Skip to main content


Pandas support different kinds of files, some good rules of thumb when reading files are:

  • Specify which are the quotechars, that is, if the separator is a space, but space can appear in some of the fields delimited by the '"' characters, then the '"' character is our quotechar
  • Specify possible escape characters, if inside some of the fields characters are escaped, remember to specify this in the "escapechar" parameter
  • Specify dtypes through the "dtype" named parameter in order to achieve some speed up due to the fact that inferring a type takes time

Reading a CSV File

We can read a csv file in this way:

ds = pd.read_csv(filename, sep=None, engine='python', parse_dates=['fcast_date','timestamp'], dtype={'user_id': "category", 'stringa':'object'})

Basically we set engine to python anytime we deal with regexes.

Let's see another example:

# In this case we are also setting an index column
ds = pd.read_csv("reuters_random_sample.csv", parse_dates=['time', 'published_time'],  index_col='time')

let's see another example:

# in this case we skip the initial space we have in fields, this is very useful
# since many times we have csv files where fields are separated by a space other
# than commas to increase readability
ds = pd.read_csv("reuters_random_sample.csv", parse_dates=['time', 'published_time'],  index_col='time', skipinitialspace = True)

Let's see another example where we want to exclude some columns or change the order of the existing columns:

# in this case we read the cols but then switch the order in our dataframe
ds = pd.read_csv(data, usecols=['foo', 'bar'], skipinitialspace=True)[['bar', 'foo']]

we can also refer to columns numerically, for example:

ds = pd.read_csv(data, usecols=[0,1], comment='#')

In this last case we also specified that lines starting with "#" have to be considered comments, hence not to be analyzed.

Let's see another example, in this case we have fields separated by a bunch of spaces, but still spaces can appear in some of the fields because there are strings, for example:

1 "a string exampel" 12:32 "awdaw ddwd wa da " 2 "a string exampel, dwao9*(0323" 12:35 "a a awdaw ddwd, wa,, da "

In this case we can read the file, by denoting the quoting char, so inside quoting chars the separator can apper and will not cause any problems

ds = pd.read_csv("data.csv", sep='\s+', engine='python', quotechar='"')

Another example could be when we have multiple separators, at this point we can try with:

# In this case we consider both ; and , as separators
df = pd.read_csv("file.csv", sep="[;,]", engine='python')
ds = pd.read_csv("dataset.csv", engine='python', quotechar='!', header=None, names=['time','offset','title','link'], index_col='time')

Reading an XLS(X) file

energy = pd.read_excel("Energy Indicators.xls")

Reading a Complex file

Sometimes, specifying delimiters and quotechars is not enough, we also need to specify how characters are escaped, for example in apache web logs, is not so uncommon to find escaped characters inside strings, for example things like: - - [03/Feb/2018:00:59:13 +0200] "GET /path/strnage\"path HTTP/1.1" 503 245520 "-" "Chrome\"Strange\"UA"

a string like this, can definitely confuse the parser, we should in these cases parse it like:

ds = pd.read_csv("access.1.log", escapechar="\\", quotechar='"', header=None)

Other times, it may be still more complex, and it can be a good idea to take advantage of regexes in order to parse a file, like this:

logs = pd.DataFrame(columns=['time', 'article_id', 'user_id'])
# regc = re.compile(r'\[(?P<time>.*?)\] "GET (.*?=)(?P<article_id>\d+)(&.*?=)(?P<user_id>\d+)')
# alternative regexp that might be more efficient
regc = re.compile(r'\[(?P<time>.+)\] "GET (?:.+article_id=)(?P<article_id>\d+)(?:&user_id=)(?P<user_id>\d+)')

for line in log_file:
    m = regc.match(line)
    time ='time')
    article_id ='article_id')
    user_id ='user_id')
    logs.append([time, article_id, user_id])

Writing to a CSV File

Let's see how to save our dataframe to a new csv file:

# In this case we do not want to save the index to the file
ds.to_csv(filename, index = False)