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Translator Framework

The translator framework is a way to build web translators that lets translator authors avoid most of the boilerplate that usually is required for new translators, making it possible to write simple content scrapers in just a few lines of JavaScript.

The framework was written and contributed by Erik Hetzner and is licensed under the AGPLv3+. It currently resides at, but there are plans to include it in Zotero itself.

To use the framework, simply insert the framework code at the beginning of your translator, after the translator information block (JSON header). If you are using Scaffold to develop your translator, you won't see the information block, and can click “Uses translator framework” on Scaffold's Metadata tab to automatically include the code.

You'll start writing beneath the line that reads: /* End generic code */

Note: The latest version of Scaffold, the Zotero translator IDE, can automatically include the framework code.

Example Translator

From EurasiaNet.js:

function detectWeb(doc, url) { return FW.detectWeb(doc, url); }
function doWeb(doc, url) { return FW.doWeb(doc, url); }
/** Articles */
itemType         : 'newspaperArticle',
detect           : FW.Url().match(/(\/node\/\d+|articles\/[a-zA-Z0-9]+\.shtml)/),
title            : FW.Xpath('//h1[@class="title"]').text().trim(),
attachments      : [{ url: FW.Url().replace(/node/,"print"),
  title:  "EurasiaNet Printable",
  type: "text/html" }],
// here, we use the replace(..) to break names on  
creators         : FW.Xpath('//div[@class="submitted"]/span[@class="authors"]/a')
                    .text().replace(/\s/," ").cleanAuthor("author"),
date             : FW.Xpath('//div[@class="submitted"]/span[@class="timestamp"]').text(),
tags             : FW.Xpath('//div[@class="terms terms-inline"]/ul/li/a[@rel="tag"]').text(),
publicationTitle : "EurasiaNet"
itemType         : 'multiple',
detect           : FW.Url().match(/\/search\/node/),
choices          : {
  titles :  FW.Xpath('//dl[@class="search-results node-results"]/dt[@class="title"]/a').text().trim(),
  urls    :  FW.Xpath('//dl[@class="search-results node-results"]/dt[@class="title"]/a').key("href")

This is the functional portion of a real, working web translator using the translator framework. It defines two scrapers, in this case one for newspaper articles and one for multiple result pages.

This is the general model for creating a translator using the framework – define several scrapers that are triggered by different kinds of page content or URLs.


As the example translator above shows, there are two kinds of scrapers in the framework, defined using the functions FW.Scraper() and FW.MultiScraper(). The first kind identifies item metadata for a single item from a single page, while the second kind identifies item page URLs on a single page and is usually used for things like search results of journal issue tables of contents.

Both kinds of scrapers are defined by passing an object with the scraper's item type (itemType), detect conditions (detect) and other keys to the corresponding function.

Each value can be either a string, in which case it is always the same, a function, or a chained series of filters. This last form is most common. In the above example we can see, for instance, the creators filter. It starts with an XPath expression. This expression is then turned into text only using the .text() function. Finally, the author is cleaned up using the cleanAuthor function as provided by Zotero.



  • Required keys: detect, itemType, choices (with two keys: titles, urls)
  • Optional keys: beforeFilter, itemTrans (attachments, key on choices object)

The key choices must be set to an object with keys titles and urls. The latter should be set to expressions that yield sets of corresponding titles and URLs of items to be processed by other scrapers defined in the translator. If set, the attachments key should be set to an expression yielding a corresponding set of attachment objects (that is, one for each title and URL).

choices : {
 titles    : FW.Xpath('//table[contains(@class,"searchresults")]/tbody/tr/td/a').text(),
 urls      : FW.Xpath('//table[contains(@class,"searchresults")]/tbody/tr/td/a').key('href').text()

The beforeFilter key can be set to a function that returns a new URL. The framework will request this new document and run the MultiScraper in the context of the resulting document and URL. This is used in the framework translator for Google Scholar:

beforeFilter : function (doc, url) {
                var haveBibTeXLinks = FW.Xpath('//a[contains(@href, "scholar.bib")]')
                if(!haveBibTeXLinks) {
                      url = url.replace (/hl\=[^&]*&?/, "");
                      url = url.replace("scholar?",
                 return url;

Here the option is used to guarantee that the multiple item page has links to the BibTeX files that the translator uses.


To add attachments to an item, specify the attachments key in the scraper object. The key should be set to an array of attachment objects:‌ { url : … , title : … , type : … }.

The keys url, title and type can be set to single values (like FW.Url() or “Page Snapshot”) or to multiple values, as in the XPath constructions below.

 attachments : [
  { url : FW.Url(),
    title : FW.Url().match(/[0-9]+$/).prepend("Washington Monthly Snapshot pg. "),
    type : "text/html" },
  { url : FW.Xpath('//div[@class="pagination"]/a[not(@class)]').key('href').text(),
    title : FW.Xpath('//div[@class="pagination"]/a').
                        prepend("Washington Monthly Snapshot pg. "),
    type : "text/html" }

Post-Processing with Hooks

Sometimes the basic capabilities provided by the framework are not enough to get the desired output, and some additional data gathering or post-processing is needed. Arbitrary post-processing of scraped items can be done by defining hooks:

hooks : { "scraperDone": function  (item,doc, url) { = ? : item.runningTime;
	item.runningTime = undefined;
	for (i in item.creators) {
		if (item.creators[i].lastName == item.creators[i].lastName.toUpperCase()) {
			item.creators[i].lastName = Zotero.Utilities.capitalizeTitle(

The hooks property should be an object with the property “scraperDone”, set to a function that should be run when the scraper has finished processing a single item. The function is passed three arguments: the in-progress item, the current DOM, and the current URL. The function can run any JavaScript allowed in the Zotero translator sandbox; see Translator Coding for more details.

