Parser and serializer for modern HTML documents

1.3.1 2023-04-20 19:55 UTC

This package is auto-updated.

Last update: 2023-09-20 21:18:07 UTC


A modern, accurate HTML parser and serializer for PHP.


Parsing documents

public static MensBeam\HTML\Parser::parse(
    string $data,
    ?string $encodingOrContentType = null,
    ?MensBeam\HTML\Parser\Config $config = null
): MensBeam\HTML\Parser\Output

The MensBeam\HTML\Parser::parse static method is used to parse documents. An arbitrary string and optional encoding are taken as input, and a MensBeam\HTML\Parser\Output object is returned as output. The Output object has the following properties:

  • document: A DOMDocument object representing the parsed document
  • encoding: The original character encoding of the document, as supplied by the user or otherwise detected during parsing
  • quirksMode: The detected "quirks mode" property of the document. This will be one of Parser::NO_QURIKS_MODE (0), Parser::QUIRKS_MODE (1), or Parser::LIMITED_QUIRKS_MODE (2)
  • errors: An array containing the list of parse errors emitted during processing if parse error reporting was turned on (see Configuration below), or null otherwise

Extra configuration parameters may be given to the parser by passing a MensBeam\HTML\Parser\Config object as the final $config argument. See the Configuration section below for more details.

Parsing with DOMParser

Since version 1.3.0, the library also provides an implemention of the DOMParser interface.

class MensBeam\HTML\DOMParser {
  public function parseFromString(
    string $string,
    string $type
  ): \DOMDocument

Like the standard interface, it will parse either HTML or XML documents. This implementation does, however, differ in the following ways:

  • Any XML MIME content-type (e.g. application/rss+xml) is acceptable, not just the restricted list mandated by the interface
  • MIME content-types may include a charset parameter to specify an authoritative encoding of the document
  • If no charset is provided encoding will be detected from document hints; the default encoding for HTML is windows-1252 and for XML UTF-8
  • InvalidArgumentException is thrown in place of JavaScript's TypeError

Parsing into existing documents

public static MensBeam\HTML\Parser::parseInto(
    string $data,
    \DOMDocument $document,
    ?string $encodingOrContentType = null,
    ?MensBeam\HTML\Parser\Config $config = null
): MensBeam\HTML\Parser\Output

The MensBeam\HTML\Parser::parseInto static method is used to parse into an existing document. The supplied document must be an instance of (or derived from) \DOMDocument and also must be empty. All other arguments are identical to those used when parsing documents normally.

NOTE: The documentClass configuration option has no effect when using this method.

Parsing fragments

public static MensBeam\HTML\Parser::parse(
    DOMElement $contextElement,
    int $quirksMode,
    string $data,
    ?string $encodingOrContentType = null,
    ?MensBeam\HTML\Parser\Config $config = null
): DOMDocumentFragment

The MensBeam\HTML\Parser::parseFragment static method is used to parse document fragments. The primary use case for this method is in the implementation of the innerHTML setter of HTML elements. Consequently a context element is required, as well as the "quirks mode" property of the context element's document (which must be one of Parser::NO_QURIKS_MODE (0), Parser::QUIRKS_MODE (1), or Parser::LIMITED_QUIRKS_MODE (2)). The further arguments are identical to those used when parsing documents.

If the "quirks mode" property of the document is not known, using Parser::NO_QUIRKS_MODE (0) is usually the best choice.

Unlike the parse() method, the parseFragment() method returns a DOMDocumentFragment object belonging to $contextElement's owner document.

