Capture text from web with flask and JavaScript

Capture text from web with flask and JavaScript

We read a lot of stuff from web and sometimes would like to make a note of some of it so that we can refer to it later. There are a few products which charge few $/month and provide this service but we can easily write a browser extension to capture the text on a web page and save that to a database. Run this service locally if you need this on a single machine, on a raspberry pi in your home network or use a Amazon Lightsail. whatever suits you!!!

Here, I'm going to write a basic browser extension and a web service so that we can save the notes.

Browser extension

This is the first component which captures the highlights on a web page. Since browser doesn't exposes any event which directly gives you information about highlighted text , we are going to use mouseup event and getSelection window function for that.

Once you highlight a block of text (and release mouse's left button), check if there is any highlighted text available. If yes, insert a button element in the page and attach a handler to its click event. That's all this extension does.

function getSelected() {
    if (window.getSelection) {
        return window.getSelection();
    else if (document.getSelection) {
        return document.getSelection();
    else {
        var selection = document.selection && document.selection.createRange();
        if (selection.text) {
            return selection.text;
        return false;
capture the selected text from a page
btnSave = $('<button>')
                type : 'button',
                id : 'btnsave'
                'color' : 'red'
inject a button to html body
$('#btnsave').click(function  save(event) {
                var txt = $.trim(getSelected());
                // make an api call to save selected text
handler for button click

The code for this extension is available at here. You should be able to install the extension locally.


Browser extension calls this Web service to read or write . I'm using flask to write a web api which takes a block of text and saves it in database. The database I'm using here is Sqlite and SQLAlchemy as ORM.

Create model

lets call each record a Note. It has  following fields

  • text - highlighted text from web page
  • source - url of the web page
  • tags - tags which provide additional details
  • comments - in case you want to add something
  • createdon/modifiedon - audit fields
all models 
import datetime
from sqlalchemy import Column, Integer, String
from database import Base

class Note(Base):
    represent a note record
    __tablename__ = 'note'
    id = Column(Integer, primary_key=True,)
    user_id = Column(String(50), nullable=False)
    text = Column(String(500), nullable=False)
    source = Column(String(200), nullable=False)
    tags = Column(String(500), default='')
    comments = Column(String(500), default='')
    created_on = Column(String(20), default=datetime.datetime.utcnow())
    modified_on = Column(String(20), default=datetime.datetime.utcnow())

    def __init__(self, user_id, text, source):
        self.user_id = user_id
        self.text = text
        self.source = source

    def serialize(self):
Setup database

To set up database, we are providing the db file path as db location and a function to create all tables as per the model.

from sqlalchemy import create_engine
from sqlalchemy.orm import scoped_session, sessionmaker
from sqlalchemy.ext.declarative import declarative_base

DATABASE = "web-note.db"

engine = create_engine('sqlite:///'+DATABASE, convert_unicode=True)
db_session = scoped_session(sessionmaker(autocommit=False,

Base = declarative_base()
Base.query = db_session.query_property()

def init_db():
    initialize the db
    # import all modules here that might define models so that
    # they will be registered properly on the metadata.  Otherwise
    # you will have to import them first before calling init_db()
    import models
Create routes

we are creating primarily 3 routes -

  • Get all the notes ¬†- This uses query.all() to return all the notes from db. Note that there are some issue in serializing these records by sqlAlchemy
  • Save a note
  • Get a note by Id
import json
import flask
from flask import request, render_template
from models import Note
from database import db_session

app = flask.Flask(__name__)
app.config["DEBUG"] = True

@app.route('/', methods=['GET'])
def home():
    all_notes = [note.serialize() for note in  Note.query.all()]
    return render_template('index.html', notes=all_notes) 

@app.route('/notes', methods=['POST'])
def notes():
    handler for /notes
    data ='UTF-8')
    data = json.loads(data)
    if data:
    return {'status': 'success'}               

def _save_note(data):
    note = Note(user_id=data.get('user_id'), text=data.get(
                'text'), source=data.get('source'))

This is a very basic setup to get what we want. To save the note, we use SQLAlchemy's db_session. To get the list of notes from DB, we use query.all() and render it using jinja.

We need to call the init_db from in order to create all the tables as per the models and then we are set to go.

>>from database import init_db

Code for this is available here.

All the set up is running locally (on Make the necessary changes if you need to deploy this on any server and access it .

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