Using R to download data automatically

First, check robots.txt on the website if there is any. Then read the terms and conditions if there is any. And it is always important to throttle the request below.

After checking all the terms and conditions, the code below should get you started:


link <- ""
r <- GET(link)
doc <- read_html(content(r, "text"))
#write_html(doc, "temp.html")

states <- sapply(xml_find_all(doc, ".//select[@name='DdlState']/option"), function(x)
    setNames(xml_attr(x, "value"), xml_text(x)))
states <- states[!grepl("^Select", names(states))]

years <- sapply(xml_find_all(doc, ".//select[@name='DdlYear']/option"), function(x)
    setNames(xml_attr(x, "value"), xml_text(x)))
years <- years[!grepl("^Select", names(years))]

rptfmt <- sapply(xml_find_all(doc, ".//select[@name='DdlFormat']/option"), function(x)
    setNames(xml_attr(x, "value"), xml_text(x)))

stdrpts <- unlist(lapply(xml_find_all(doc, ".//td/a"), function(x) {
    id <- xml_attr(x, "id")
    if (grepl("^TreeView1t", id)) return(setNames(id, xml_text(x)))

get_vs <- function(doc) sapply(xml_find_all(doc, ".//input[@type='hidden']"), function(x)
    setNames(xml_attr(x, "value"), xml_attr(x, "name")))

fmt <- rptfmt[2] #Excel format
for (sn in names(states)) {
    for (yn in names(years)) {
        for (srn in seq_along(stdrpts)) {
            s <- states[sn]
            y <- years[yn]
            sr <- stdrpts[srn]

            r <- POST(link,
            doc <- read_html(content(r, "text"))

            treeview <- c("__EVENTTARGET"="TreeView1",
                "__EVENTARGUMENT"=paste0("sStandard Reports\\", srn),
            vs <- get_vs(doc)
            ddl <- c(DdlState=unname(s), DdlYear=unname(y), DdlFormat=unname(fmt))
            r <- POST(link, body=as.list(c(treeview, vs, ddl)), encode="form")
            if (r$headers$`content-type`=="application/")
                writeBin(content(r, "raw"), paste0(sn, "_", yn, "_", names(stdrpts)[srn], ".xls"))


Here is my best attempt:

If you look in the network activities you will see a post request is sent:

enter image description here

Request body data:

If you scroll down you will see the form data that is used.

body <- structure(list(`__EVENTTARGET` = "TreeView1", `__EVENTARGUMENT` = "sStandard+Reports%5C4", 
                       `__LASTFOCUS` = "", TreeView1_ExpandState = "ennnn", TreeView1_SelectedNode = "TreeView1t4", 
                       TreeView1_PopulateLog = "", `__VIEWSTATE` = "", `__VIEWSTATEGENERATOR` = "", 
                       `__VIEWSTATEENCRYPTED` = "", `__EVENTVALIDATION` = "", DdlState = "35", 
                       DdlYear = "2001", DdlFormat = "1"), .Names = c("__EVENTTARGET", 
                                                                      "__EVENTARGUMENT", "__LASTFOCUS", "TreeView1_ExpandState", "TreeView1_SelectedNode", 
                                                                      "TreeView1_PopulateLog", "__VIEWSTATE", "__VIEWSTATEGENERATOR", 
                                                                      "__VIEWSTATEENCRYPTED", "__EVENTVALIDATION", "DdlState", "DdlYear", 

There are certain session related values:


You could add them like this:

setAttrNames <- function(attr_name){
  name <- doc %>% 
    html_nodes(xpath = glue("//*[@id = '{attr_name}']")) %>% 
    html_attr(name = "value")
  body[[attr_name]] <<- name

Then you can add this session specific values:

url <- ""

doc <- url %>% GET %>% content("text") %>% read_html
sapply(attr_names, setAttrNames)

Sending the request:

Then you can send the request:

response <- POST(
  url = url, 
  encode = "form", 
  body = body,
response$status_code # still indicates that we have an error in the request.

Follow up ideas:

  1. I checked for cookies. There is a session cookie, but it does not seem to be necessary for the request.

    1. Adding headers.

Trying to set the request headers

header <- structure(c("", "keep-alive", "3437", "max-age=0", 
                      "", "1", "application/x-www-form-urlencoded", 
                      "Mozilla/5.0 (Windows NT 10.0; Win64; x64) AppleWebKit/537.36 (KHTML, like Gecko) Chrome/78.0.3904.97 Safari/537.36", 
                      "?1", "text/html,application/xhtml+xml,application/xml;q=0.9,image/webp,image/apng,*/*;q=0.8,application/signed-exchange;v=b3", 
                      "same-origin", "navigate", "", 
                      "gzip, deflate, br", "de-DE,de;q=0.9,en-US;q=0.8,en;q=0.7"), .Names = c("Host", 
                                                                                              "Connection", "Content-Length", "Cache-Control", "Origin", "Upgrade-Insecure-Requests", 
                                                                                              "Content-Type", "User-Agent", "Sec-Fetch-User", "Accept", "Sec-Fetch-Site", 
                                                                                              "Sec-Fetch-Mode", "Referer", "Accept-Encoding", "Accept-Language"
hdrs <- header %>% add_headers
response <- POST(
  url = url, 
  encode = "form", 
  body = body,

But i get a timeout for this request.

Note: The site does not seem to have a robots.txt. But check the Terms and Conditions of the site.