Title: Proposal to implement comment rows in csv module
Type: Stage:
Components: Library (Lib) Versions: Python 2.5
Status: closed Resolution: rejected
Dependencies: Superseder:
Assigned To: andrewmcnamara Nosy List: Mario.Fasold, amaury.forgeotdarc, andrewmcnamara, eric.araujo, florian-rathgeber, iain_haslam, orsenthil, pitrou, rhettinger, skip.montanaro
Priority: normal Keywords: patch

Created on 2005-06-22 19:48 by iain_haslam, last changed 2010-08-29 13:40 by florian-rathgeber. This issue is now closed.

File name Uploaded Description Edit
csv.diff iain_haslam, 2005-06-22 19:48 Proposed diffs to implement commented records.
csv_comment_doc_test.diff iain_haslam, 2005-06-30 23:40 Test and documentation diff
Messages (20)
msg48499 - (view) Author: Iain Haslam (iain_haslam) Date: 2005-06-22 19:48
Sometimes csv files contain comment rows, for
temporarily commenting out data or occasionally for
documentation. The current csv module has no built-in
ability to skip rows; in order to skip all lines
beginning with '#', the programmer writes something like:

csv_reader = csv.reader(fp)
for row in csv_reader:
    if row[0][0] != '#':    #assuming no blank lines
        print row

I propose adding a "commentchar" parameter to the csv
parser, so that the above code could be written (more
elegantly, in my opinion):

csv_reader = csv.reader(fp, commentchar='#')
for row in csv_reader:
    print row

This requires only relatively minor changes to the
module, and by defaulting to using no comment
character, existing code will behave as before. If you
are interested, the patch (diffs against current cvs)
required for the second example to run are attached.

Note that that implementation adds SKIPPED_RECORD as a
pseudonym for START_RECORD, because setting status to
START_RECORD after skipping a record would cause a
blank record to be returned.  Altering that behaviour
would cause more changes and the patch would be harder
to review. I've also held back on updating tests and
documentation to reflect this change, pending any
support for it.

It shoud be irrelevant, but this has been developed on
Debian testing against the cvs head of Python.
msg48500 - (view) Author: Skip Montanaro (skip.montanaro) * Date: 2005-06-25 19:39
Logged In: YES 

I'm not inclined to clutter the C code with further complications.  Why
can't you implement this on an as-needed basis with a file object wrapper,
a subclass of the csv.reader class, or just continue to use the example in
your submission?

msg48501 - (view) Author: Iain Haslam (iain_haslam) Date: 2005-06-26 17:26
Logged In: YES 

> I'm not inclined to clutter the C code with further 
> complications.

Sorry - I haven't been keeping up with the existing
complications! Don't forget that one man's clutter is
another man's functionality. It doesn't actually require
much of a change to the code, although I was slightly
suprised to discover that this module was in C in the first

Basically, I noticed that the csv module has a bias towards
Excel-generated csv files, but most of the time I've come
across csv files, they were hand-edited, and I've often seen
comment fields as described in the submission.

My submission was intended in the "batteries included" 
spirit (I do understand that you stop short of the kitchen
sink), and also seemed in-keeping with the
'skipinitialspace' option within the existing csv module.

> Why can't you implement this on an as-needed basis  
> with a file object wrapper [other options]

True, I could do any of those things, but it would be
simpler / clearer not to have to. Of course, if you took
your argument further, you could cut chunks out of several
modules; the argument comes down to whether the benefits
outweigh the additional complexity. I was suprised to
discover the option wasn't already there, but maybe that's
just me.

In any case, if your vote goes from your apparent -0 to -1,
that's your choice, and you're better placed to make it than
I am.

msg48502 - (view) Author: Skip Montanaro (skip.montanaro) * Date: 2005-06-26 18:02
Logged In: YES 

Something else just occurred to me.  What about writing csv files with
comments?  Also, a tweak to the docs would be in order if this is
msg48503 - (view) Author: Skip Montanaro (skip.montanaro) * Date: 2005-06-27 17:25
Logged In: YES 

Iain - There was some positive response to your patch from
the csv mailing list (most notably from one of the authors of
the C extension module).  Can you provide diffs for the
module documentation and necessary test cases to go along
with your patch?  Also, addressing the issue that CSV files
with comments (probably?) won't round-trip would be a good
thing to note in the docs.

msg48504 - (view) Author: Iain Haslam (iain_haslam) Date: 2005-06-30 23:40
Logged In: YES 

Here are the documentation and test diffs.

