This functionality provided by this module is now part of mechanize. I don't intend to make further standalone releases of ClientForm.

ClientForm is a Python module for handling HTML forms on the client side, useful for parsing HTML forms, filling them in and returning the completed forms to the server. It developed from a port of Gisle Aas' Perl module HTML::Form, from the libwww-perl library, but the interface is not the same.

Simple working example:

from urllib2 import urlopen
from ClientForm import ParseResponse

response = urlopen("")
forms = ParseResponse(response, backwards_compat=False)
form = forms[0]
print form
form["comments"] = "Thanks, Gisle"

# returns a urllib2.Request object
# (see if you don't have urllib2)
print urlopen(

A more complicated working example (Note: this example makes use of the ClientForm 0.2 API; refer to the README.html file in the latest 0.1 release for the corresponding code for that version.):

import ClientForm
import urllib2
request = urllib2.Request(
response = urllib2.urlopen(request)
forms = ClientForm.ParseResponse(response, backwards_compat=False)
## f = open("example.html")
## forms = ClientForm.ParseFile(f, "",
##                              backwards_compat=False)
## f.close()
form = forms[0]
print form  # very useful!

# A 'control' is a graphical HTML form widget: a text entry box, a
# dropdown 'select' list, a checkbox, etc.

# Indexing allows setting and retrieval of control values
original_text = form["comments"]  # a string, NOT a Control instance
form["comments"] = "Blah."

# Controls that represent lists (checkbox, select and radio lists) are
# ListControl instances.  Their values are sequences of list item names.
# They come in two flavours: single- and multiple-selection:
form["favorite_cheese"] = ["brie"]  # single
form["cheeses"] = ["parmesan", "leicester", "cheddar"]  # multi
#  equivalent, but more flexible:
form.set_value(["parmesan", "leicester", "cheddar"], name="cheeses")

# Add files to FILE controls with .add_file().  Only call this multiple
# times if the server is expecting multiple files.
#  add a file, default value for MIME type, no filename sent to server
#  add a second file, explicitly giving MIME type, and telling the server
#   what the filename is
form.add_file(open("data.txt"), "text/plain", "data.txt")

# All Controls may be disabled (equivalent of greyed-out in browser)...
control = form.find_control("comments")
print control.disabled
#  ...or readonly
print control.readonly
#  readonly and disabled attributes can be assigned to
control.disabled = False
#  convenience method, used here to make all controls writable (unless
#   they're disabled):

# A couple of notes about list controls and HTML:

# 1. List controls correspond to either a single SELECT element, or
# multiple INPUT elements.  Items correspond to either OPTION or INPUT
# elements.  For example, this is a SELECT control, named "control1":

#    <select name="control1">
#     <option>foo</option>
#     <option value="1">bar</option>
#    </select>

# and this is a CHECKBOX control, named "control2":

#    <input type="checkbox" name="control2" value="foo" id="cbe1">
#    <input type="checkbox" name="control2" value="bar" id="cbe2">

# You know the latter is a single control because all the name attributes
# are the same.

# 2. Item names are the strings that go to make up the value that should
# be returned to the server.  These strings come from various different
# pieces of text in the HTML.  The HTML standard and the ClientForm
# docstrings explain in detail, but playing around with an HTML file,
# ParseFile() and 'print form' is very useful to understand this!

# You can get the Control instances from inside the form...
control = form.find_control("cheeses", type="select")
print, control.value, control.type
control.value = ["mascarpone", "curd"]
# ...and the Item instances from inside the Control
item = control.get("curd")
print, item.selected,, item.attrs
item.selected = False

# Controls may be referred to by label:
#  find control with label that has a *substring* "Cheeses"
#  (eg., a label "Please select a cheese" would match).
control = form.find_control(label="select a cheese")

# You can explicitly say that you're referring to a ListControl:
#  set value of "cheeses" ListControl
form.set_value(["gouda"], name="cheeses", kind="list")
#  equivalent:
form.find_control(name="cheeses", kind="list").value = ["gouda"]
#  the first example is also almost equivalent to the following (but
#  insists that the control be a ListControl -- so it will skip any
#  non-list controls that come before the control we want)
form["cheeses"] = ["gouda"]
# The kind argument can also take values "multilist", "singlelist", "text",
# "clickable" and "file":
#  find first control that will accept text, and scribble in it
form.set_value("rhubarb rhubarb", kind="text", nr=0)
#  find, and set the value of, the first single-selection list control
form.set_value(["spam"], kind="singlelist", nr=0)

# You can find controls with a general predicate function:
def control_has_caerphilly(control):
    for item in control.items:
        if == "caerphilly": return True
form.find_control(kind="list", predicate=control_has_caerphilly)

# HTMLForm.controls is a list of all controls in the form
for control in form.controls:
    if control.value == "inquisition": sys.exit()

# Control.items is a list of all Item instances in the control
for item in form.find_control("cheeses").items:

# To remove items from a list control, remove it from .items:
cheeses = form.find_control("cheeses")
curd = cheeses.get("curd")
del cheeses.items[cheeses.items.index(curd)]
# To add items to a list container, instantiate an Item with its control
# and attributes:
# Note that you are responsible for getting the attributes correct here,
# and these are not quite identical to the original HTML, due to
# defaulting rules and a few special attributes (e.g. Items that represent
# OPTIONs have a special "contents" key in their .attrs dict).  In future
# there will be an explicitly supported way of using the parsing logic to
# add items and controls from HTML strings without knowing these details.
ClientForm.Item(cheeses, {"contents": "mascarpone",
                          "value": "mascarpone"})

