[Python-Dev] Simplify the file-like-object interface

Michael Chermside mcherm at mcherm.com
Tue Sep 13 15:44:39 CEST 2005

Andrew Durdin writes:
> Another area where I think this approach can help is with the
> text/binary file distinction. file() could always open files as
> binary, and there could be a convenience function textfile(name, mode)
> which would simply return textstream(file(name, mode)). This would
> remove the need for "a" or "b" in the mode parameter, and make it
> easier to keep text- and binary-file access separate in one's mind:

I think you are suffering from the (rather common) misconception that
all files are binary, and the definition of "text file" is a binary
file which should be interpreted as containing characters in some

In unix, the above is true. One of the fundamental decisions in Unix
was to treat all files (and lots of other vaguely file-like things)
as undiferentiated streams of bytes. But this is NOT true on many
other operating systems. It is not, for example, true on Windows.

Many operating systems make a distinction between two basic types of
files... "text files" which are line-oriented and contain "text", and
"binary files" which contain streams of bytes. This distinction is
supported by the basic file operations in the C library. To open a
text file in binary mode is technically an error (although in many OSs
you'll get away with it).

-- Michael Chermside

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