What Is Screen Scraping?
Daniel Tarasov
Daniel Tarasov Published: 2023/08/09

Process of harvesting online data has become one of the main factors for business growth. Companies always try to find new ways of collecting as much data as they can. Scraping of information requires a big set of instruments, and screen scraper takes its place at the forefront. With the help of screen scrapers, companies can collect data from points where other tools stop being useful. In this article we will discuss what is screen scraping used for, what task this tool can solve and how you should use it.

Screen Scraping – What is it?

In basic terms, screen scraping definition lies in the process of extracting data displayed on screen. In most cases, data from the screen is later translated to another source. Software for screen scraping can easily collect data like text, tables or even images from the different parts of the user interface. Later that data transforms into a text and presented to you in a comfortable format. For image recognition, scraping software needs a special extension that can use optical character recognition technologies.

The process of data parsing from the screen is fully automated and doesn’t require any human presence. This way data collecting can be done at much higher speeds and in a much shorter period of time. However, with the right set of tools screen scraping also can be done in the manual mode.

Screen Scraping and Web Scraping: What’s the Difference

The main difference between screen and web scraping lies in the source of information for harvesting. In case of screen scraping, all the data that can be collected should be displayed as a part of the user interface on the screen. Meaning, that screen scraping technology is mainly used for extracting information from users’ perspective. For example, it can be advertising campaigns, charts or other interface elements.

Web scraping is targeted at collecting all publicly available data, regardless of its source. Information for web scraping harvesting can be contained both in user interfaces, backend architecture, code and other sources. You can practice web scraping and screen scraping to see the difference in more details.

Summing up the explanation of how does screen scraping work, we can say that it is a good tool for gathering screen input data from different applications and documents. Web scraping in turn can be useful for harvesting texts, URLs, photos and videos. In some cases these tools can also help to crawl a website or parse information from a page. 

How to Use Screen Scraping

You can collect screen scraping data in several ways. The choice between one or other technique depends only on your requirements and specifics of the case. For example, with the use of Java, you can try to copy part of the source code of an application and paste it into your tool. But this tactic is only helpful when you have direct access to the application you need to scrape.

When a screen scraper extracts data from a website or application, the first point for harvesting will be in elements that appear on the user’s display. With basic settings can collect text and other text based data. But, you can also start scraping information from images by adding an extension called OCR. Setup like this will allow you to collect images and then transform data from them into a text. This is also similar to the difference between web crawling and web scraping. In case of web scraping you are looking to gather data, but in crawling you are looking promarly for links that contain needed data.

Uses of screen scraping become essential for many online businesses nowadays. Scraping can help companies to harvest data that is related to the looks of their sites and apps across different users in different parts of the world. This is an important process that can help to track mistakes or malfunctions in interface through all the regions. For better work with any geo-targeting related tasks, screen scraper can be powered up with residential proxies.

For a better understanding of what is screen scraping used for, we can refer to the verification of the ad placement process. Companies that specialize in the advertising market can run lots of projects in many locations or even countries at the same time. Screen scrapers can help to make sure all the ads are placed right and according to all standards. 

Venture capitalists, hedge funds and other financial organizations use screen scrapers on a regular basis to track the trends on the market. Harvested data can be crucial to make the right financial decision on time. Scrapers that are used for these objectives can benefit from using a powerful set of datacenter proxies. This way, scraper will always have a set of IPs to constantly keep its work.

More than this, screen scrapers can be used for tracking the search engine results in different locations. For example, companies can trace such results to see what ads or snippets appear in different countries or even cities. Information like this can be helpful for supporting better targeting for different groups of users. Setup of screen scraper and static residential proxies can be a good choice for this task. This way you can collect data based on location and make research more detailed and productive.

Companies also can find use in screen scrapers for maintaining competition on the eCommerce market. Online shopping highly relies on the visual part, so screen scraping can collect a lot of useful data in a short time. For example, companies can collect data about their competitors’ display for listing, images of products and reviews on the products. All this information can help understand which product to add to the catalog next, or what prices are suitable for the market.

Screen Scraping Automation

Most of the companies are forced to grow the efficiency and productivity of work to maintain constant extension of the business. That means, organizations always try to find a way to cut off repetitive operations and implement computer work to lower the cost of processes. Screen scraping software also can benefit from using automation for maintaining work. 

Lots of the screen scraping tools in the market have the automation options built in them from the start. For example, try to use a UiPath ready-made solution for automation scraping and support of OCR plugins.

Another software that can help you automate the scraping process is called ScreenScraper. This instrument supports work with different languages like C++ and JavaScript. You can choose what elements of the page need to be scraped and get detailed results in the end. 

Macro Scheduler can also help you create a number of macros to automate scraping in Windows based apps. This software can also use an integration with OCR tools. Another instrument to look for is called Diffbot. This scraper allows you to scrape texts, photos and videos automatically. Collected data later can be converted into JSON or CSV file.


Screen scraping technologies can be a good choice for you if your work involves everyday tracking eCommerce platforms, stock markets or ad campaigns. Screen scraping can provide you access to the information other data collecting solutions can’t reach. If you decide to use some of these technologies in your project, consider using a datacenter rotating proxies. Setup like this can provide you high processing capacities and maximum performance over a long period of time.

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Frequently Asked Questions

Please read our Documentation if you have questions that are not listed below.

  • What is screen scraping?

    Screen scraping is the process of collecting data from user interfaces. With help of these technologies you can gather data from user perspective and track information in UX and UI perspective.

  • What proxies are the best for screen scraping?

    The choice of the private proxy for screen scraping fully depends on your personal requirements. For example, you can try to use residential proxies to track the looks of the ad campaigns in different regions or even countries.

  • What is screen scraping used for?

    Screen scraping can be used in many cases of online work. For example you can track eCommerce platforms, stock markets or ad campaigns. Other scraping tools can not always provide access to the information that screen scraper is capable of collecting.

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