19.3. htmllib — A parser for HTML documents

Deprecated since version 2.6: The htmllib module has been removed in Python 3.

This module defines a class which can serve as a base for parsing text files formatted in the HyperText Mark-up Language (HTML). The class is not directly concerned with I/O — it must be provided with input in string form via a method, and makes calls to methods of a “formatter” object in order to produce output. The HTMLParser class is designed to be used as a base class for other classes in order to add functionality, and allows most of its methods to be extended or overridden. In turn, this class is derived from and extends the SGMLParser class defined in module sgmllib. The HTMLParser implementation supports the HTML 2.0 language as described in RFC 1866. Two implementations of formatter objects are provided in the formatter module; refer to the documentation for that module for information on the formatter interface.

The following is a summary of the interface defined by sgmllib.SGMLParser:

  • The interface to feed data to an instance is through the feed() method, which takes a string argument. This can be called with as little or as much text at a time as desired; p.feed(a); p.feed(b) has the same effect as p.feed(a+b). When the data contains complete HTML markup constructs, these are processed immediately; incomplete constructs are saved in a buffer. To force processing of all unprocessed data, call the close() method.

    For example, to parse the entire contents of a file, use:

  • The interface to define semantics for HTML tags is very simple: derive a class and define methods called start_tag(), end_tag(), or do_tag(). The parser will call these at appropriate moments: start_tag() or do_tag() is called when an opening tag of the form <tag ...> is encountered; end_tag() is called when a closing tag of the form <tag> is encountered. If an opening tag requires a corresponding closing tag, like <H1> ... </H1>, the class should define the start_tag() method; if a tag requires no closing tag, like <P>, the class should define the do_tag() method.

The module defines a parser class and an exception:

class htmllib.HTMLParser(formatter)

This is the basic HTML parser class. It supports all entity names required by the XHTML 1.0 Recommendation (http://www.w3.org/TR/xhtml1). It also defines handlers for all HTML 2.0 and many HTML 3.0 and 3.2 elements.

exception htmllib.HTMLParseError

Exception raised by the HTMLParser class when it encounters an error while parsing.

New in version 2.4.

See also

Module formatter
Interface definition for transforming an abstract flow of formatting events into specific output events on writer objects.
Module HTMLParser
Alternate HTML parser that offers a slightly lower-level view of the input, but is designed to work with XHTML, and does not implement some of the SGML syntax not used in “HTML as deployed” and which isn’t legal for XHTML.
Module htmlentitydefs
Definition of replacement text for XHTML 1.0 entities.
Module sgmllib
Base class for HTMLParser.

19.3.1. HTMLParser Objects

In addition to tag methods, the HTMLParser class provides some additional methods and instance variables for use within tag methods.


This is the formatter instance associated with the parser.


Boolean flag which should be true when whitespace should not be collapsed, or false when it should be. In general, this should only be true when character data is to be treated as “preformatted” text, as within a <PRE> element. The default value is false. This affects the operation of handle_data() and save_end().

HTMLParser.anchor_bgn(href, name, type)

This method is called at the start of an anchor region. The arguments correspond to the attributes of the <A> tag with the same names. The default implementation maintains a list of hyperlinks (defined by the HREF attribute for <A> tags) within the document. The list of hyperlinks is available as the data attribute anchorlist.


This method is called at the end of an anchor region. The default implementation adds a textual footnote marker using an index into the list of hyperlinks created by anchor_bgn().

HTMLParser.handle_image(source, alt[, ismap[, align[, width[, height]]]])

This method is called to handle images. The default implementation simply passes the alt value to the handle_data() method.


Begins saving character data in a buffer instead of sending it to the formatter object. Retrieve the stored data via save_end(). Use of the save_bgn() / save_end() pair may not be nested.


Ends buffering character data and returns all data saved since the preceding call to save_bgn(). If the nofill flag is false, whitespace is collapsed to single spaces. A call to this method without a preceding call to save_bgn() will raise a TypeError exception.

19.4. htmlentitydefs — Definitions of HTML general entities


The htmlentitydefs module has been renamed to html.entities in Python 3. The 2to3 tool will automatically adapt imports when converting your sources to Python 3.

Source code: Lib/htmlentitydefs.py

This module defines three dictionaries, name2codepoint, codepoint2name, and entitydefs. entitydefs is used by the htmllib module to provide the entitydefs attribute of the HTMLParser class. The definition provided here contains all the entities defined by XHTML 1.0 that can be handled using simple textual substitution in the Latin-1 character set (ISO-8859-1).


A dictionary mapping XHTML 1.0 entity definitions to their replacement text in ISO Latin-1.


A dictionary that maps HTML entity names to the Unicode codepoints.

New in version 2.3.


A dictionary that maps Unicode codepoints to HTML entity names.

New in version 2.3.