How to write a line to file in Python?

Query:

I’m used to doing print >>f, "hi there"

However, it seems that print >> is getting deprecated. What is the recommended way to do the line above?

Update: Regarding all those answers with "\n"…is this universal or Unix-specific? IE, should I be doing "\r\n" on Windows?

How to write a line to file in Python?

This should be as simple as:

with open('somefile.txt', 'a') as the_file:
    the_file.write('Hello\n')

From The Documentation:

Do not use os.linesep as a line terminator when writing files opened in text mode (the default); use a single ‘\n’ instead, on all platforms.

Some useful reading:

  • The with statement
  • open()
    • ‘a’ is for append, or use
    • ‘w’ to write with truncation
  • os (particularly os.linesep)

You should use the print() function which is available since Python 2.6+

from __future__ import print_function  # Only needed for Python 2
print("hi there", file=f)

For Python 3 you don’t need the import, since the print() function is the default.

The alternative would be to use:

f = open('myfile', 'w')
f.write('hi there\n')  # python will convert \n to os.linesep
f.close()  # you can omit in most cases as the destructor will call it

Quoting from Python documentation regarding newlines:

On output, if newline is None, any '\n' characters written are translated to the system default line separator, os.linesep. If newline is '', no translation takes place. If newline is any of the other legal values, any '\n' characters written are translated to the given string.

The python docs recommend this way:

with open('file_to_write', 'w') as f:
    f.write('file contents\n')

So this is the way I usually do it 🙂

Statement from docs.python.org:

It is good practice to use the ‘with’ keyword when dealing with file objects. This has the advantage that the file is properly closed after its suite finishes, even if an exception is raised on the way. It is also much shorter than writing equivalent try-finally blocks.

Regarding os.linesep:

Here is an exact unedited Python 2.7.1 interpreter session on Windows:

Python 2.7.1 (r271:86832, Nov 27 2010, 18:30:46) [MSC v.1500 32 bit (Intel)] on
win32
Type "help", "copyright", "credits" or "license" for more information.
>>> import os
>>> os.linesep
'\r\n'
>>> f = open('myfile','w')
>>> f.write('hi there\n')
>>> f.write('hi there' + os.linesep) # same result as previous line ?????????
>>> f.close()
>>> open('myfile', 'rb').read()
'hi there\r\nhi there\r\r\n'
>>>

On Windows:

As expected, os.linesep does NOT produce the same outcome as '\n'. There is no way that it could produce the same outcome. 'hi there' + os.linesep is equivalent to 'hi there\r\n', which is NOT equivalent to 'hi there\n'.

It’s this simple: use \n which will be translated automatically to os.linesep. And it’s been that simple ever since the first port of Python to Windows.

There is no point in using os.linesep on non-Windows systems, and it produces wrong results on Windows.

Answer #3:

I do not think there is a “correct” way.

I would use:

with open ('myfile', 'a') as f: f.write ('hi there\n')

Answer #4:

If you are writing a lot of data and speed is a concern you should probably go with f.write(...). I did a quick speed comparison and it was considerably faster than print(..., file=f) when performing a large number of writes.

import time    

start = start = time.time()
with open("test.txt", 'w') as f:
    for i in range(10000000):
        # print('This is a speed test', file=f)
        # f.write('This is a speed test\n')
end = time.time()
print(end - start)

On average write finished in 2.45s on my machine, whereas print took about 4 times as long (9.76s). That being said, in most real-world scenarios this will not be an issue.

If you choose to go with print(..., file=f) you will probably find that you’ll want to suppress the newline from time to time, or replace it with something else. This can be done by setting the optional end parameter, e.g.;

with open("test", 'w') as f:
    print('Foo1,', file=f, end='')
    print('Foo2,', file=f, end='')
    print('Foo3', file=f)

Whichever way you choose I’d suggest using with since it makes the code much easier to read.

Update: This difference in performance is explained by the fact that write is highly buffered and returns before any writes to disk actually take place, whereas print (probably) uses line buffering. A simple test for this would be to check performance for long writes as well, where the disadvantages (in terms of speed) for line buffering would be less pronounced.

start = start = time.time()
long_line = 'This is a speed test' * 100
with open("test.txt", 'w') as f:
    for i in range(1000000):
        # print(long_line, file=f)
        # f.write(long_line + '\n')
end = time.time()

print(end - start, "s")

The performance difference now becomes much less pronounced, with an average time of 2.20s for write and 3.10s for print. If you need to concatenate a bunch of strings to get this loooong line performance will suffer, so use-cases where print would be more efficient are a bit rare.

Hope you learned something from this post.

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