HTML entity fixer

25 November 2004   9 comments   Python

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Here's a little program I wrote recently to fix incorrectly defined characters into HTML entities. For example, this is incorrect:

<b>Bärs &amp; Öl</b>

But this is correct:

<b>B&amp;auml;rs &amp;amp; &amp;Ouml;l</b>

To demonstrate I have set up a little test page here so that you can test to convert your impure HTML content.
Run test program

Here's the source code for the program:

from htmlentitydefs import entitydefs

entitydefs_inverted = {}
for k,v in entitydefs.items():
   entitydefs_inverted[v] = k

_badchars_regex = re.compile('|'.join(entitydefs.values()))
_been_fixed_regex = re.compile('&amp;\w+;|&amp;#[0-9]+;')
def html_entity_fixer(text, skipchars=[], extra_careful=1):

   # if extra_careful we don't attempt to do anything to
   # the string if it might have been converted already.
   if extra_careful and _been_fixed_regex.findall(text):
       return text

   if type(skipchars) == type('s'):
       skipchars = [skipchars]

   keyholder= {}
   for x in _badchars_regex.findall(text):
       if x not in skipchars:
           keyholder[x] = 1
   text = text.replace('&amp;','&amp;amp;')
   text = text.replace('\x80', '&amp;#8364;')
   for each in keyholder.keys():
       if each == '&amp;':

       better = entitydefs_inverted[each]
       if not better.startswith('&amp;#'):
           better = '&amp;%s;'%entitydefs_inverted[each]

       text = text.replace(each, better)
   return text


Harald Armin Massa

I learned that using Umlauts may be quite correct by setting the encoding to latin-1 (aka ISO something) or UTF-8 ... esp. with xhtml.

So the only BAD chars will be <,> and & ...

James Harlow
Harald - you're correct (iso8859-1, by the way) - but making sure that the declared encoding of the document is the actual encoding of the document is not trivial. It's better to encode, if you can. explains it much better than I can. :-)
It's not better to use entitytdefs.iteritems() instead of .items()?
Actually not. iteritems() is only faster than items() when the size of the dictionnary exceeds 1000 if the elements in the dict are small. I know this because I've done some benchmarking.
Peter, thanks for publishing this on the web. You think it'd be easier or more intuitive to html-escape characters in python. Have you thought about submitting your code for inclusion as a global module?

Because I'm such a forward thinker with a knack for coming up with unique names... I think...

from htmlescape import *

Rafael Zanella
Mine lame version:


import sys
import os


#DICT { char : HTML entity }
dicionario = {
# ISO 8859-1 Character Entities
'À' : "&Agrave;", 'Á' : "&Aacute;", 'Â' : "&Acirc;", 'Ã' : "&Atilde;", 'Ä' : "&Auml;", 'Å' : "&Aring;",
'Æ' : "&AElig;", 'Ç' : "&Ccedil;",
'È' : "&Egrave;", 'É' : "&Eacute;", 'Ê' : "&Ecirc;", 'Ë' : "&Euml;",
'Ì' : "&Igrave;", 'Í' : "&Iacute;", 'Î' : "&Icirc;", 'Ï' : "&Iuml;",
'Ð' : "&ETH;", 'Ñ' : "&Ntilde;",
'Ò' : "&Ograve;", 'Ó' : "&Oacute;", 'Ô' : "&Ocirc;", 'Õ' : "&Otilde;", 'Ö' : "&Ouml;", 'Ø' : "&Oslash;",
'Ù' : "&Ugrave;", 'Ú' : "&Uacute;", 'Û' : "&Ucirc;", 'Ü' : "&Uuml;",
'Ý' : "&Yacute;",
'Þ' : "&THORN;", 'ß' : "&szlig;",
'à' : "&agrave;", 'á' : "&aacute;", 'â' : "&acirc;", 'ã' : "&atilde;", 'ä' : "&auml;", 'å' : "&aring;",
'æ' : "&aelig;", 'ç' : "&ccedil;",
'è' : "&egrave;", 'é' : "&eacute;", 'ê' : "&ecirc;", 'ë' : "&euml;",
'ì' : "&igrave;", 'í' : "&iacute;", 'î' : "&icirc;", 'ï' : "&iuml;",
'ð' : "&eth;", 'ñ' : "&ntilde;",
'ò' : "&ograve;", 'ó' : "&oacute;", 'ô' : "&ocirc;", 'õ' : "&otilde;", 'ö' : "&ouml;", 'ø' : "&oslash;",
'ù' : "&ugrave;", 'ú' : "&uacute;", 'û' : "&ucirc;", 'ü' : "&uuml;",
'ý' : "&yacute;", 'þ' : "&thorn;", 'ÿ' : "&yuml;",

def main ():
if (sys.argv[1]):
originalFile = open(sys.argv[1], "r")
newFile = open(sys.argv[1] + ".RC", "w");

while 1:
read = originalFile.readline();
strHolder = "";

if not read:

for char in read: # for i in xrange(len(read) - 1)
if ( ord(char) > 128):
strHolder += dicionario[char];
strHolder += char;
except KeyError: # if the char is extended ASCII but hasn't been included on the dict
strHolder += char;
#End for
print strHolder; ##scaffolding
#End while

#end if
except IndexError:
print "\n\nModo de uso: <Nome_Do_Arquivo>\n\n"; return 1;
except IOError:
print "\n\nArquivo nao pode ser aberto...\n\n"; return 2;
#end main

Thanks a lot for your Script. You made my day. So far i have been using a homemade script with a self defined lookup table for Ä, Ö, Ü and so on. I am still wondering why python struggles with this so often required feature. I guess i do not understand the full picture but i liked to have this kind of functionality in the modules concerning XML/HTML. Kind regards, da8
Matt H
Hi, Great program. I needed to add one line at the beginning to get it to work:

import re

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