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Linux Command Line: Parsing HTML with w3m and awk

I needed to generate some fake data to simulate transactions. I wanted some valid merchant names to make the data look reasonable. After failing to search the internt for a nice CSV containing merchant names I settled on this Top 100 Retailers Chart 2011. Unfortunatly when you copy and paste the table you get a run together mess.

1 Wal-Mart Bentonville, Ark. $307,736,000 0.6% $421,886,000 72.9% 4,358 1.3% 2 Kroger Cincinnati $78,326,000 6.4% $78,326,000 100.0% 3,609 -0.4% 3 Target Minneapolis $65,815,000 3.8% $65,815,000 100.0% 1,750 0.6% 4 Walgreen Deerfield, Ill. $61,240,000 6.3% $63,038,000 97.1% 7,456 8.1% 5 The Home Depot Atlanta $60,194,000 2.2% $68,000,000 88.5% 1,966 0.0% - See more at:

Download using curl

This is the easiest part and most Linux systems will have this installed by default.

curl -s

-s will tell curl to be silent with it’s messages. The output will go to standard output.

Normalize the HTML

Before we extract content from the HTML we need it to be normalized. To do this we can use hxnormalize by in their HTML-XML-utils package.

... | hxnormalize -x

-x will tell hxnormalize to output XHTML.

Extract the table we care about

Now we need only the content we care about. HTML-XML-utils package has a tool for this as well hxselect.

... | hxselect 'table.views-table'

'table.views-table' tells hxselect to extract all table with a CSS selector of views-table.

Format the HTML

w3m is a command line text based web browser. It can also just dump formatted HTML to standard out which is what I used it for.

... | w3m -dump -cols 2000 -T 'text/html'

-dump tells w3m to write it’s output to standard out as opposed to a scrollable viewer. -cols 2000 ensures we don’t have wrapping of the lines which would make parsing more tedious. -T 'text/html tells w3m that the input should be treated as HTML.

Grab the columns we we want

Finally we need to grab only the first column. awk will help with that.

... | awk 'BEGIN{FIELDWIDTHS="5 29"}{gsub(/^[ \t]+/, "", $2); gsub(/[ \t]+$/, "", $2); print $2}'

Lets break down the awk script a little. BEGIN{...} is used to run something before we start processing data. In this case FIELDWIDTHS="5 29" tells awk that the first 5 columns are field 1 and the next 29 columns are field 2 and the remaining columns are field 3.

The second part of the awk script is what will run on each line. The first two gsub statements will trim the start and end of the respectively. Finally print $2 will print the 2nd column which in our case is the company name.

All together

Here is the final full command to run.

curl -s \
  | hxnormalize -x \
  | hxselect -s '\n' 'table.views-table' \
  | w3m -dump -cols 2000 -T 'text/html' \
  | awk 'BEGIN{FIELDWIDTHS="5 29"}{gsub(/^[ \t]+/, "", $2); gsub(/[ \t]+$/, "", $2); print $2}'