xHTML/XML to Unicode (and back)

Paul Boddie paul at boddie.org.uk
Tue Jan 24 16:49:33 CET 2006

Robin Haswell wrote:
> On Tue, 24 Jan 2006 14:46:46 +0100, Fredrik Lundh wrote:
> > Robin Haswell wrote:
> >
> >> I'm currently screenscraping some Swedish site, and i need a method to
> >> convert XML entities (& etc, plus d etc) to Unicode characters.
> >> I'm sure one of python's myriad of XML processors can do this but I can't
> >> find which one.
> >>
> >> Can anyone make any suggestions?
> >
> > any decent html-aware screen scraper library should be able to do
> > this for you.

And if it's really XHTML/XML, why not just use an XML parser? ;-)

> I'm using BeautifulSoup and it appears that it doesn't. I'd also like to
> know the answer to this for when I do screenscraping with regular
> expressions :-)

Anyway, on the subject of XML parsers, here's something to try out:

import libxml2dom
import urllib
f = urllib.urlopen("http://www.sweden.se/") # some Swedish site!
s = f.read()
d = libxml2dom.parseString(s, html=1)

Here, we assume that the site isn't well-formed XML and must be treated
as HTML, which libxml2 seems to be fairly good at doing. Then...

for a in d.xpath("//a"):
    print repr(a.getAttribute("href")), \
        repr(a.getAttribute("title")), \

Here, we print out some of the hyperlinks in the page using repr to
show what the strings look like (and in a way that doesn't require you
to encode them for your terminal). On the above Swedish site, you'll
see some things like this:


What's interesting is that in some cases such strings may have been
encoded using entities (such as in the title attributes), whereas in
other cases they may have been encoded using UTF-8 byte sequences (such
as in the link texts). The nice thing is that libxml2 just works it out
on your behalf.

So there's no compelling need for regular expressions, but I'm sure
Fredrik will offer some alternative suggestions... and possibly some
good Swedish links, too. ;-)


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