Item Loaders

Item Loaders provide a convenient mechanism for populating scraped Items. Even though Items can be populated using their own dictionary-like API, the Item Loaders provide a much more convenient API for populating them from a scraping process, by automating some common tasks like parsing the raw extracted data before assigning it.

In other words, Items provide the container of scraped data, while Item Loaders provide the mechanism for populating that container.

Item Loaders are designed to provide a flexible, efficient and easy mechanism for extending and overriding different field parsing rules, either by spider, or by source format (HTML, XML, etc) without becoming a nightmare to maintain.

Using Item Loaders to populate items

To use an Item Loader, you must first instantiate it. You can either instantiate it with an dict-like object (e.g. Item or dict) or without one, in which case an Item is automatically instantiated in the Item Loader constructor using the Item class specified in the ItemLoader.default_item_class attribute.

Then, you start collecting values into the Item Loader, typically using XPath Selectors. You can add more than one value to the same item field; the Item Loader will know how to “join” those values later using a proper processing function.

Here is a typical Item Loader usage in a Spider, using the Product item declared in the Items chapter:

from scrapy.contrib.loader import XPathItemLoader
from myproject.items import Product

def parse(self, response):
    l = XPathItemLoader(item=Product(), response=response)
    l.add_xpath('name', '//div[@class="product_name"]')
    l.add_xpath('name', '//div[@class="product_title"]')
    l.add_xpath('price', '//p[@id="price"]')
    l.add_xpath('stock', '//p[@id="stock"]')
    l.add_value('last_updated', 'today') # you can also use literal values
    return l.load_item()

By quickly looking at that code, we can see the name field is being extracted from two different XPath locations in the page:

  1. //div[@class="product_name"]
  2. //div[@class="product_title"]

In other words, data is being collected by extracting it from two XPath locations, using the add_xpath() method. This is the data that will be assigned to the name field later.

Afterwords, similar calls are used for price and stock fields, and finally the last_update field is populated directly with a literal value (today) using a different method: add_value().

Finally, when all data is collected, the ItemLoader.load_item() method is called which actually populates and returns the item populated with the data previously extracted and collected with the add_xpath() and add_value() calls.

Input and Output processors

An Item Loader contains one input processor and one output processor for each (item) field. The input processor processes the extracted data as soon as it’s received (through the add_xpath() or add_value() methods) and the result of the input processor is collected and kept inside the ItemLoader. After collecting all data, the ItemLoader.load_item() method is called to populate and get the populated Item object. That’s when the output processor is called with the data previously collected (and processed using the input processor). The result of the output processor is the final value that gets assigned to the item.

Let’s see an example to illustrate how the input and output processors are called for a particular field (the same applies for any other field):

l = XPathItemLoader(Product(), some_xpath_selector)
l.add_xpath('name', xpath1) # (1)
l.add_xpath('name', xpath2) # (2)
l.add_value('name', 'test') # (3)
return l.load_item() # (4)

So what happens is:

  1. Data from xpath1 is extracted, and passed through the input processor of the name field. The result of the input processor is collected and kept in the Item Loader (but not yet assigned to the item).
  2. Data from xpath2 is extracted, and passed through the same input processor used in (1). The result of the input processor is appended to the data collected in (1) (if any).
  3. This case is similar to the previous ones, except that the value to be collected is assigned directly, instead of being extracted from a XPath. However, the value is still passed through the input processors. In this case, since the value is not iterable it is converted to an iterable of a single element before passing it to the input processor, because input processor always receive iterables.
  4. The data collected in (1) and (2) is passed through the output processor of the name field. The result of the output processor is the value assigned to the name field in the item.

It’s worth noticing that processors are just callable objects, which are called with the data to be parsed, and return a parsed value. So you can use any function as input or output processor. The only requirement is that they must accept one (and only one) positional argument, which will be an iterator.


Both input and output processors must receive an iterator as their first argument. The output of those functions can be anything. The result of input processors will be appended to an internal list (in the Loader) containing the collected values (for that field). The result of the output processors is the value that will be finally assigned to the item.

The other thing you need to keep in mind is that the values returned by input processors are collected internally (in lists) and then passed to output processors to populate the fields.

