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Read a File Line by Line in Python [3 Methods]

This tutorial will examine several methods and best practices for reading a file line-by-line in the Python programming language.

Reading a file line-by-line will be useful for parsing log files, CSV spreadsheet files, or even reading files you have generated from an application yourself.

Line by Line File Reading – Examples

The examples on this page will read from a text file named mytext.txt with the following content:


Using the readlines() Function

The following python code will call the built-in open() function, which creates a file object which can then be read using the readlines() function, which places all of the lines from the given file into a list of string variables:

textFile = open('mytext.txt', 'r')  # The first parameter is the path to the file, the second 'r' parameter means the file is opened for reading
lines = textFile.readlines() 

for line in lines: 
    print(line.strip()) # The strip() method will remove newline characters

textFile.close() # Close the file safely

Which will output:


The close() method is called on the opened file to make sure that Python releases the file – it’s important that this is done whenever reading or writing files to release any locks on the file and make sure all disk operations have completed before the application quits – otherwise data corruption could occur.

Using The readline() Function

Similarly, you can also use readline() to read a single line as a single string. Each time you call readline(), the next line will be read:

textFile = open('mytext.txt', 'r') 

# This is an infinite loop, created intentionally, which we will break out of when we reach the end of the file
while True: 

    line = textFile.readline() # Next line from file 

    # readline() returns an empty variable when the end of the file is reached, which will evaluate as false when used in a boolean test
    if not line: 
        break # Break out of the infinite loop

    # If the line is present, print it


Which will again output:


Best Practice – using with and a for loop

The best method for reading each line from a file is using the with statement on the open() function. The with statement will ensure that resources are properly released when it is finished – so there is no need to close the file when you are done – so all operations are performed safely.

As mentioned at the beginning of this article, the open() function returns a file object. The file object in Python is iterable– meaning that it can be looped over – so we can simply use a for statement to access each line in succession!

with open("mytext.txt") as textFile: 
    for line in textFile: 

More Things to Do

Now that you know how to read the lines from a file into a list, you can do other things with that list – like:

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I'm Brad, and I'm nearing 20 years of experience with Linux. I've worked in just about every IT role there is before taking the leap into software development. Currently, I'm building desktop and web-based solutions with NodeJS and PHP hosted on Linux infrastructure. Visit my blog or find me on Twitter to see what I'm up to.

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