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Foundations of Python Programming: Functions First

Section 11.3 Alternative File Reading Methods

Once you have a file “object”, the thing returned by the open function, Python provides three methods to read data from that object. The read() method returns the entire contents of the file as a single string (or just some characters) if you provide a number as an input parameter. The readlines method returns the entire contents of the entire file as a list of strings, where each item in the list is one line of the file. The readline method reads one line from the file and returns it as a string. The strings returned by readlines or readline will contain the newline character at the end. The following table summarizes these methods and the following session shows them in action.
Table 11.3.1.
Method Name Use Explanation
Read and return a string of n characters, or the entire file as a single string if n is not provided.
readline() filevar.readline()
Read and return the next line of the file with all text up to and including the newline character.
readlines() filevar.readlines()
Returns a list of strings, each representing a single line of the file.
In this course, we will generally either iterate through the lines returned by readlines() with a for loop, or use read() to get all of the contents as a single string.
In other programming languages, where they don’t have the convenient for loop method of going through the lines of the file one by one, they use a different pattern which requires a different kind of loop, the while loop. Fortunately, you don’t need to learn this other pattern, and we will put off consideration of while loops until later in this course. We don’t need them for handling data from files.

Note 11.3.2.

A common error that novice programmers make is not realizing that all these ways of reading the file contents, use up the file. After you call readlines(), if you call it again you’ll get an empty list.
Check your Understanding

Checkpoint 11.3.3.

  1. Using the file school_prompt2.txt (shown below), find the number of characters in the file and assign that value to the variable num_char.

Checkpoint 11.3.4.

  1. Find the number of lines in the file travel_plans2.txt (shown below), and assign it to the variable num_lines.
Data: school_prompt2.txt
Writing essays for school can be difficult but
many students find that by researching their topic that they
have more to say and are better informed. Here are the university
we require many undergraduate students to take a first year writing requirement
so that they can
have a solid foundation for their writing skills. This comes
in handy for many students.
Different schools have different requirements, but everyone uses
writing at some point in their academic career, be it essays, research papers,
technical write ups, or scripts.
Data: travel_plans2.txt
This summer I will be travelling.
I will go to...
Italy: Rome
Greece: Athens
England: London, Manchester
France: Paris, Nice, Lyon
Spain: Madrid, Barcelona, Granada
Austria: Vienna
I will probably not even want to come back!
However, I wonder how I will get by with all the different languages.
I only know English!
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