Extracting the contents of a table in Selenium

Suppose that you are using the Java client bindings for Selenium WebDriver and you need to extract the contents of a really big table.

The easiest way is to locate the WebElement and invoke its getText method. This works quite well: it is fast and it only shows visible text. It has one potential downside: distinctions between the cells are lost. You need to split the string into lines and words to recover explicit distinctions:

Splitting the returned string.

If the cells themselves have blank spaces in them, the parsing becomes more involved.

An alternative solution is to explicitly get the rows/cells using findElementsByTagName and then call getText on each specific cell, constructing a list of lists of strings in the process. Something like:

Going cell by cell

However, this is hideously slow for big tables! The repeated calls to isDisplayed and getText are the reason.


How to get the best of both worlds? RemoteWebDriver has a versatile executeJavascript method that performs a lot of automatic marshalling between Java and Javascript. In particular, you can pass WebElement objects as parameters from Java, and the corresponding DOM elements will be available in the arguments array! Same for the results: if you return a nested array of strings from Javascript, it will be available in Java as a nested list.

So, the idea is to construct the nested array browser-side and return it to Java in one go:

The Javascript we are going to inject.
Executing the script. Needs an annotation to keep the compiler from grumbling.

This approach seems to work quite well. Its speed is comparable with the original getText solution. In its current form, it has the disadvantage that it doesn’t check the visibility of each individual cell. (Remember that getText only returned visible content.)

I have implemented the three approaches in this GitHub repo, which tests them against a sample table.