way. Howsoever, it doesn’t take much time to learn the intricate features of this tool; still, the time deployed in the learning and training is worth it.

Downsides

The relatively intricate features of OctoParse prove to be a bit nasty exercise in futility for people who have no technical background. For those who are new in web scraping, this may prove to be different in the learning curve. However, the time deployed in its learning shall prove its worth of it.

Comparison of Hosted Services Tools of Web Scraping

Howsoever, it is true that tools can handle data extraction requirements ranging from simpler to extensive ones; still, these tools are not a recommended business solution for dedicated businesses. If you are in the market with the full-fledged task of acquiring data from foreign market-driven intelligence or its research, you ought not to trust simple web scrapping tools!

If you are a business, then your requirements become a large scale and complicate. As such, the tools don’t prove to be a lasting solution to fulfill your expectations. Do-it-yourself kinds of tools would be the appropriate choice, in the case, of your requirements of data being limited.

You can trust these tools if you are trying to scrape data from reasonably simple websites. Data as a Service (DaaS) solution providers would prove to be the ideal auction for data’s enterprise-grade requirements. In case your needs of data demand a customized setup, then any kind of tools shall not be able to fulfill these.

Say, for instance, that you require scheduled pricing mechanization from one of the best seller e-commerce websites; then, you cannot trust a tool for this purpose. You have to outsource your data requirements to a full-fledged professional web scraping service provider.

With a full-fledged scraping provider, you would be able to set up the monitoring mechanism towards the targeted websites to ensure that your setup of a web-based scraping is well oiled.

Also, another downside of tools is that there is a complete absence of customizations. Not just this, they require constant maintenance as well. Hence, trust a hosted data scraping service provider maintaining a persistent and smooth data flow for your commercial needs.

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