Parsing HTML With Python and PyQuery: A Tutorial

Scraping Robot
April 27, 2023

Modern businesses run on data, and web scraping is an excellent tool that allows you to extract valuable information from websites and export it into a structured format for analysis. Read more for PyQuery.

Table of Contents

Web scraping involves extracting and exporting information from a webpage for data analysis. Many sites provide access to this type of data through their API (application programming interface), which can make the process even easier.

Python’s extensive collection of resources and libraries makes it a go-to language for data scraping. PyQuery is a simple but powerful library that makes parsing HTML and XML a breeze. Its jQuery-like syntax and API make it easy to parse, traverse, and manipulate HTML and XML, as well as extract data.

What Is PyQuery?

What Is PyQuery?

PyQuery provides the convenience of jQuery-like syntax and API for querying, parsing, and manipulating HTML and XML documents. Some of PyQuery’s most useful features include:

  • JQuery-style syntax: Developers familiar with the syntax of jQuery can easily get started with PyQuery.
  • XML and HTML parsing: With PyQuery, you can easily parse HTML and XML documents with the lxml library. You can parse HTML and XML from files, URLs, strings, and more.
  • Element selection: PyQuery lets you use CSS selectors, XPath expressions, or custom functions to select elements from an HTML or XML document. It also includes various methods for refining sections, including filter ()eq(), and slice().
  • Element manipulation: You can manipulate selected elements in PyQuery based on content, structure, or attributes. You can remove or add elements, change the text or content, and modify attributes.
  • XML and HTML document serialization: There is a range of serialization options in PyQuery that let you turn documents into strings or files, including pretty-printing, encoding, and more.
  • Integration: PyQuery integrates with some other Python libraries, such as Pandas, NumPy, and Matplotlib, which makes it especially useful for data analysis.

How To Parse HTML in Python With PyQuery

How To Parse HTML in Python With PyQuery

PyQuery is the ideal library for creating an HTML parser in Python. Here’s a step-by-step PyQuery tutorial that will show you how to parse HTML in Python.

Install PyQuery

You can install PyQuery with pip, the Python package manager. From the command prompt or terminal, type the following command:

pip install pyquery

Import PyQuery

Once you’ve installed PyQuery, you can import it using the command:

from pyquery import PyQuery

Load the HTML document

Use the PyQuery function to load an HTML document you want to parse. This function takes the HTML content as a string:

html_doc = “””



<title>My Website</title>



<h1>Welcome to my website</h1>

<p>This is a paragraph of text.</p>


<li>Item 1</li>

<li>Item 2</li>





doc = PyQuery(html_doc)

Query the document

Now you can use jQuery syntax to query the document. For instance, if you want to extract the text of the first H1 element, you can use the following query:

h1 = doc(‘h1’)


Based on the content of the sample HTML document, you’ll get an output that reads:

Welcome to my website

Extract data

Chaining PyQuery commands will let you extract data from the document. You can extract a list of all of the items in the “ul” element by chaining commands as follows:

items = doc(‘ul li’)

for item in items:


This will give you the following output:

Item 1

Item 2

This simple tutorial demonstrates how easy it is to parse HTML with PyQuery. If you’re already familiar with jQuery, you’ll find the switch to PyQuery fairly effortless.

HTML is complex and nested, so it’s difficult to parse with regular expressions. You’ll achieve better results using a dedicated parsing library like PyQuery or BeautifulSoup.

BeautifulSoup vs. PyQuery

BeautifulSoup vs. PyQuery

BeautifulSoup and PyQuery are both Python libraries that can be used for parsing and scraping HTML and XML documents. Though they have similar functions, they’re different in several key ways. The best choice for you will depend on factors such as your familiarity with Python or jQuery.


If you’re used to working with jQuery, PyQuery is a natural choice. BeautifulSoup’s syntax is more similar to Python’s, particularly the ElementTree library. Developers well-versed in Python will likely find BeautifulSoup’s syntax more intuitive. However, BeautifulSoup’s syntax is more verbose than PyQuery’s.