Serializing nodes

public static MensBeam\HTML\Parser::serialize(
    DOMNode $node,
    array $config = []
): string
public static MensBeam\HTML\Parser::serializeInner(
    DOMNode $node,
    array $config = []
): string

The MensBeam\HTML\Parser::serialize method can be used to convert most DOMNode objects into strings, using the basic algorithm defined in the HTML specification. Nodes of the following types can be successfully serialized:

  • DOMDocument
  • DOMElement
  • DOMText
  • DOMComment
  • DOMDocumentFragment
  • DOMDocumentType
  • DOMProcessingInstruction

Similarly, the MensBeam\HTML\Parser::serializeInner method can be used to convert the children of non-leaf DOMNode objects into strings, using the basic algorithm defined in the HTML specification. Children of nodes of the following types can be successfully serialized:

  • DOMDocument
  • DOMElement
  • DOMDocumentFragment

The serialization methods use an associative array for configuration, and the possible keys and value types are:

  • booleanAttributeValues (bool|null): Whether to include the values of boolean attributes on HTML elements during serialization. Per the standard this is true by default
  • foreignVoidEndTags (bool|null): Whether to print the end tags of foreign void elements rather than self-closing their start tags. Per the standard this is true by default
  • groupElements (bool|null): Group like "block" elements and insert extra newlines between groups
  • indentStep (int|null): The number of spaces or tabs (depending on setting of indentStep) to indent at each step. This is 1 by default and has no effect unless reformatWhitespace is true
  • indentWithSpaces (bool|null): Whether to use spaces or tabs to indent. This is true by default and has no effect unless reformatWhitespace is true
  • reformatWhitespace (bool|null): Whether to reformat whitespace (pretty-print) or not. This is false by default


  • Parsing a document with unknown encoding:

    use MensBeam\HTML\Parser;
    echo Parser::parse('<!DOCTYPE html><b>Hello world!</b>')->encoding;
    // prints "windows-1252"
    echo Parser::parse('<!DOCTYPE html><meta charset="UTF-8"><b>Hello world!</b>')->encoding;
    // prints "UTF-8"
  • Parsing a document with a known encoding:

    use MensBeam\HTML\Parser;
    echo Parser::parse("<!DOCTYPE html>\u{3088}", "UTF-8")
    // prints "よ"
    echo Parser::parse("<!DOCTYPE html>\u{3088}", "text/html; charset=utf-8")
    // also prints "よ"
  • Parsing a document with a different default encoding:

    use MensBeam\HTML\Parser;
    use MensBeam\HTML\Parser\Config;
    $config = new Config;
    $config->encodingFallback = "Shift_JIS";
    echo Parser::parse("<!DOCTYPE html>\x82\xE6", null, $config)
    // also also prints "よ"
  • Parsing document fragments:

    use MensBeam\HTML\Parser;
    use MensBeam\HTML\Parser\Config;
    $config = new Config;
    $config->htmlNamespace = true;
    // set up two context nodes
    $document = Parser::parse("<!DOCTYPE html><math></math>", "UTF-8", $config)->document;
    $body = $document->getElementsByTagName("body")[0];
    $math = $document->getElementsByTagName("math")[0];
    echo $body->namespaceURI; // prints ""
    echo $math->namespaceURI; // prints ""
    // parse two identical fragments using different context elements
    $htmlFragment = Parser::parseFragment($body, 0, "<mi>&pi;</mi>", "UTF-8", $config);
    $mathFragment = Parser::parseFragment($math, 0, "<mi>&pi;</mi>", "UTF-8", $config);
    echo $htmlFragment->firstChild->namespaceURI; // prints ""
    echo $mathFragment->firstChild->namespaceURI; // prints ""
  • Serializing documents and elements:

    use MensBeam\HTML\Parser;
    $document = Parser::parse("<!DOCTYPE html><a>Ook<p>Eek</a>")->document;
    $body = $document->getElementsByTagName("body")[0];
    echo Parser::serialize($document->documentElement); // prints "<html><head></head><body><a>Ook</a><p><a>Eek</a></p></body></html>
    echo Parser::serializeInner($body); // prints "<a>Ook</a><p><a>Eek</a></p>


The MensBeam\HTML\Parser\Config class is used as a container for configuration parameters for the parser. We have tried to use rational defaults, but some parameters are nevertheless configurable:

