Is this the most efficient way to get and remove first line in file?

0 votes
asked Mar 8, 2010 by marco-demaio

I have a script which, each time is called, gets the first line of a file. Each line is known to be exactly of the same length (32 alphanumeric chars) and terminates with "\r\n". After getting the first line, the script removes it.

This is done in this way:

$contents = file_get_contents($file));
$first_line = substr($contents, 0, 32);
file_put_contents($file, substr($contents, 32 + 2)); //+2 because we remove also the \r\n

Obviously it works, but I was wondering whether there is a smarter (or more efficient) way to do this?

In my simple solution I basically read and rewrite the entire file just to take and remove the first line.

10 Answers

0 votes
answered Mar 8, 2010 by byron-whitlock

There is no more efficient way to do this other than rewriting the file.

0 votes
answered Mar 8, 2010 by tatu-ulmanen

Here's one way:

$contents = file($file, FILE_IGNORE_NEW_LINES);
$first_line = array_shift($contents);
file_put_contents($file, implode("\r\n", $contents));

There's countless other ways to do that also, but all the methods would involve separating the first line somehow and saving the rest. You cannot avoid rewriting the whole file. An alternative take:

list($first_line, $contents) = explode("\r\n", file_get_contents($file), 2);
file_put_contents($file, implode("\r\n", $contents));
0 votes
answered Mar 8, 2010 by michael-d-irizarry

You could use file() method.

Gets the first line

$content = file('myfile.txt');
echo $content[0];  
0 votes
answered Mar 8, 2010 by goat

You could store positional info into the file itself. For example, the first 8 bytes of the file could store an integer. This integer is the byte offset of the first real line in the file.

So, you never delete lines anymore. Instead, deleting a line means altering the start position. fseek() to it and then read lines as normal.

The file will grow big eventually. You could periodically clean up the orphaned lines to reduce the file size.

But seriously, just use a database and don't do stuff like this.

0 votes
answered Mar 8, 2010 by frank-farmer

I wouldn't usually recommend opening up a shell for this sort of thing, but if you're doing this infrequently on really large files, there's probably something to be said for:

$lines = `wc -l myfile` - 1;
`tail -n $lines myfile > newfile`;

It's simple, and it doesn't involve reading the whole file into memory.

I wouldn't recommend this for small files, or extremely frequent use though. The overhead's too high.

0 votes
answered Mar 9, 2010 by ghostdog74

you can iterate the file , instead of putting them all in memory

$handle = fopen("file", "r");
$first = fgets($handle,2048); #get first line.
$o = fopen($outfile,"w");
while (!feof($handle)) {
    $buffer = fgets($handle,2048);
0 votes
answered Mar 28, 2012 by daniel

I came up with this idea yesterday:

function read_and_delete_first_line($filename) {
  $file = file($filename);
  $output = $file[0];
  file_put_contents($filename, $file);
  return $output;
0 votes
answered Mar 3, 2014 by edakos

No need to create a second temporary file, nor put the whole file in memory:

if ($handle = fopen("file", "c+")) {             // open the file in reading and editing mode
    if (flock($handle, LOCK_EX)) {               // lock the file, so no one can read or edit this file 
        while (($line = fgets($handle, 4096)) !== FALSE) { 
            if (!isset($write_position)) {        // move the line to previous position, except the first line
                $write_position = 0;
            } else {
                $read_position = ftell($handle); // get actual line
                fseek($handle, $write_position); // move to previous position
                fputs($handle, $line);           // put actual line in previous position
                fseek($handle, $read_position);  // return to actual position
                $write_position += strlen($line);    // set write position to the next loop
        fflush($handle);                         // write any pending change to file
        ftruncate($handle, $write_position);     // drop the repeated last line
        flock($handle, LOCK_UN);                 // unlock the file
0 votes
answered Mar 24, 2014 by marcos-fernandez-ram

This will shift the first line of a file, you dont need to load the entire file in memory like you do using the 'file' function. Maybe for small files is a bit more slow than with 'file' (maybe but i bet is not) but is able to manage largest files without problems.

$firstline = false;
if($handle = fopen($logFile,'c+')){
    $offset = 0;
    $len = filesize($logFile);
    while(($line = fgets($handle,4096)) !== false){
        if(!$firstline){$firstline = $line;$offset = strlen($firstline);continue;}
        $pos = ftell($handle);
0 votes
answered Mar 30, 2016 by kushlendr-pal-ahirwa

I think this is best for any file size

$myfile = fopen("yourfile.txt", "r") or die("Unable to open file!");

while(!feof($myfile)) {
  $dataline= fgets($myfile) . "<br>";
  if($ch == 2){
  echo str_replace(' ', '&nbsp;', $dataline)."\n";
  $ch = 2;
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