Last, but not least, Scrapy comes with some commonly used processors built-in for convenience.

Declaring Item Loaders

Item Loaders are declared like Items, by using a class definition syntax. Here is an example:

from scrapy.contrib.loader import ItemLoader
from scrapy.contrib.loader.processor import TakeFirst, MapCompose, Join

class ProductLoader(ItemLoader):

    default_output_processor = TakeFirst()

    name_in = MapCompose(unicode.title)
    name_out = Join()

    price_in = MapCompose(unicode.strip)

    # ...

As you can see, input processors are declared using the _in suffix while output processors are declared using the _out suffix. And you can also declare a default input/output processors using the ItemLoader.default_input_processor and ItemLoader.default_output_processor attributes.

Declaring Input and Output Processors

As seen in the previous section, input and output processors can be declared in the Item Loader definition, and it’s very common to declare input processors this way. However, there is one more place where you can specify the input and output processors to use: in the Item Field metadata. Here is an example:

from scrapy.item import Item, Field
from scrapy.contrib.loader.processor import MapCompose, Join, TakeFirst

from scrapy.utils.markup import remove_entities
from myproject.utils import filter_prices

class Product(Item):
    name = Field(
    price = Field(
        input_processor=MapCompose(remove_entities, filter_prices),

The precedence order, for both input and output processors, is as follows:

  1. Item Loader field-specific attributes: field_in and field_out (most precedence)
  2. Field metadata (input_processor and output_processor key)
  3. Item Loader defaults: ItemLoader.default_input_processor() and ItemLoader.default_output_processor() (least precedence)

See also: Reusing and extending Item Loaders.

Item Loader Context

The Item Loader Context is a dict of arbitrary key/values which is shared among all input and output processors in the Item Loader. It can be passed when declaring, instantiating or using Item Loader. They are used to modify the behaviour of the input/output processors.

For example, suppose you have a function parse_length which receives a text value and extracts a length from it:

def parse_length(text, loader_context):
    unit = loader_context.get('unit', 'm')
    # ... length parsing code goes here ...
    return parsed_length

By accepting a loader_context argument the function is explicitly telling the Item Loader that is able to receive an Item Loader context, so the Item Loader passes the currently active context when calling it, and the processor function (parse_length in this case) can thus use them.

There are several ways to modify Item Loader context values:

  1. By modifying the currently active Item Loader context (context attribute):

    loader = ItemLoader(product)
    loader.context['unit'] = 'cm'
  2. On Item Loader instantiation (the keyword arguments of Item Loader constructor are stored in the Item Loader context):

    loader = ItemLoader(product, unit='cm')
  3. On Item Loader declaration, for those input/output processors that support instatiating them with a Item Loader context. MapCompose is one of them:

    class ProductLoader(ItemLoader):
        length_out = MapCompose(parse_length, unit='cm')

ItemLoader objects

class scrapy.contrib.loader.ItemLoader([item, ]**kwargs)

Return a new Item Loader for populating the given Item. If no item is given, one is instantiated automatically using the class in default_item_class.

The item and the remaining keyword arguments are assigned to the Loader context (accessible through the context attribute).

get_value(value, *processors, **kwargs)

Process the given value by the given processors and keyword arguments.

Available keyword arguments:

Parameters:re (str or compiled regex) – a regular expression to use for extracting data from the given value using extract_regex() method, applied before processors


>>> from scrapy.contrib.loader.processor import TakeFirst
>>> loader.get_value(u'name: foo', TakeFirst(), unicode.upper, re='name: (.+)')
add_value(field_name, value, *processors, **kwargs)

Process and then add the given value for the given field.

The value is first passed through get_value() by giving the processors and kwargs, and then passed through the field input processor and its result appended to the data collected for that field. If the field already contains collected data, the new data is added.

The given field_name can be None, in which case values for multiple fields may be added. And the processed value should be a dict with field_name mapped to values.


loader.add_value('name', u'Color TV')
loader.add_value('colours', [u'white', u'blue'])
loader.add_value('length', u'100')
loader.add_value('name', u'name: foo', TakeFirst(), re='name: (.+)')
loader.add_value(None, {'name': u'foo', 'sex': u'male'})
replace_value(field_name, value)

Similar to add_value() but replaces the collected data with the new value instead of adding it.


