Although Scraper perfectly grabs information from a single, well-formatted Web page and produces a spreadsheet ready for export, the free Chrome extension isn't helpful for reporters looking to scrape more complicated databases that would require any sort of automation.
For its intended purpose -- single-page scraping -- it's simple enough to use: highlight the text you want to scrape, right click and select "scrape similar" from the menu. Provided the page contains actual tables, the tool functions beautifully from there, funneling the highlighted text and the rest of the page's tabular data into a clear chart in a new tab. The "Export to Google Docs" button then enables reporters to take the data elsewhere.
But if the database isn't formatted just right, don't expect much. We had issues with a site organized without HTML tables and got an error message on a database that displayed its results in an iFrame.
The browser extension is also a little finicky: when you highlight the data you want to scrape, do not highlight the column names or it won't work. If you grab plain text, you will either end up with a blank page result or a tab with the text you highlighted.
Scraper's also not designed for sites with more complex structures, like those with detail pages or even just multiple pages that would be too tedious for a journalist to click through. The developer was quick to point out these limitations, however, in an email response.
Because it's free and easy to use, Scraper can be a great way to grab one-off data, performing a copy-paste-export job without losing the table formatting. However, it's best for reporters working with more complicated data sets to use another tool with more functionality.
March 18, 2011//
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