Image::Grab - Perl extension for Grabbing images off the Internet.


  # If you call grab without instantiating an Image::Grab, then you
  # can pass grab args and it will instantiate one for you and return
  # whatever the image is.
  use Image::Grab qw(grab);
  # $image should contain GIF data after this.
  $image = grab(URL=>'');

  use Image::Grab;
  $pic = new Image::Grab;

  # You can also pass new arguments:
  use Image::Grab;
  $pic = Image::Grab->new(SEARCH_URL=>'',
                          REGEXP    =>'.*\.gif');

  # The simplest OO case of a grab
  use Image::Grab;

  # Now to save the image to disk
  open(IMAGE, ">image.jpg") || die"image.jpg: $!";
  binmode IMAGE;  # for MSDOS derivations.
  print IMAGE $pic->image;
  close IMAGE;

  # A slightly more complicated case
  use Image::Grab;

  # Get a weather forecast
  use Image::Grab;


Image::Grab is a simple way to get images with URLs that are either not predictable or are "hidden" by some method.


I created this module so that I would have a uniform API for grabbing multiple images from multiple sites that use various methods of making their images difficult to retrieve automatically.

I've tried to put into code all the ways that website creators will use to try to "protect" their images. If you know of any methods I've missed, please email me.

This module was born from a script. The script was born when a certain Comics Syndicate stopped having a static (or even predictable) url for their comics. I generalized the code for a friend when he needed to do something similar.

Hopefully, others will find this module useful as well.

Retrieval Methods and Properties

The following are the retrieval methods and properties available for any Image::Grab object.

One of the following should be set to specify the image. If either regexp or index are used to specify the image, then search_url must be set to specify the page to be searched for the image.

Image::Grab will use the data in the following order: url, regexp, index.

refer, regexp, search_url and url all have POSIX time string expansion performed on them by the expand_url method when do_posix is set. Thus, if you wish to have a '%' character in your URL, you must put '%%'.


The fully qualified URL of the image. This method is included simply for completeness and convenience. If this is all you need, you might check out LWP::Simple. (Although, the date expansion is nice...)

POSIX time string expansion is performed if do_posix is set.


  $url = $image->url("");


If regexp and/or index methods are used to specify an image then the url in the search_url field will be used to find the image. For example, if regexp="mac.*\.gif" and search_url="", then when a grab is performed, the page at is searched to see if any images on the page match the regular expression "mac.*\.gif".

Also, when Image::Grab finally grabs the image, it uses the search_url as the referer field.

POSIX time string expansion is performed if do_posix is set.




An integer indicating the image on the page to grab. For instance, '1' would find the second image on the page pointed to by search_url. Used in conjunction with regexp, it specifies which image to grab that the regular expression matches.




A regular expression that will match the URL of the image. If index is not set, then the first image that matches will be used. If index is set, then the nth image (base 0) that matches will be used.

Set search_url to the web page that you want to search with this regular expression.

POSIX time string expansion is performed if do_posix is set.



grab ([$tries])

Grab the image. Returns $image->image;

If the url method is not used to give an absolute url, then expand_url is called before the image is fetched.

If $tries is specified, then $tries are attempted before giving up. $tries defaults to 10.

Returns the image grabbed.


  $pic = $image->grab;

grab_new ([$tries])

If neither date nor md5 are set, than this method acts identically to grab.

If md5 is set, then the grab is performed only if the checksum of the newer image is different than the current checksum.

If date is set than the grab is performed only if the image has been modified since date.

If both date and md5 are set then the conditions are ANDed. That is, the image is returned only if it has been modified since date and its checksum is different than md5.

Image Properties

These are various properties of the image. Generally, you don't want to set these after you've grabbed an image..


Returns the actual image.


The date that the image was last updated. The date is represented in the number of seconds from epoch.

If this is set when grab_new is called, then an image will only be returned if the date of the image is newer than the date set in this field. (See grab_new for full details.)


  # Grab the image if it changes in the past 30 seconds;
  $pic = $image->grab_new;
  $date = $image->date;


The md5 sum for the image.

If this is set when grab_new is called, then an image will only be returned if the md5 checksums don't match. (See grab_new for full details.)

This will only be used if the MD5 module is available. Otherwise, there will be no effect.


The Content-Type of information returned. Usually it will be a MIME type such as "image/jpeg".

Other Properties

These are miscellaneous properties. do_posix and cookiefile are the only ones you should need to use.


Tells Image::Grab to do POSIX date substitution. This is on by default in recentish perls.

Perl versions 5.005 and up will have this set versions before this will not in order to avoid buggy behavior on long URLs. If you have an earlier version of Perl and wish to use the expansion, then set this on:



Where the cookiefile is located. Set this to the file containing the cookies if you wish to use the cookie file for the image.

For example, I use this to authenticate on sites that require cookie authentication. To do this, first load the cookie file by visiting the site with Netscape and getting a cookie. Next, set the cookie file like this:

  $image->cookiefile($ENV{HOME} ."/.netscape/cookies")

Image::Grab will automatically send the correct cookie when the remote server asks for it.

The cookiefile is assumed to be in Netscape Navigator's format.


Usually only used internally. Contains an HTTP::Cookies::Netscape blessed reference.


This contains an Image::Grab::RequestAgent blessed reference. Image::Grab::RequestAgent is sub-class of LWP::UserAgent and inherits all its methods.


When you do a grab, this url will be given as the referring URL.

POSIX time string expansion is performed if do_posix is set.

Other Methods

auth($user, $password)

Provides a username/password pair for grabbing the image.

getAllURLs ([$tries])

Returns a list of URLs pointing to images from the page pointed to by search_url. Of course, search_url must be set for this method to be of any use.

If $tries is specified, then $tries are attempted before giving up. $tries defaults to 10.

Returns undef if no connection is made in $tries attempts.

expand_url ([$tries])

getRealURL ([$tries])

Returns the actual URL of the image specified. Performs POSIX time string expansion (see strftime(3)) using the current time if do_posix is set.

You can use this method to get the URL for an image if that is all you need.

If $tries is specified, then $tries are attempted before giving up. $tries defaults to 10.

Returns undef if no connection is made in $tries attempts, if the search_url URL is not of type text/html, or if no image that matches the specs is found.

If url is given a full URL, then it is returned with POSIX time string expansion performed if do_posix is set.

The getRealURL method is deprecated.


  $url = $image->expand_url;

  # Grab the image using LWP::Simple.
  use LWP::Simple;
  $pic = get($url);


Usually used only internally. Loads up the cookiejar with cookies.


getAllURLs and expand_url should really be fixed so that they go out to the 'net only once if they need to.

POSIX date substitution screws up strings longer than 127 chars. At least on Perl 5.004_04 -- Perl 5.005_03 seems to behave properly.

Ummm... I am sure there are others...


Same as Perl.


Mark A. Hershberger (,


HTTP::Request, HTTP::Cookies, HTML::TreeBuilder, LWP::UserAgent, Digest::MD5, URI::URL, strftime(3).