This lesson is in the early stages of development (Alpha version)

Processing data from a file

Overview

Teaching: 45 min
Exercises: 25 min
Questions
  • How can I read and write files?

  • What kind of data files can I read?

Objectives
  • Describe a file handle

  • Use open() to open files for reading

  • Create and open files for writing or appending

  • Use close to close files

  • Explain what is meant by a record

Reading and Writing datasets

In all of our examples so far, we have directly allocated values to variables in the code we have written before using the variables.

Python has an input() function which will ask for input from the user, but for any large amounts of data this will be an impractical way of collecting data.

The reality is that most of the data that your program uses will be read from a file. Additionally, apart from when you are developing, most of your program output will be written to a file.

In this episode we will look at how to read and write files of data in Python.

There are in fact many different approaches to reading data files and which one you choose will depend on such things as the size of the file and the data format of the file.

In this episode we will;

The file we will be using is only a small file (131 data records), but the approach we are using will work for any size of file. Imagine 131M records. This is because we only process one record at a time so the memory requirements of the programs will be very small. The larger the file the more the processing time required.

Other approaches to reading files will typically expect to read the whole file in one go. This can be efficient when you subsequently process the data but it require large amounts of memory to hold the entire file. We will look at this approach later when the look at the Pandas package.

For our examples in this episode we are going to use the SAFI_results.csv file. This is available for download here and the description of the file is available here

The code assumes that the file is in the same directory as your notebook

We will build up our programs in simple steps

Step 1 - Open the file , read through it and close the file

filename = "SAFI_results.csv"
f = open(filename, "r")    # open the file whose name is in filename, the 'r' means we want to read from the file
                           # the open function returns what is called a file handle. we use this to refer to the file
for line in f:             # We use a for loop to iterate through the file one line at a time.
    print(line)            # we simply print the line

f.close()                    # Always close the file at the end.
Column1,A01_interview_date,A03_quest_no,A04_start,A05_end,A06_province,A07_district,A08_ward,A09_village,A11_years_farm,A12_agr_assoc,B11_remittance_money,B16_years_liv,B17_parents_liv,B18_sp_parents_liv,B19_grand_liv,B20_sp_grand_liv,B_no_membrs,C01_respondent_roof_type,C02_respondent_wall_type,C02_respondent_wall_type_other,C03_respondent_floor_type,C04_window_type,C05_buildings_in_compound,C06_rooms,C07_other_buildings,D_plots_count,E01_water_use,E17_no_enough_water,E19_period_use,E20_exper_other,E21_other_meth,E23_memb_assoc,E24_resp_assoc,E25_fees_water,E26_affect_conflicts,E_no_group_count,E_yes_group_count,F04_need_money,F05_money_source_other,F06_crops_contr,F08_emply_lab,F09_du_labour,F10_liv_owned_other,F12_poultry,F13_du_look_aftr_cows,F_liv_count,G01_no_meals,_members_count,_note,gps:Accuracy,gps:Altitude,gps:Latitude,gps:Longitude,instanceID

0,17/11/2016,1,2017-03-23T09:49:57.000Z,2017-04-02T17:29:08.000Z,Province1,District1,Ward2,Village2,11,no,no,4,no,yes,no,yes,3,grass,muddaub,,earth,no,1,1,no,2,no,,,,,,,,,2,,,,,no,no,,yes,no,1,2,3,,14,698,-19.11225943,33.48345609,uuid:ec241f2c-0609-46ed-b5e8-fe575f6cefef
...

You can think of the file as being a list of strings. Each string in the list is one complete line from the file.

If you look at the output, you can see that the first record in the file is a header record containing column names. When we read a file in this way, the column headings have no significance, the computer sees them as another record in the file.

Step 2 - Select a specific ‘column’ from the records in the file

We know that the first record in the file is a header record and we want to ignore it. To do this we call the readline() method of the file handle f. We don’t need to assign the line that it will return to a variable as we are not going to use it.

As we read the file the line variable is a string containing a complete record. The fields or columns of the record are separated by each other by “,” as it is a csv file.