In the example above, the scraper had been written to save two potential date fields, one as “runningTime” and one as “date”. The post-processing function sets the item's “date” property to the valid one of these two choices. It also checks if the author last names are in all-caps and fixes them if they are. Both of these tasks are a little hard to do within the framework.


To use the framework, just chain together functions from the list below until you get the desired output. Note that JavaScript functions not in this list will not work within the scrapers.

Main functions

  • FW.PageText ( ) Provides the HTML source of the current document as a string.
  • FW.Url ( ) Provides the URL of the current document as a string.
  • FW.Xpath ( expression ) Runs the given XPath expression on the current document. Returns the matching nodes; to get an attribute, use key( attribute_name ); to get the textContent of the node, use text()
  • FW.Scraper ( {..} ) Sets up a scraper using the given object (usually an anonymous object in curly braces, as in the examples).
  • FW.MultiScraper ( {..} ) Sets up a special scraper for matching multiple items using the given object (usually an anonymous object in curly braces, as in the examples). Set itemType to multiple, and provide expressions for titles, urls and optionally for attachments.
  • FW.DelegateTranslator ( { translatorType : “import”, translatorId : id} ) Used with MultiScraper; assign DelegateTranslator to the itemTrans property of the MultiScraper. Define a translator to use to handle the URLs the MultiScraper provides; the framework will pass the document source of the documents at those URLs to the specified translator.

String functions

  • prepend ( text ) Add a string to the end of the result.
  • append ( text ) Add a string to the beginning of the result.
  • remove (regex, flags ) Removes any text that matches the regular expression. Note that empty entries are dropped silently, so this can be used to filter out unwanted results.
  • trim () Removes whitespace at the beginning and end of the result.
  • trimInternal () Like trim (), but also removes extra whitespace inside the result.
  • match ( regex, [ group ] ) Match the regular expression, and pass on the specified match group. If no group is specified, the whole match is used (match group 0).
  • capitalizeTitle ( ) Capitalizes the string using Zotero's capitalization function
  • unescapeHTML ( text )
  • unescape ( text )
  • split ( regex ) Split the string into multiple strings on the regular expression.
  • join ( separator ) Join all the strings into one, placing specified the separator between them.
  • cleanAuthor ( type, [ useComma ] ) Makes creator objects of the specified type (i.e., author, editor, translator, contributor, bookAuthor, director, etc.) If the second argument is true, the input will be split into first and last names on a comma, if present, in the input. See the list of valid creator types for each item type.

Putting things together

FW.Xpath() and FW.Url() are the main functions you'll call; they return an object that, when processed by the framework, results in selecting some text from a page or in the current URL.

You can also call a method on this object, e.g.:


This modifies the object to include a filter that splits the text on /,/. You can chain these together:


This will split the text returned by the XPath into an array and call the filters (trim, then cleanAuthor) on each member of the array. This way we can add multiple creators to the item.

If you want to add an arbitrary filter, this should work:

FW.Xpath("//xpath/expression").text().addFilter(function (s) { return s + "HELLO WORLD"; })


Just paste the following templates into your translator, fill in the appropriate fields, and delete the unnecessary fields.


Required for every framework-derived translator.

function detectWeb(doc, url) { return FW.detectWeb(doc, url); }
function doWeb(doc, url) { return FW.doWeb(doc, url); }


itemType         : 'multiple',
detect           : ,
choices          : {
  titles :  
  urls   :
  attachments :  // optional


For possible values of itemType and the legal fields for each type, see the schema description at .

itemType         : ,
detect           : ,
attachments      : ,
creators         : ,
hooks            : {
        "scraperDone" : function (item, doc, url) {}
// All possible fields
abstractNote : ,
applicationNumber : ,
archive : ,
archiveLocation : ,
artworkMedium : ,
artworkSize : ,
assignee : ,
audioFileType : ,
audioRecordingType : ,
billNumber : ,
blogTitle : ,
bookTitle : ,
callNumber : ,
caseName : ,
code : ,
codeNumber : ,
codePages : ,
codeVolume : ,
committee : ,
company : ,
conferenceName : ,
country : ,
court : ,
date : ,
dateDecided : ,
dateEnacted : ,
dictionaryTitle : ,
distributor : ,
docketNumber : ,
documentNumber : ,
DOI : ,
edition : ,
encyclopediaTitle : ,
episodeNumber : ,
extra : ,
filingDate : ,
firstPage : ,
forumTitle : ,
genre : ,
history : ,
institution : ,
interviewMedium : ,
ISBN : ,
ISSN : ,
issue : ,
issueDate : ,
issuingAuthority : ,
journalAbbreviation : ,
label : ,
language : ,
legalStatus : ,
legislativeBody : ,
letterType : ,
libraryCatalog : ,
manuscriptType : ,
mapType : ,
medium : ,
meetingName : ,
nameOfAct : ,
network : ,
number : ,
numberOfVolumes : ,
numPages : ,
pages : ,
patentNumber : ,
place : ,
postType : ,
presentationType : ,
priorityNumbers : ,
proceedingsTitle : ,
programTitle : ,
programmingLanguage : ,
publicLawNumber : ,
publicationTitle : ,
publisher : ,
references : ,
reportNumber : ,
reportType : ,
reporter : ,
reporterVolume : ,
rights : ,
runningTime : ,
scale : ,
section : ,
series : ,
seriesNumber : ,
seriesText : ,
seriesTitle : ,
session : ,
shortTitle : ,
studio : ,
subject : ,
system : ,
thesisType : ,
title : ,
type : ,
university : ,
url : ,
version : ,
videoRecordingType : ,
volume : ,
websiteTitle : ,
websiteType :
dev/translators/framework.txt · Last modified: 2017/03/15 22:38 by owcz