How to jump to a particular line in a huge text file?

0 votes
asked Mar 6, 2009 by user63503

Are there any alternatives to the code below:

startFromLine = 141978 # or whatever line I need to jump to

urlsfile = open(filename, "rb", 0)

linesCounter = 1

for line in urlsfile:
    if linesCounter > startFromLine:

    linesCounter += 1

If I'm processing a huge text file (~15MB) with lines of unknown but different length, and need to jump to a particular line which number I know in advance? I feel bad by processing them one by one when I know I could ignore at least first half of the file. Looking for more elegant solution if there is any.

14 Answers

0 votes
answered Jan 6, 2009 by noah

If you know in advance the position in the file (rather the line number), you can use to go to that position.

Edit: you can use the linecache.getline(filename, lineno) function, which will return the contents of the line lineno, but only after reading the entire file into memory. Good if you're randomly accessing lines from within the file (as python itself might want to do to print a traceback) but not good for a 15MB file.

0 votes
answered Jan 6, 2009 by silentghost

I'm probably spoiled by abundant ram, but 15 M is not huge. Reading into memory with readlines() is what I usually do with files of this size. Accessing a line after that is trivial.

0 votes
answered Jan 6, 2009 by jarret-hardie

You don't really have that many options if the lines are of different length... you sadly need to process the line ending characters to know when you've progressed to the next line.

You can, however, dramatically speed this up AND reduce memory usage by changing the last parameter to "open" to something not 0.

0 means the file reading operation is unbuffered, which is very slow and disk intensive. 1 means the file is line buffered, which would be an improvement. Anything above 1 (say 8k.. ie: 8096, or higher) reads chunks of the file into memory. You still access it through for line in open(etc):, but python only goes a bit at a time, discarding each buffered chunk after its processed.

0 votes
answered Jan 6, 2009 by hasen

If you don't want to read the entire file in memory .. you may need to come up with some format other than plain text.

of course it all depends on what you're trying to do, and how often you will jump across the file.

For instance, if you're gonna be jumping to lines many times in the same file, and you know that the file does not change while working with it, you can do this:
First, pass through the whole file, and record the "seek-location" of some key-line-numbers (such as, ever 1000 lines),
Then if you want line 12005, jump to the position of 12000 (which you've recorded) then read 5 lines and you'll know you're in line 12005 and so on

0 votes
answered Jan 6, 2009 by dns

Do the lines themselves contain any index information? If the content of each line was something like "<line index>:Data", then the seek() approach could be used to do a binary search through the file, even if the amount of Data is variable. You'd seek to the midpoint of the file, read a line, check whether its index is higher or lower than the one you want, etc.

Otherwise, the best you can do is just readlines(). If you don't want to read all 15MB, you can use the sizehint argument to at least replace a lot of readline()s with a smaller number of calls to readlines().

0 votes
answered Jan 7, 2009 by andrew-dalke

Here's an example using 'readlines(sizehint)' to read a chunk of lines at a time. DNS pointed out that solution. I wrote this example because the other examples here are single-line oriented.

def getlineno(filename, lineno):
    if lineno < 1:
        raise TypeError("First line is line 1")
    f = open(filename)
    lines_read = 0
    while 1:
        lines = f.readlines(100000)
        if not lines:
            return None
        if lines_read + len(lines) >= lineno:
            return lines[lineno-lines_read-1]
        lines_read += len(lines)

print getlineno("nci_09425001_09450000.smi", 12000)
0 votes
answered Mar 6, 2009 by john-ellinwood


The linecache module allows one to get any line from a Python source file, while attempting to optimize internally, using a cache, the common case where many lines are read from a single file. This is used by the traceback module to retrieve source lines for inclusion in the formatted traceback...

0 votes
answered Mar 6, 2009 by adam-rosenfield

You can't jump ahead without reading in the file at least once, since you don't know where the line breaks are. You could do something like:

# Read in the file once and build a list of line offsets
line_offset = []
offset = 0
for line in file:
    offset += len(line)

# Now, to skip to line n (with the first line being line 0), just do[n])
0 votes
answered Jan 28, 2010 by kamathln

What generates the file you want to process? If it is something under your control, you could generate an index (which line is at which position.) at the time the file is appended to. The index file can be of fixed line size (space padded or 0 padded numbers) and will definitely be smaller. And thus can be read and processed qucikly.

  • Which line do you want?.
  • Calculate byte offset of corresponding line number in index file(possible because line size of index file is constant).
  • Use seek or whatever to directly jump to get the line from index file.
  • Parse to get byte offset for corresponding line of actual file.
0 votes
answered Jan 6, 2014 by user3810114

I have had the same problem (need to retrieve from huge file specific line).

Surely, I can every time run through all records in file and stop it when counter will be equal to target line, but it does not work effectively in a case when you want to obtain plural number of specific rows. That caused main issue to be resolved - how handle directly to necessary place of file.

I found out next decision: Firstly I completed dictionary with start position of each line (key is line number, and value – cumulated length of previous lines).

t = open(file,’r’)
dict_pos = {}

kolvo = 0
length = 0
for each in t:
    dict_pos[kolvo] = length
    length = length+len(each)
    kolvo = kolvo+1

ultimately, aim function:

def give_line(line_number):
    line = t.readline()
    return line – command that execute pruning of file up to line inception. So, if you next commit readline – you obtain your target line.

Using such approach I have saved significant part of time.

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