As line is a string we can use the split() method to convert it to a list of column values. We are specicically going to select the column which is the 19th entry in the list (remember the list index starts at 0). This refers to the C01_respondent_roof_type column. We are going to examine the different roof types.

filename = "SAFI_results.csv"
f = open(filename, "r")

# first line is a header so ignore it
f.readline()

for line in f:
    print(line.split(",")[18])    # index 18, the 19th column is C01_respondent_roof_type

f.close()
grass
grass
mabatisloping
mabatisloping
grass
grass
grass
mabatisloping
...

Having a list of the roof types from all of the records is one thing, but it is more likely that we would want a count of each type. By scanning up and down the previous output, there appears to be 3 different type, but we will play safe and assume there may be more.

Step 3 - How many of each different roof types are there?

# 1
filename = "SAFI_results.csv"
f = open(filename, "r")

# 2
f.readline()

# 3
grass_roof = 0
mabatisloping_roof = 0
mabatipitched_roof = 0
roof_type_other = 0

for line in f:
# 4
    roof_type = line.split(",")[18]
# 5    
    if roof_type == 'grass' :
        grass_roof += 1
    elif roof_type == 'mabatisloping' :
        mabatisloping_roof += 1
    elif roof_type == 'mabatipitched' :
        mabatipitched_roof += 1
    else :
        roof_type_other += 1
#6
f.close()

#7
print("There are ", grass_roof, " grass roofs")
print("There are ", mabatisloping_roof, " mabatisloping roofs")
print("There are ", mabatipitched_roof, " mabatipitchedg roofs")
print("There are ", roof_type_other, " other roof types")
There are 73 grass roofs
There are 48 mabatisloping roofs
There are 10 mabatipitchedg roofs
There are 0 other roof types

What are we doing here?

  1. Open the file
  2. Ignore the headerline
  3. Initialise roof type variables to 0
  4. Extract the C01_respondent_roof_type information from each record
  5. Increment the appropriate variable
  6. close the file
  7. Print out the results

Instead of printing out the counts of the roof types, you may want to extract all of one particular roof type to a separate file. Let us assume we want all of the grass roof records to be written to a file.

# 1
filename = "SAFI_results.csv"
fr = open(filename, "r")

filename = "SAFI_grass_roof.csv"
fw = open(filename, "w")

for line in fr:
# 2    
    if line.split(",")[18] == 'grass' :
        fw.write(line)

#3
fr.close()
fw.close()

What are we doing here?

  1. Open the files. Because there are now two files, each has its own file handle: fr for the file we read and fw for the file we are going to write. (They are just variable names so you can use anything you like). For the file we are going to write to we use w for the second parameter. If the file does not exist it will be created. If it does exist, then the contents will be overwritten. If we want to append to an existing file we can use a as the second parameter.
  2. Because we are just testing a specific field from the record to have a certain value, we don’t need to put it into a variable first. If the expression is True, then we use write() method to write the complete line just as we read it to the output file.
  3. Close the files

In this example we didn’t bother skipping the header line as it would fail the test in the if statement. If we did want to include it we could have added the line

fw.write(fr.readline())

before the for loop

Exercise

From the SAFI_results.csv file extract all of the records where the C01_respondent_roof_type (index 18) has a value of 'grass' and the C02_respondent_wall_type (index 19) has a value of 'muddaub' and write them to a file. Within the same program write all of the records where C01_respondent_roof_type (index 18) has a value of 'grass' and the C02_respondent_wall_type (index 19) has a value of 'burntbricks' and write them to a separate file. In both files include the header record.

Solution

filename = "SAFI_results.csv"
fr = open(filename, "r")

filename = "SAFI_grass_roof_muddaub.csv"
fw1 = open(filename, "w")
filename = "SAFI_grass_roof_burntbricks.csv"
fw2 = open(filename, "w")

headerline = fr.readline()
fw1.write(headerline)
fw2.write(headerline)

for line in fr:
    if line.split(",")[18] == 'grass' :
        if line.split(",")[19] == 'muddaub' :
            fw1.write(line)
        if line.split(",")[19] == 'burntbricks' :
            fw2.write(line)    

fr.close()
fw1.close()
fw2.close()

In our example of printing the counts for the roof types, we assumed that we knew what the likely roof types were. Although we did have an 'other' option to catch anything we missed. Had there been any we would still be non the wiser as to what they represented. We were able to decide on the specific roof types by manually scanning the list of C01_respondent_roof_type values. This was only practical because of the small file size. For a multi-million record file we could not have done this.