# You can specify list items by label using set/get_value_by_label() and
# the label argument of the .get() method.  Sometimes labels are easier to
# maintain than names, sometimes the other way around.
form.set_value_by_label(["Mozzarella", "Caerphilly"], "cheeses")

# Which items are present, selected, and successful?
#  is the "parmesan" item of the "cheeses" control successful (selected
#   and not disabled)?
print "parmesan" in form["cheeses"]
#  is the "parmesan" item of the "cheeses" control selected?
print "parmesan" in [ for item in form.find_control("cheeses").items if item.selected]
#  does cheeses control have a "caerphilly" item?
print "caerphilly" in [ for item in form.find_control("cheeses").items]

# Sometimes one wants to set or clear individual items in a list, rather
# than setting the whole .value:
#  select the item named "gorgonzola" in the first control named "cheeses"
form.find_control("cheeses").get("gorgonzola").selected = True
# You can be more specific:
#  deselect "edam" in third CHECKBOX control
form.find_control(type="checkbox", nr=2).get("edam").selected = False
#  deselect item labelled "Mozzarella" in control with id "chz"
form.find_control(id="chz").get(label="Mozzarella").selected = False

# Often, a single checkbox (a CHECKBOX control with a single item) is
# present.  In that case, the name of the single item isn't of much
# interest, so it's a good idea to check and uncheck the box without
# using the item name:
form.find_control("smelly").items[0].selected = True  # check
form.find_control("smelly").items[0].selected = False  # uncheck

# Items may be disabled (selecting or de-selecting a disabled item is
# not allowed):
control = form.find_control("cheeses")
print control.get("emmenthal").disabled
control.get("emmenthal").disabled = True
#  enable all items in control

request2 =  # urllib2.Request object
    response2 = urllib2.urlopen(request2)
except urllib2.HTTPError, response2:

print response2.geturl()
print  # headers
print  # body

All of the standard control types are supported: TEXT, PASSWORD, HIDDEN, TEXTAREA, ISINDEX, RESET, BUTTON (INPUT TYPE=BUTTON and the various BUTTON types), SUBMIT, IMAGE, RADIO, CHECKBOX, SELECT/OPTION and FILE (for file upload). Both standard form encodings (application/x-www-form-urlencoded and multipart/form-data) are supported.

The module is designed for testing and automation of web interfaces, not for implementing interactive user agents.

Security note: Remember that any passwords you store in HTMLForm instances will be saved to disk in the clear if you pickle them (directly or indirectly). The simplest solution to this is to avoid pickling HTMLForm objects. You could also pickle before filling in any password, or just set the password to "" before pickling.

Python 2.0 or above is required. To run the tests, you need the unittest module (from PyUnit). unittest is a standard library module with Python 2.1 and above.

For full documentation, see the docstrings in

Note: this page describes the 0.2 (stable release) interface. See here for the old 0.1 interface.


ClientForm contains two parsers. See the FAQ entry on XHTML for details.

mxTidy or ÁTidylib can be useful for dealing with bad HTML.

I think it would be nice to have an implementation of ClientForm based on BeautifulSoup (i.e. all methods and attributes implemented using the BeautifulSoup API), since that module does tolerant HTML parsing with a nice API for doing non-forms stuff. (I'm not about to do this, though. For anybody interested in doing this, note that the ClientForm tests would need making constructor-independent first.)

Backwards-compatibility mode

ClientForm 0.2 includes three minor backwards-incompatible interface changes from version 0.1.

To make upgrading from 0.1 easier, and to allow me to stop supporting version 0.1 sooner, version 0.2 contains support for operating in a backwards-compatible mode, under which code written for 0.1 should work without modification. This is done on a per-HTMLForm basis via the .backwards_compat attribute, but for convenience the ParseResponse() and ParseFile() factory functions accept backwards_compat arguments. These backwards-compatibility features will be removed in version 0.3. The default is to operate in backwards-compatible mode. To run with backwards compatible mode turned OFF (strongly recommended):

from urllib2 import urlopen
from ClientForm import ParseResponse
forms = ParseResponse(urlopen(""), backwards_compat=False)
# ...

The backwards-incompatible changes are:


Apart from Gisle Aas for allowing the original port from libwww-perl, particular credit is due to Gary Poster and Benji York, and their employer, Zope Corporation, for their contributions which led to ClientForm 0.2 being released. Thanks also to the many people who have contributed bug reports.


For installation instructions, see the INSTALL.txt file included in the distribution.

Stable release There have been three fairly minor backwards-incompatible interface changes since version 0.1 (see above), but by default the code operates in a backwards-compatible mode so that code written for 0.1 should work without changes.

0.2 includes better support for labels, and a simpler interface (all the old methods are still there, but some have been deprecated and a few added).

Old release No longer maintained. I recommend upgrading from 0.1 to 0.2.

There were many interface changes between 0.0 and 0.1, so you should take care if upgrading old code from 0.0.

0.1 includes FILE control support for file upload, handling of disabled list items, and a redesigned interface.

Ancient release No longer maintained. You don't want this.


The Subversion (SVN) trunk is, so to check out the source:

svn co ClientForm


I prefer questions and comments to be sent to the mailing list rather than direct to me.

John J. Lee, July 2008.