Populate the item with the data collected so far, and return it. The data collected is first passed through the output processors to get the final value to assign to each item field.


Return the collected values for the given field.


Return the collected values parsed using the output processor, for the given field. This method doesn’t populate or modify the item at all.


Return the input processor for the given field.


Return the output processor for the given field.


The Item object being parsed by this Item Loader.


The currently active Context of this Item Loader.


An Item class (or factory), used to instantiate items when not given in the constructor.


The default input processor to use for those fields which don’t specify one.


The default output processor to use for those fields which don’t specify one.

class scrapy.contrib.loader.XPathItemLoader([item, selector, response, ]**kwargs)

The XPathItemLoader class extends the ItemLoader class providing more convenient mechanisms for extracting data from web pages using XPath selectors.

XPathItemLoader objects accept two more additional parameters in their constructors:

get_xpath(xpath, *processors, **kwargs)

Similar to ItemLoader.get_value() but receives an XPath instead of a value, which is used to extract a list of unicode strings from the selector associated with this XPathItemLoader.

  • xpath (str) – the XPath to extract data from
  • re (str or compiled regex) – a regular expression to use for extracting data from the selected XPath region


# HTML snippet: <p class="product-name">Color TV</p>
# HTML snippet: <p id="price">the price is $1200</p>
loader.get_xpath('//p[@id="price"]', TakeFirst(), re='the price is (.*)')
add_xpath(field_name, xpath, *processors, **kwargs)

Similar to ItemLoader.add_value() but receives an XPath instead of a value, which is used to extract a list of unicode strings from the selector associated with this XPathItemLoader.

See get_xpath() for kwargs.

Parameters:xpath (str) – the XPath to extract data from


# HTML snippet: <p class="product-name">Color TV</p>
loader.add_xpath('name', '//p[@class="product-name"]')
# HTML snippet: <p id="price">the price is $1200</p>
loader.add_xpath('price', '//p[@id="price"]', re='the price is (.*)')
replace_xpath(field_name, xpath, *processors, **kwargs)

Similar to add_xpath() but replaces collected data instead of adding it.


The class used to construct the selector of this XPathItemLoader, if only a response is given in the constructor. If a selector is given in the constructor this attribute is ignored. This attribute is sometimes overridden in subclasses.


The XPathSelector object to extract data from. It’s either the selector given in the constructor or one created from the response given in the constructor using the default_selector_class. This attribute is meant to be read-only.

Reusing and extending Item Loaders

As your project grows bigger and acquires more and more spiders, maintenance becomes a fundamental problem, specially when you have to deal with many different parsing rules for each spider, having a lot of exceptions, but also wanting to reuse the common processors.

Item Loaders are designed to ease the maintenance burden of parsing rules, without losing flexibility and, at the same time, providing a convenient mechanism for extending and overriding them. For this reason Item Loaders support traditional Python class inheritance for dealing with differences of specific spiders (or groups of spiders).

Suppose, for example, that some particular site encloses their product names in three dashes (ie. ---Plasma TV---) and you don’t want to end up scraping those dashes in the final product names.

Here’s how you can remove those dashes by reusing and extending the default Product Item Loader (ProductLoader):

from scrapy.contrib.loader.processor import MapCompose
from myproject.ItemLoaders import ProductLoader

def strip_dashes(x):
    return x.strip('-')

class SiteSpecificLoader(ProductLoader):
    name_in = MapCompose(strip_dashes, ProductLoader.name_in)

Another case where extending Item Loaders can be very helpful is when you have multiple source formats, for example XML and HTML. In the XML version you may want to remove CDATA occurrences. Here’s an example of how to do it:

from scrapy.contrib.loader.processor import MapCompose
from myproject.ItemLoaders import ProductLoader
from myproject.utils.xml import remove_cdata

class XmlProductLoader(ProductLoader):
    name_in = MapCompose(remove_cdata, ProductLoader.name_in)

And that’s how you typically extend input processors.

