Cross browser web scraping with AutoHotkey and Selenium

While AutoHotkey is an amazing tool for Web Scraping, many people complain about being limited to connecting with COM to IE.   In the below videos I walk through how you can use AutoHotkey and Selenium to automate web scraping in virtually any browser you wish.  🙂

What is Selenium & why should AutoHotkey users care?

Installing Selenium

In order to control Selenium with AutoHotkey you need to install the SeleniumBasic.  The current version is 2.09.0 and can be downloaded here.  Selenium is now on version 3 and there is a new SeleniumBasic version promised to be released soon which will connect to version 3 of Selenium.  Make sure you download the WebDrivers of choice for your browsers.

Here are some links you might want to review (but you’ll need to adapt them for your purposes)

Installing Selenium for use with AutoHotkey

 

Using AutoHotkey and Selenium across various browsers

This video I show two ways I’ve learned how to start-up the Selenium Webdriver with AutoHotkey.

Tutorial showing how to start up and navigate with AutoHotkey and Selenium

Using AutoHotkey & Selenium- Starting the browsers & navigating to a page

Getting information from a page with Selenium and AutoHotkey

While there are a lot of similarities to data extraction in Selenium, there are quite a few differences as well. The below code is what I use in the following video.  It demonstrates some ways that you can extract data from a web page via Selenium and AutoHotkey.

 

using AutoHotkey and Selenium : Getting information from a page

Setting information on a page

Selenium and AutoHotkey are pretty different in how you set information.  Selenium has a “sendkeys” method which seems to be pretty reliable at triggering events on a page.

  • Make sure you review this:  Send keys to value:  ;Note: you need to add “driver” e.g. .SendKeys(driver.Keys.ENTER)

Setting text & clicking items on a page with Selenium and AutoHotkey

Selenium and AutoHotkey: Setting text and clicking elements

AutoHotkey Webinar- Intro to Web Scraping

In this AutoHotkey Webinar we cover an Intro to Web Scraping.Intro to Web Scraping

Video Hour 1: High-level:

  • What is an API call
  • Web Scraping vs. WebServices / API
  • Document Object Model (DOM)
  • Structure of a web page
  • Frequently used Methods & properties

Video Hour 2: Coding and Q&A

  • Building code
  • Using AutoHotkey syntax writer
  • IE verse Edge
  • Selenium for Chrome, Firefox, IE , etc.

Script Highlight: Long-pressing Hotkey to Exit a script

The below script is more of an example of how you can have more than one hotkey for a given key by tying it to how long you press the key.  In the below script, if you hold down Escape longer than 1/2 a second it will close the active program.

 

PowerPoint Deck presented in Intro to Web Scraping

Q) What is an API? (Application Programming Interface?)

A) Basically it is how devices (computers, tablets, phones, servers, etc) talk to each other.

Q) What are examples of common API calls

A) Below are a list of some examples (but the list is limitless)

  • Web Browser pulling up products on Amazon.com
  • Application / Software querying products for sale on Amazon.com
  • App on your phone getting latest Weather
  • Database pulling updated sales report
  • Using your Tablet to Select movies to watch on Netflix
  • DropBox application syncing files between your computer & cloud
  • Using Web browser to access files in DropBox

Q) What are the Main Differences between Webservice / API call & Web Browser

Q) What is the HTML DOM: Document Object Model

A) Think of the DOM as the “road map” for a webpage.  Depending on what you are trying to get/set, you’ll rely on the DOM to get the exact element you’re looking for.   Below is an image which stresses the more-frequently-used parts.

Q) How does a Family Tree similar to the DOM?

A) Both are “hierarchical” and, depending on what elements are populated, you can reliably “talk” to the correct node.  The first tree below shows how some nodes have all elements populated while some are missing some (like Name and ID)

Q) What happens if a new Node is inserted in the Tree?

A) It depends on which element you are looking at.  Names and IDs probably will not change however Tagnames often will.  This is why it is recommended to first use IDs, then Names, then ClassNames.  Use Tagname last (or go up the tree a bit and grab an ID/Name then use that “branch”)

Q) What are the frequently used methods for selecting an Element?

A) The methods below are sorted by the most reliable/stable (not presence).  When ID is present- use it!  If no ID, Name is another great one…  Classname is also becoming more reliable

  1. getElementByID– Great because if it is present it is should always unique
  2. getElementsByName– While not required to be unique, it often is so very reliable
  3. getElementsByClassName– Often unique and present
  4. getElementsByTagName– Check if there is an ID/name above it, then jump “down” to it first then use TagName)
  5. querySelector/querySelectorAll- Most flexible but is the most complicated- (If you know CSS, this is much not hard to adapt)

Q) What are Frequently used Get/Set/Trigger HTML Elements?

A) The below are the most frequently used however this is highly tied to what your goal is.

Methods:
.click() – Clicks the element
.fireEvent(“onclick”) – Fires the click event (sometimes needed to trigger the event)
.focus() – Place the cursor in the element/edit field (set cursor)
.selectedIndex() – Dropdown box selection
.checked() – Radio / Checkbox selection

Properties (Get & Set):
innerText – the plain-text for the element
.value – the plain-text for the element
.outerHTML – the HTML for the element

Additional Resources

AHK specific:

Learning the DOM (If you spend time on this you’ll thank us later!):

Review of Web Scraping tools for identifying page elements

the below video is a review of web scraping tools I’ve used & still use for assisting my web scraping endeavors.

The three versions of iWB2 learner tool can be downloaded here:

  1. Original executable
  2. Larger & zoom level corrected
  3. Beta version which Includes className

In each of the modern browsers you can press the F12 key to bring-up the built-in Developer tool.

Also, don’t forget to download my web scraping syntax writer for AutoHotkey.

Review of Web Scraping tools

Review of various Web Scraping tools