How to scrape data with Chrome extensions

How to scrape data with Chrome extensions

When it comes to data scraping, there are plenty of solutions that can give you the kind of results you are looking for. One that is quite often overlooked, however, is simply leveraging your browser.

Here, we will take a look at how you can utilise Chrome’s extension functionalities to scrape data of any website.

Why would you want to do this?

The main reason why someone would opt for using a Chrome extensions for web scraping is a limited budget. Of course, you may have a multitude of other reasons too. It’s a great option for those who:

  • Are inexperienced in data scraping and would like to get a taste before investing further.
  • Would like a simple, no-frills scraping tool without having to spend time and effort in software that can be very technical.
  • Have no need for fully-fledged data scraping as their needs can be met with something much simpler instead.
  • Need to figure out whether or not data scraping fits their own business model and how they can integrate it further.

For these and many other reasons, utilising an extension can be an excellent introduction to data scraping and may even serve as a complete package for many.

Start by doing your research

As is usually the case with DIY tech solutions, there is no single option that can fulfill your every requirement. As you might expect, there are plenty of data scraping extensions that vary in functionality, usability, and result output.

One of the things that’s common in many of these extensions is the fact that they assume a basic working knowledge of HTML and CSS.

That is because they mainly use HTML and CSS selectors to understand and scrape the data that you want and may need you to be able to customise their selections to suit your needs.

Some examples of good scraping tools (in no particular order):

How do these data scrapers work?

While this will often depend on the exact extension you choose, they all share common features as they utilise the same kind of web-based features to extract data.

To begin with, you will need to install the extension from the Chrome Web Store. After that, you should see a new icon in the top-right hand corner of Chrome.

Click on that button and you will see the extension’s working interface. Some extensions, like Web Scraper, integrate directly in Chrome’s Developer Tools which can be easily found by pressing Ctrl + Shift + I or just by hitting the F12 button.

Once you can see the user interface, you are almost ready to go. Like all other similar software, Chrome-based data scrapers operate on a click-to-scrape function so that you can quickly gather required data.

The most common output file is CSV which you can then open via any compatible software such as Microsoft Excel or Google’s own Sheets so you never have to leave your browser.

Data scraping has never been easier

After trying your first data scraping extension, you will quickly come to realise that you don’t always need complicated tools to extract data from websites.

In a time where knowing your competition and understanding big data has never been more important, we are lucky enough that these processes have never been easier either.

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