# A practical guide to Parsing

We're sure that you've noticed at this point that when we're handling HTTP parsing that we are using CheerioJS (opens new window). If you are familiar with JQuery Selectors (opens new window), fortunately a lot of this will come naturally to you.

If you are not familiar, CheerioJS is a library which allows you to programmatically pull information from HTML. This is the core fundamental on how Paperback works. Each source that you create is simply a set of parsing logic.

CheerioJS, just like JQuery, utilizes CSS Selectors as the mode of selecting elements. This means that any selector that can be used to style elements with CSS can be used to select elements with Cheerio.

# Quick Reference Guide

# The Basics

$('div').text()			// Get the text of the first 'div' block that the system can find
$('.apple').text()		// Get the text of ANY first object which has class="apple" included
$('#apple').text()		// Get the text of ANY first object which has id="apple" included
$('div.apple').text()	// Gets the text of the first 'div' block which ALSO has class="apple"

An example

<p id="someText" lang="en">
    This is some text

$('p#someText').text()		// This will return 'This is some text'
$('p#someText').attr('lang')	// This will return 'en'

"I need something deeper" example

<p class="someClass">
    <p class="myClass">
    	<p class="someClass">
        	Text that I want

Say in the above HTML, you need to parse out the 'Text that I want' phrase. Unfortunately, there is a big problem with this.

  • You cannot select $('p.someClass') as this will select the wrong element. (The root node)

Let's look at the signature for the $ object. $(selector, rootNode)

In the above examples, we've only used a selector. However you are allowed to chain selectors together to be more and more specific.

// Select a more specific area of your HTML that you wish to search inside.
let selectorContext = $('p.myClass')

* At this point, selectorContext would have selected the following HTML:
* <p class="myClass">
*	<p class="someClass">
*		Text that I want
*	</p>
* This is narrowed down enough where we can grab our text!

// Select the first <p> with the class 'someClass' INSIDE of the selectorContext selection
let text = $('p.someClass', $(selectorContext)).text()	// "Text that I want"

# Advanced Selectors

Example HTML:

    <p class="someClass" lang="en">					// Block 1
        Some Text
    <p class="someOtherClass" lang="en-us">			// Block 2
        Some Other text
    <p class="lastClass" lang="lang-fr">			// Block 3
        This is definitely some french text

Attribute Equals Selector

$('p[lang="en-us"]').text()	// Matches the first 'p' block with a language attribute equaling 'en-us' - Block 2

Not Equals Selector

$('p[lang!="en"]').text()	// Matches the first 'p' block with a language attribute NOT equalling 'en'. - Block 2

Contains Prefix Selector

$('p[lang|="en"]').text()	// Gets the first 'p' block which has a 'lang' attribute which STARTS with 'en' - Block 1
				// Note that this will ALSO match Block 2

$('p[lang|="en"]').last().text()	// This will get the LAST matching option fitting this. This will select Block 2's text.

Contains Selector

$('p[lang*="en"]').text()	// Unlike the prefix selector, if any <p> containing a language which has 'en' ANYWHERE will be
                                // selected. This will select Block 1 and Block 2. (Defaulting to 1 without a .toArray())

Ends With Selector

$('p[lang$="fr"]').text()	// Selects the first 'p' block which has a 'lang' attribute ENDING in 'fr'	- Block 3

Starts With Selector

$('p[lang^="lang"]').text()	// Selects the first 'p' block with a 'lang' attribute STARTING with 'lang'	- Block 3

# Tutorial - Basic Parsing

# Loading Data

After you've made a request and have HTML available as a string, you must first tell CheerioJS to load your data.

let data = "<div><span>some html</span></div>"// This should be the entire webpage which you've pulled.
let $ = this.cheerio.load(data)				  // This loads the Cheerio library. You may now access the DOM with the '$' keyword

It is recommended that you use the $ symbol as a variable, but this is merely convention and not a requirement.

# Example

With a given HTML document, lets do some parsing.

<ul id="fruits">
  <li class="apple">Three Apples</li>
  <li class="orange" data="orange-data">Four Oranges</li>
  <li meta="pear-data">Twelve Pears</li>

Given the above set of HTML, say that you have loaded it into Cheerio using the instructions above. What you are looking for, is the text inside each of the li objects. There should be a few thoughts which should be going through your head;

  • What unique identifier is surrounding the data that I need?
    • In the example of parsing 'Three Apples', we can see that it is always in a li block, with a class of apple
  • If the object is not entirely unique, is there any constants in the formatting?
    • If there is more than 1 object with the same signature, is the piece I want always the second in the list?

In this case, to get the 'Three Apples' text, we are looking for a li object with a class apple

$('li.apple')		// Selects the correct spot
$('li.apple').text()	// This will return the text inside of the selected area.

What if we want to get the "Twelve Pears" text? Referencing the table at the top of this document, we can use the Attribute Equals Selector!

$('li[meta="pear-data"]').text()	// This will return 'Twelve Pears'

# Tutorial - Looping Example

In most cases, when you are parsing manga from a website, you will have some kind of list. And for each element of the list, you need to get a manga object out. Lets use the following as an example.

<div class="mangaList">

    <div class="mangaObject">
        <p id="title">
            Some Title

    <div class="mangaObject">
        <p id="title">
            Some other Title

    <div class="mangaObject">
        <p id="title">
            The last title


We can note the following:

  • Each separate manga is inside of a div with a class mangaObject
  • Inside of each manga block, the title is always inside of a p with an ID of title

This brings up the question: What happens if I select something which has more than one match?

Fortunately, it's likely as you'd expect. You can easily get an array of each matching block

// Get an array of all the '<div class="mangaObject"> pieces'
let selectionArray = $('div.mangaObject').toArray()
let titles: string[] = []

// Iterate over each of the selections, and get every available title
for(let obj of selectionArray) {
    // Parse out the title. Each 'p' with the ID 'title'. Note that we want each one INSIDE of the selector we're looping in
    let title = $('p#title', $(obj)).text()

// At this point, you should have a 'titles' array with 3 elements inside!