As for output processors, it is more common to declare them in the field metadata, as they usually depend only on the field and not on each specific site parsing rule (as input processors do). See also: Declaring Input and Output Processors.

There are many other possible ways to extend, inherit and override your Item Loaders, and different Item Loaders hierarchies may fit better for different projects. Scrapy only provides the mechanism; it doesn’t impose any specific organization of your Loaders collection - that’s up to you and your project’s needs.

Available built-in processors

Even though you can use any callable function as input and output processors, Scrapy provides some commonly used processors, which are described below. Some of them, like the MapCompose (which is typically used as input processor) compose the output of several functions executed in order, to produce the final parsed value.

Here is a list of all built-in processors:

class scrapy.contrib.loader.processor.Identity

The simplest processor, which doesn’t do anything. It returns the original values unchanged. It doesn’t receive any constructor arguments nor accepts Loader contexts.


>>> from scrapy.contrib.loader.processor import Identity
>>> proc = Identity()
>>> proc(['one', 'two', 'three'])
['one', 'two', 'three']
class scrapy.contrib.loader.processor.TakeFirst

Return the first non-null/non-empty value from the values received, so it’s typically used as an output processor to single-valued fields. It doesn’t receive any constructor arguments, nor accept Loader contexts.


>>> from scrapy.contrib.loader.processor import TakeFirst
>>> proc = TakeFirst()
>>> proc(['', 'one', 'two', 'three'])
class scrapy.contrib.loader.processor.Join(separator=u' ')

Returns the values joined with the separator given in the constructor, which defaults to u' '. It doesn’t accept Loader contexts.

When using the default separator, this processor is equivalent to the function: u' '.join


>>> from scrapy.contrib.loader.processor import Join
>>> proc = Join()
>>> proc(['one', 'two', 'three'])
u'one two three'
>>> proc = Join('<br>')
>>> proc(['one', 'two', 'three'])
class scrapy.contrib.loader.processor.Compose(*functions, **default_loader_context)

A processor which is constructed from the composition of the given functions. This means that each input value of this processor is passed to the first function, and the result of that function is passed to the second function, and so on, until the last function returns the output value of this processor.

By default, stop process on None value. This behaviour can be changed by passing keyword argument stop_on_none=False.


>>> from scrapy.contrib.loader.processor import Compose
>>> proc = Compose(lambda v: v[0], str.upper)
>>> proc(['hello', 'world'])

Each function can optionally receive a loader_context parameter. For those which do, this processor will pass the currently active Loader context through that parameter.

The keyword arguments passed in the constructor are used as the default Loader context values passed to each function call. However, the final Loader context values passed to functions are overridden with the currently active Loader context accessible through the ItemLoader.context() attribute.

class scrapy.contrib.loader.processor.MapCompose(*functions, **default_loader_context)

A processor which is constructed from the composition of the given functions, similar to the Compose processor. The difference with this processor is the way internal results are passed among functions, which is as follows:

The input value of this processor is iterated and each element is passed to the first function, and the result of that function (for each element) is concatenated to construct a new iterable, which is then passed to the second function, and so on, until the last function is applied for each value of the list of values collected so far. The output values of the last function are concatenated together to produce the output of this processor.

Each particular function can return a value or a list of values, which is flattened with the list of values returned by the same function applied to the other input values. The functions can also return None in which case the output of that function is ignored for further processing over the chain.

This processor provides a convenient way to compose functions that only work with single values (instead of iterables). For this reason the MapCompose processor is typically used as input processor, since data is often extracted using the extract() method of selectors, which returns a list of unicode strings.

The example below should clarify how it works:

>>> def filter_world(x):
...     return None if x == 'world' else x
>>> from scrapy.contrib.loader.processor import MapCompose
>>> proc = MapCompose(filter_world, unicode.upper)
>>> proc([u'hello', u'world', u'this', u'is', u'scrapy'])
[u'HELLO, u'THIS', u'IS', u'SCRAPY']

As with the Compose processor, functions can receive Loader contexts, and constructor keyword arguments are used as default context values. See Compose processor for more info.