A screen scraper is a type of software that can automatically extract and save data from a computer screen without requiring any user input. Whether it’s character-based or graphics-based screens, screen scrapers have been specifically designed to capture the displayed information from personal computers, terminals, minicomputers, and mainframes.
The term “frontware” also refers to a GUI-based screen scraper which can work with graphical user interfaces.
How Does a Screen Scraper Work?
Screen scrapers work by identifying the relevant data within a display, copying it, and then storing it in a machine-readable format like a spreadsheet or database.
Typically, screen scrapping occurs via a programmed algorithm, making it a fast and reliable method of data extraction. The software mimics the manual process of retrieving data from databases, webpages or applications by going through a predetermined sequence of events.
Why Use a Screen Scraper?
The ability to automatically extract and transform data using a screen scraper is a valuable tool for businesses and individuals alike. Some common reasons for using a screen scraper include:
- Collecting and analyzing data from a variety of sources in a structured format
- Automatically monitoring websites for changes or updates
- Transferring data from one application to another
- Scanning large volumes of information quickly and efficiently
What types of screen scrapers are there?
Screen scraper tools can be classified into two main categories: browser extensions/add-ons and standalone software. The browser extensions allow users to extract data by clicking on an icon in the browser toolbar while the standalone software can run in the background of your computer and monitor various applications simultaneously.
Are there any legal issues with screen scraping?
Screen scrapers are powerful tools for extracting data from various sources quickly and efficiently. Whether you are a business owner, an analyst, or an individual, screen scrapers save time and effort in collecting valuable data. However, it is best to use screen scraping tools while keeping in mind the ethical and legal implications.