Monthly Archives: September 2006

Using XPath on real-world HTML documents

The article on the Server Side about Web-Harvest reminded me on one of my favourite things: using XPath to extract data from HTML documents.

Obviously, XPath won't work normall on most real-world webpages, because they aren't valid XML. However, the magic of TagSoup gives you a SAX-parser that will work on ugly HTML. You can then use XPath against that SAX stream.

Here's the magic innvocation to make TagSoup, XOM and XPath all work together:

XMLReader tagsoup = XMLReaderFactory.createXMLReader("org.ccil.cowan.tagsoup.Parser");
Builder bob = new Builder(tagsoup);
Document doc =;

which then allows you to do things like:

XPathContext context = new XPathContext("html", "");
Nodes table = doc.query("//html:table[@class='forumline']", context);

Cool, hu?