What Is Screen Scraping and How Does It Work?

5 min readAug 30

Originally published as https://reurl.cc/x7z1LZ

Screen scraping is a data collection technique usually used to copy information that shows on a digital display, typically a webpage. Does this sound a little bit similar to web scraping? Such a question keeps coming in. In this article, we will take a close look at screen scraping, introduce how a screen scraper works, and compare screen scraping to web scraping.

What is Screen Scraping

Screen scraping is usually associated with programmatically collecting visual data from a source, but it can also refer to reading text data from a computer display terminal. We are in the process of extracting data from graphical user interface (GUI) screens in applications and websites.

This process involves capturing screen display data from one application and translating it so that another application can display it. It is commonly done to display data from legacy applications using user interfaces that are more modern.

Why Use Screen Scraping

Techopedia explains screen scraping as:

“Under normal circumstances, a legacy application is either replaced by a new program or brought up to date by rewriting the source code. In some cases, it is desirable to continue using a legacy application but the lack of availability of source code, programmers, or documentation makes it impossible to rewrite or update the application. In this case, the only way to continue using the legacy application may be to write screen scraping software to translate it into a more up-to-date user interface. Screen scraping is usually done only when all other options are impractical.”

Despite APIs becoming more common, screen scraping is still used by many users. Here are some significant benefits of using screen scraping.

Do what APIs can not

Older applications and websites may not have modern AIPs built, so the data is not available through an API to extract data. Some parts of an APP or specific data elements may not be accessible through its formal AIP endpoints. In such a situation, screen scraping can help in collecting data.

Lower barrier to entry

Using APIs requires coding knowledge or programming skills, while setting up screen scraping has fewer steps, and users…


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