first, second, etc line of text file

Steve Holden steve at
Thu Jul 26 18:32:16 CEST 2007

Mike wrote:
> On Jul 26, 8:46 am, "Daniel Nogradi" <nogr... at> wrote:
>>>> A very simple question: I currently use a cumbersome-looking way of
>>>> getting the first, second, etc. line of a text file:
>>>> for i, line in enumerate( open( textfile ) ):
>>>>     if i == 0:
>>>>         print 'First line is: ' + line
>>>>     elif i == 1:
>>>>         print 'Second line is: ' + line
>>>>     .......
>>>>     .......
>>>> I thought about f = open( textfile ) and then f[0], f[1], etc but that
>>>> throws a TypeError: 'file' object is unsubscriptable.
>>>> Is there a simpler way?
>>> If all you need is sequential access, you can use the next() method of
>>> the file object:
>>> nextline = open(textfile).next
>>> print 'First line is: %r' % nextline()
>>> print 'Second line is: %r' % nextline()
>>> ...
>>> For random access, the easiest way is to slurp all the file in a list
>>> using file.readlines().
>> Thanks! This looks the best, I only need the first couple of lines
>> sequentially so don't need to read in the whole file ever.
> if you only ever need the first few lines of a file, why not keep it
> simple and do something like this?
> mylines = open("c:\\myfile.txt","r").readlines()[:5]
> that will give you the first five lines of the file. Replace 5 with
> whatever number you need. next will work, too, obviously, but won't
> that use of next hold the file open until you are done with it? Or,
> more specifically, since you do not have a file object at all, won't
> you have to wait until the function goes out of scope to release the
> file? Would that be a problem? Or am I just being paranoid?
Unfortunately the expression


reads the whole file in and generates a list of the lines just so it can 
slice the first five off. Compare that, on a large file, with something like

     [ for _ in range(5)]

and I think you will see that the latter is significantly better in 
almost all respects.

Steve Holden        +1 571 484 6266   +1 800 494 3119
Holden Web LLC/Ltd 
Skype: holdenweb
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