We would like a way of creating a list of the different roof types and at the same time counting them. We can do this by using not a Python list structure, but a Python dictionary.

The Python dictionary structure

In Python a dictionary object maps keys to values. A dictionary can hold any number of keys and values but a key cannot be duplicated.

The following code shows examples of creating a dictionary object and manipulating keys and values.

# an empty dictionary
myDict = {}

# A dictionary with a single Key-value pair

personDict = {'Name' : 'Peter'}

# I can add more about 'Peter' to the dictionary

personDict['Location'] = 'Manchester'


# I can print all of the keys and values from the dictionary

print(personDict.items())

# I can print all of the keys and values from the dictionary - and make it look a bit nicer

for item in personDict:
    print(item, "=", personDict[item])

# or all of the keys

print(personDict.keys())

# or all of the values

print(personDict.values())

# I can access the value for a given key

x = personDict['Name']
print(x)

# I can change value for a given key

personDict['Name'] = "Fred"
print(personDict['Name'])

# I can check if a key exists

key = 'Name'

if key in personDict :
    print("already exists")
else :
    personDict[key] = "New value"
dict_items([('Location', 'Manchester'), ('Name', 'Peter')])
Location = Manchester
Name = Peter
dict_keys(['Location', 'Name'])
dict_values(['Manchester', 'Peter'])
Peter
Fred
already exists

Exercise

  1. Create a dictionary called dict_roof_types with initial keys of type1 and type2 and give them values of 1 and 3.
  2. Add a third key type3 with a value of 6.
  3. Add code to check if a key of type4 exists. If it does not add it to the dictionary with a value of 1 if it does, increment its value by 1
  4. Add code to check if a key of type2 exists. If it does not add it to the dictionary with a value of 1 if it does, increment its value by 1
  5. Print out all of the keys and values from the dictionary

Solution


# 1
dict_roof_types = {'type1' : 1 , 'type2' : 3}

# 2
dict_roof_types['type3'] = 6

# 3
key = 'type4'
if key in dict_roof_types :
    dict_roof_types[key] += 1
else :
    dict_roof_types[key] = 1

# 4
key = 'type2'
if key in dict_roof_types :
    dict_roof_types[key] += 1
else :
    dict_roof_types[key] = 1
 
# 5
for item in dict_roof_types:
    print(item, "=", dict_roof_types[item])
    

We are now in a position to re-write our count of roof types example without knowing in advance what any of the roof types are.

# 1
filename = "SAFI_results.csv"
f = open(filename, "r")

# 2
f.readline()

# 3
dict_roof_types = {}

for line in f:
# 4
    roof_type = line.split(",")[18]
# 5    
    if roof_type in dict_roof_types :
        dict_roof_types[roof_type] += 1
    else :
        dict_roof_types[roof_type] = 1
# 6
f.close()

# 7

for item in dict_roof_types:
    print(item, "=", dict_roof_types[item])
grass = 73
mabatipitched = 10
mabatisloping = 48

What are we doing here?

  1. Open the file
  2. Ignore the headerline
  3. Create an empty dictionary
  4. Extract the C01_respondent_roof_type information from each record
  5. Either add to the dictionary with a value of 1 or increment the current value for the key by 1
  6. close the file
  7. Print out the contents of the dictionary

You can apply the same approach to count values in any of the fields/columns of the file.

Key Points

  • Reading data from files is far more common than program ‘input’ requests or hard coding values

  • Python provides simple means of reading from a text file and writing to a text file

  • Tabular data is commonly recorded in a ‘csv’ file

  • Text files like csv files can be thought of as being a list of strings. Each string is a complete record

  • You can read and write a file one record at a time

  • Python has builtin functions to parse (split up) records into individual tokens