  • documentClass: The PHP class to use when constructing the document object. This class must be a subclass of DOMDocument. By default DOMDocument is used. Using another class may affect performance, especially with large documents; users are advised to conduct their own benchmarks
  • encodingFallback: The default encoding to use when none is provided to the parser and none can be detected. The windows-1252 encoding is used by default, but depending on locale or environment another encoding may be appropriate. See the Encoding specification for possible values
  • encodingPrescanBytes: The number of bytes (by default 1024) to examine prior to parsing to determine the document character encoding when none is provided. Normally this should not need to be changed. Using 0 will disable the encoding pre-scan
  • errorCollection: A boolean value indicating whether parse errors should be collected into the Output object's errors array. This should usually be left at the default false for performance reasons. The content of the errors array is currently considered an implemenmtation detail subject to change without notice
  • htmlNamespace: A boolean value indicating whether to create HTML elements within the HTML namespace i.e. rather than the null namespace. Though using the HTML namespace is the correct behaviour, the null namespace is used by default for performance and compatibility reasons
  • processingInstructions: A boolean value indicating whether to preserve processing instructions in the parsed document. By default processing instructions are parsed as comments, per the specification. Note that if set to true the parser will insert HTML processing sinstructions which are terminated by the first > character, not XML processing instructions terminated by ?>


The primary aim of this library is accuracy. If the document object differs from what the specification mandates, this is probably a bug. However, we are also constrained by PHP, which imposes various limtations. These are as follows:

  • Due to PHP's DOM being designed for XML 1.0 Second Edition, element and attribute names which are illegal in XML 1.0 Second Edition are mangled as recommended by the specification
  • PHP's DOM has no special understanding of the HTML <template> element. Consequently template contents is treated no differently from the children of other elements
  • PHP's DOM treats xmlns attributes specially. Attributes which would change the namespace URI of an element or prefix to inconsistent values are thus dropped
  • Due to a PHP bug which severely degrades performance with large documents and in consideration of existing PHP software, HTML elements are placed in the null namespace by default rather than in the HTML namespace
  • PHP's DOM does not allow DOCTYPEs with no name (i.e. <!DOCTYPE > rather than <!DOCTYPE html>); in such cases the parser will create a DOCTYPE using a single U+0020 SPACE character as its name

Comparison with masterminds/html5

This library and masterminds/html5 serve similar purposes. Generally, we are more accurate, but they are much faster. The following table summarizes the main functional differences.

DOMDocument Masterminds MensBeam
Minimum PHP version 5.0 5.3 7.1
Extensions required dom dom, ctype, mbstring or iconv dom
Target HTML version HTML 4.01 HTML 5.0 WHATWG Living Standard
Supported encodings System-dependent System-dependent Per specification
Encoding detection BOM, http-equiv None Per specification (Steps 1-5 & 9)
Fallback encoding ISO 8859-1 UTF-8, configurable Windows-1252, configurable
Handling of invalid characters Bytes are passed through Characters are dropped Per specification
Handling of invalid XML element names Variable Name is changed to "invalid" Per specification
Handling of invalid XML attribute names Variable Attribute is dropped Per specification
Handling of misnested tags Parent end tags always close children Parent end tags always close children Per specification
Handling of data between table cells Left as-is Left as-is Per specification
Handling of omitted start tags Elements are not inserted Elements are not inserted Per specification
Handling of processing instructions Retained Retained Per specification, configurable
Handling of bogus XLink namespace* Foreign content not supported XLink attributes are lost if preceded by bogus namespace Bogus namespace is ignored
Namespace for HTML elements Null Per specification, configurable Null, configurable
Time needed to parse single-page HTML specification 0.5 seconds 2.7 seconds† 6.0 seconds
Peak memory needed for same 11.6 MB 38 MB 13.9 MB

* For example: <svg xmlns:xlink='' xlink:href=''/>. It is unclear what correct behaviour is, but we believe our behaviour to be more consistent with the intent of the specification.

† With HTML namespace disabled. With HTML namespace enabled it does not finish in a reasonable time due to a PHP bug.