Parsing an HTML/XML Document

  1. From a String
  2. From a File
  3. From the Internets
  4. Parse Options
  5. Encoding

Parsing an HTML / XML Document

From a String

We’ve tried to make this easy on you. Really! We’re here to make your life easier.

html_doc = Nokogiri::HTML("<html><body><h1>Mr. Belvedere Fan Club</h1></body></html>")
xml_doc  = Nokogiri::XML("<root><aliens><alien><name>Alf</name></alien></aliens></root>")

The variables html_doc and xml_doc are Nokogiri documents, which have all kinds of interesting properties and methods that you can read about here. We’ll cover the interesting bits in other chapters.

From a File

Note that you don’t need to read the file into a string variable. Nokogiri will do this for you.

doc ="blossom.xml") { |f| Nokogiri::XML(f) }

Clever Nokogiri! With the time you just saved, approach enlightenment by meditating on this koan.

From the Internets

I understand that there may be some HTML documents available on the World Wide Web.

require 'open-uri'
doc = Nokogiri::HTML(open(""))

Parse Options

Nokogiri offers quite a few options that affect how a document is parsed. You can read about them here, but the most commonly-used options are:

  • NOBLANKS - Remove blank nodes
  • NOENT - Substitute entities
  • NOERROR - Suppress error reports
  • STRICT - Strict parsing; raise an error when parsing malformed documents
  • NONET - Prevent any network connections during parsing. Recommended for parsing untrusted documents.

Here’s how they are used:

doc = Nokogiri::XML("blossom.xml")) do |config|


doc = Nokogiri::XML("blossom.xml")) do |config|
  config.options = Nokogiri::XML::ParseOptions::STRICT | Nokogiri::XML::ParseOptions::NONET


Strings are always stored as UTF-8 internally. Methods that return text values will always return UTF-8 encoded strings. Methods that return XML (like to_xml, to_html and inner_html) will return a string encoded like the source document.


Some documents declare one particular encoding, but use a different one. So, which encoding should the parser choose?

Remember that data is just a stream of bytes. Only us humans add meaning to that stream. Any particular set of bytes could be valid characters in multiple encodings, so detecting encoding with 100% accuracy is not possible. libxml2 does its best, but it can’t be right 100% of the time.

If you want Nokogiri to handle the document encoding properly, your best bet is to explicitly set the encoding. Here is an example of explicitly setting the encoding to EUC-JP on the parser:

doc = Nokogiri.XML('<foo><bar /><foo>', nil, 'EUC-JP')