[R] Externalptr class to character class from (web) scrape

Duncan Murdoch murdoch.duncan at gmail.com
Fri Jul 26 19:26:11 CEST 2013

On 26/07/2013 12:43 PM, Nick McClure wrote:
> I'm hitting a wall. When I use the 'scrape' function from the package
> 'scrapeR' to get the pagesource from a web page, I do the following:
> (as an example)
> website.doc = parse("http://www.google.com")
> When I look at it, it seems fine:
> website.doc[[1]]
> This seems to have the information I need.  Then when I try to get it
> into a character vector,
> character.website = as.character(website.doc[[1]])
> I get the error:
> Error in as.vector(x, "character") :
> cannot coerce type 'externalptr' to vector of type 'character'
> I'm trying very very hard to wrap my head around how to get this
> external pointer to a character, but after reading many help files, I
> cannot understand how to do this. Any ideas?

You should use str() in cases like this. When I look at 
str(website.doc[[1]]) (after producing website.doc with scrape(), not 
parse()), I see

 > str(website.doc[[1]])
Classes 'HTMLInternalDocument', 'HTMLInternalDocument', 
'XMLInternalDocument', 'XMLAbstractDocument' <externalptr>
- attr(*, "headers")= Named chr [1:2] "<HTML><HEAD><meta 
Moved</TITLE></HEAD><BODY>\n<H1>"| __truncated__ "</BODY></HTML>"
..- attr(*, "names")= chr [1:2] "<HTML><HEAD><meta 
Moved</TITLE></HEAD><BODY>\n<H1>"| __truncated__ "</BODY></HTML>"

So it is an external pointer with a number of classes. One or more of 
those will have a print method. methods(print) will list all the print 
methods, and I see there's a (hidden) print.XMLInternalDocument method 
somewhere. Then

 > getAnywhere("print.XMLInternalDocument")
A single object matching ‘print.XMLInternalDocument’ was found
It was found in the following places
registered S3 method for print from namespace XML
with value

function (x, ...)
cat(as(x, "character"), "\n")
<environment: namespace:XML>

shows that the as() generic should work, even though as.character() 
doesn't, and indeed as(website.doc[[1]], "character") does display 

Duncan Murdoch

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