Powershell application – Get information from a webpage, parse it and show the results

Today I created a nice little ‘application’ in Powershell.

In The Netherlands we have a site called Marktplaats (www.marktplaats.nl) which is some sort of combination between e-bay and craiglist. This is one of the biggest sites in The Netherlands, but I was missing some search options on this site and thought they started to show to many ads. Thus I decided to try something in Powershell to help make my life somewhat easier and while I’m at it, also implement the things that I think the site is missing.

One of the main important things I was missing, was a wide search pattern which I could fine-grain down to the things I’d like it to return. (ie. searching for all free items, but excluding sand, cats, yellow stones etc).

Second thing I’m missing is and alert function. I’d like to receive an alert if something I search for gets placed on the site (and if it also complies with the from and to price I’m searching the item for.

Third thing as mentioned before: They started loading the site with Ads. At the moment it’s about 1 ad for each 2 items on the site. This is way too much and decreases the fun I have of browsing trough secondhand items.

Fourth thing: It appears that the site has restrictions on the distance radius I can set. Apparently their search function itself isn’t limited by those distance radiuses; Thus I can start to offer an app which can search any distance.


As you can see in the screen shot, there’s no more Ads 🙂

I still need to program the 2nd feature which I want (it’s harder than I thought it would be), but I did already style the app in the same template style as the site and its logo. It nicely filters out all Ads; It also filters out the items I don’t want in my search results.


Things I stumbled upon:

When resizing the form, the objects on the form didn’t resize accordingly and stayed on the same place.

This could be solved by using a splitcontainer on my form (something that splits the form in 2 parts); the splitcontainer already contains features for resizing. By setting its anchor, I was able to do the same with all the objects on the form and have them resize when I resize my form! 🙂

$SplitContainer1.Anchor = ([System.Windows.Forms.AnchorStyles]([System.Windows.Forms.AnchorStyles]::Top -bor[System.Windows.Forms.AnchorStyles]::Bottom -bor[System.Windows.Forms.AnchorStyles]::Left -bor[System.Windows.Forms.AnchorStyles]::Right))

Getting the search result was pretty easy; parsing the info a little bit harder

$WebUrl = "http://www.marktplaats.nl/z.html?
$page = Invoke-WebRequest $WebUrl
$html.getElementsByTagName('tr') | ? { (($_.className -eq 'search-result defaultSnippet group-0') -or ($_.className -eq 'search-result defaultSnippet group-1')) } | % {

After which I could do the ‘magic’ with everything it returned. Thanks to their programmers being a little bit lazy, my work was made easier with parsing the text and even changing it, so I would have to write less code (one of the things I added is an ‘open in new window’ for each hyperlink, so It would open the default browser on the system when I want to watch the product itself and I’m not stuck with the browser object in my tool (which I don’t need to extend now to support more features and/or show buttons etc).

In the beginning the script didn’t perform that well. Once I changed the replacement texts into a regex replacement, this sped up the process somewhat, but after I changed the function that changes the returned text (and checks it for certain values) to a select-string, this sped up the entire process a lot. Right now it takes me about 9-11 seconds (depending on the type of system and hardware) to get a 3,5MB result from the website, parse it, and show the parsed results (which is saved into a temp file, which is about 100KB still). All with all I’m pretty happy with how it turned out and its overall look and feel; same goes for the speed and ease; thus another great app/script to add to my collection 🙂

Next feature that’ll be added will be to check for new items and alert me when one is added inside my search criteria.

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