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Python 3.2 CSV Module -- Very, Very Nice

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Python 3.2 CSV Module -- Very, Very Nice

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A common (and small) task is reformatting a file that's in some variant of CSV.  It could be a SQL database extract, or an export from an application that works well with CSV files.

In Python 2.x, a CSV file with Unicode was a bit of a problem.  The CSV module isn't happy with Unicode.  The documentation is quite clear that many files need to be opened with a mode of 'rb' to correctly handle Windows line-endings.

Because of this, a CSV file with Unicode required using an explicit decoder on the individual columns (not the line as a whole!)

But with Python 3.2, that's all behind us.

Here's something I did recently.  The file has six columns that are relevant.  One of them (the "NOTE") column has a big block of text with details buried inside using a kind of RST markup.  The data might be three lines with a value like this " words words\n:budget: 1500\nwords words".

The file is UTF-8, and the words have non-ASCII unicode characters randomly through it.

def details( source ):
    relevant = ( "TASK", "FOLDER", "CONTEXT", "PRIORITY", "STAR", )
    parse= "NOTE"
    data_pat= re.compile( r"^:(\w+):\s*(.*)\s*$" )
    rdr= csv.DictReader( source )
    for row in rdr:
        txt= row[parse]
        lines= ( data_pat.match(l) for l in txt.splitlines() )
        matches= ( m.groups() for m in lines if m )
        result= dict( (k, row[k]) for k in relevant) 
        result.update( dict(matches) )
        yield result

How much do I love Python? Let me count the ways.

  1. The assignment of lines on line 8 was fun.  The "NOTE" column, in row[parse], contains the extra fields.  They'll be on a separate line with the :word:value format as shown in the data_pat pattern.  We create a generator which will split the text field into lines and apply the pattern to each line.
  2. The assignment to  matches on line 9 was equally fun.  If the matches generator produced a match object, the lines generator will gather the two groups form the line.
  3. The assignment to result creates a dictionary from the relevant columns.  
  4. The second assignment to result updates this dictionary with data parsed out of the "NOTE" column.

That makes it quite pleasant (and fast) to process an extract file, reformatting a "big blob of text" into individual columns.

The rest of the app boils down to this.

def rewrite( input, target=sys.stdout ):
    with io.open(input, 'r', encoding='UTF-8') as source:
        data= list( details( source ) )
    headers= set( k for row in data for k in row  )
    wtr= csv.DictWriter( target, sorted(headers) )
    wtr.writeheader( )
    wtr.writerows( data )

This gathers the raw data into a big old sequence in memory, and then writes that big old sequence back out to a file.  If we knew the headers buried in the "NOTE" field, we could do the entire thing in a single pass just using generators.

We have to explicitly provide the encoding because the file was created via a download and the encoding isn't properly set on the client machine.  The important thing is that we can do this when it's necessary.  And we no longer have to explicitly decode fields.

Since we don't know the headers in the "NOTE" field, we're forced to create the headers set by examining each row dictionary for it's keys.

Source: http://slott-softwarearchitect.blogspot.com/2012/01/python-32-csv-module-very-very-nice.html

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