PyQuery is usually faster than BeautifulSoup because it uses the lxml library for parsing tasks. Lxml is written in the low-level language C, which increases its speed and performance. BeautifulSoup uses Python, so it’s slower, particularly for large documents. However, the speed difference will probably be negligible unless you’re working with very large documents.

Ease of use

Your experience will determine which library will be easier for you:

  • BeautifulSoup: If you’re familiar with writing code in Python, BeautifulSoup’s Pythonic syntax will be intuitive. BeautifulSoup will also be more approachable for those who don’t have experience with Python. It has extensive documentation and a large community of users who can offer support if you get stuck.
  • PyQuery: PyQuery has a fairly steep learning curve unless you have prior experience with jQuery. But if you do, PyQuery will be easier to work with than BeautifulSoup.


While PyQuery is quick and efficient for parsing perfectly formatted HTML documents, it doesn’t work as well on poorly formatted HTML. BeautifulSoup provides more functionality than PyQuery. It is more forgiving and can even automatically fix some errors. BeautifulSoup also includes regular expressions and data navigation.


BeautfulSoup definitely has the edge over PyQuery when it comes to integrations. It integrates easily with many other Python libraries, which helps expand BeautifulSoup’s functionality. PyQuery integrates with only some other Python libraries.

How To Use BeautifulSoup To Parse HTML in Python

How To Use BeautifulSoup To Parse HTML in Python

Parsing HTML with BeautifulSoup is a little more complicated than using PyQuery, but it’s still relatively easy. We’ll guide you through the basic steps.

Install BeautifulSoup

As with PyQuery, you’ll need to use pip to install the BeautifulSoup library:

pip install beautifulsoup4

Import BeautifulSoup

At the top of your Python file, use the following command to import BeautifulSoup:

from bs4 import BeautifulSoup

Open the HTML file

Use Python’s open() function to open the HTML file you want to parse with the following code:

with open(“example.html”) as fp:

   soup = BeautifulSoup(fp, “html.parser”)

The “with” statement will automatically close the file once finished.

Extract data

Now you can use the find() tag to tell BeautifulSoup what data you want to extract. In this example, we’re telling it to find the first occurrence of a <div> tag with a class attribute of “content.”

content_div = soup.find(“div”, class_=”content”)

We used “class_” instead of “class” because Python recognizes “class” as a reserved keyword.

You can use the “text” attribute to extract data as text using the following command:

content_text = content_div.text

Or you can extract a value associated with the attribute of a tag using the get() method, as follows:

link = soup.find(“a”)

href = link.get(“href”)

This example uses the find() method to locate the first <a> tag and then uses the get() method to extract the value of the “href” attribute.

Troubleshooting an HTML Parser in Python

Troubleshooting an HTML Parser in Python

As with all coding, working with HTML parsers can be fiddly, so you may need to do some troubleshooting. Here are some suggestions on how to fix an HTML parser in Python or Jupyter:

  • Check your code for syntax errors.
  • Make sure you imported the parser correctly.
  • Update Python or Jupyter to ensure you’re using the latest version.
  • Try a different parser.
  • Check the HMTL source code for errors.

Web Scraping Challenges

Web Scraping Challenges

It’s fairly simple to use PyQuery and BeautifulSoup for web scraping. However, the scale required to collect the massive amounts of data today’s modern businesses need can be challenging. Once you’ve built a parser, you need to manage proxies, CAPTCHAs, and browser scaling. Dealing with the anti-bot measures of sites you’re scraping is a never-ending headache. Even experienced developers would rather focus on their primary business operations than micromanaging web scrapers.

With Scraping Robot, you can plug and play our API to get up and running in minutes. You can parse a website’s metadata and receive structured JSON output without the hassle of managing rotating proxies or dealing with other anti-bot protections. You can try out Scraping Robot free with 5000 scrapes per month at no charge. If you need more than that, our simple pricing doesn’t require a long-term commitment. With a simple solution and a support team available around the clock, you can focus on analyzing and getting value from your data. Sign up today to get started.

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