I'm glad to hear of the positive feedback. I couldn't find
the csv mailing list (I assume it's not public), so didn't
see the discussion of round-tripping, but I agree with the
implied conclusion that flagging rows as comments would
complicate the interface too much.

On a related point, I noticed that the csv documentation is
filed under "Internet data handling". This seems a little
odd - I'd suggest moving it to "Miscellaneous Services"
alongside fileinput and ConfigParser.

msg48505 - (view) Author: Skip Montanaro (skip.montanaro) * Date: 2007-02-11 18:59
Sorry, I'm coming back to this after a long hiatus...  I'm still not
inclined to make this change to the C source.  I think a) comments in CSV
files are pretty rare and that b) implementing this using a file object
wrapper would be more flexible.

#!/usr/bin/env python

import csv
import StringIO

class CommentedFile:
    def __init__(self, f, commentstring="#"):
        self.f = f
        self.commentstring = commentstring

    def next(self):
        line =
        while line.startswith(self.commentstring):
            line =
        return line

    def __iter__(self):
        return self

f = StringIO.StringIO('''\
# Rachel Sage
"","Rachael Sage","2008-01-03","2008-01-03","8:00pm"
# Others
"","Bossa Nova Beatniks","2007-11-11","2007-11-11","11:11pm"
"","Special Consensus","2006-10-06","2006-10-06",""

for row in csv.reader(CommentedFile(f)):
    print row

The output of the above is as expected:

['event', 'performers', 'start', 'end', 'time']
['', 'Rachael Sage', '2008-01-03', '2008-01-03', '8:00pm']
['', 'Tung-N-GRoeVE', '2008-01-16', '2008-01-16', '9:30pm-2:00am']
['', 'Bossa Nova Beatniks', '2007-11-11', '2007-11-11', '11:11pm']
['', 'Special Consensus', '2006-10-06', '2006-10-06', '']

This has the added benefit that comment lines aren't restricted to single
character comment prefixes.  On the downside, comment characters appearing
at the beginning of a continuation line would trip this up.  In practice, I
don't think it would be a significant limitation.  In almost all cases I
suspect CSV files with embedded comments would be manually created and
maintained and aren't likely to contain fields with embedded comments.

msg65434 - (view) Author: Skip Montanaro (skip.montanaro) * Date: 2008-04-13 03:33
Assigning to Andrew (as the primary C lib author).  Andrew, please
comment ;-).
msg65505 - (view) Author: Andrew McNamara (andrewmcnamara) * (Python committer) Date: 2008-04-15 07:16
I think it's a reasonable enough request - I've certainly had to 
process CSV files with comments. Iain - appologies for not looking at 
your request before now - 3 years is a pretty poor response time.

Some thoughts:
 * this should target 2.6, not 2.5 (as 2.5 is in maintenance only)?
 * the check that disallows "space" - I wonder what other things it 
should disallow - the delimiter?
 * should it support multicharacter comments, like the C++ //-style 
comment? I think no.
 * any implications for the py3k port?

Skip - are you happy making the changes, or should I dust off my 
working copy?
msg65506 - (view) Author: Raymond Hettinger (rhettinger) * (Python committer) Date: 2008-04-15 08:01
-1 on the change.  Comments in CSV files are not a common use case.  
I'm less worried about cluttering the C code and more concerned about 
cluttering the API, making the module harder to learn and remember.

Also, it is already trivial to implement filtering using str.startswith
().  This proposed patch is not worth the rare case where it saves a 
line or two code that was already crystal clear.
msg98415 - (view) Author: Mario Fasold (Mario.Fasold) Date: 2010-01-27 11:46
Comment lines are a *very* common case in scientific and statistical data. +1 for the change.
msg98421 - (view) Author: Amaury Forgeot d'Arc (amaury.forgeotdarc) * (Python committer) Date: 2010-01-27 13:17
Comment lines in csv data may be common in some areas, but they are not part of any standard, and they are not the only possible extension to csv files (for example: ignore empty lines, or a terminal \ for line continuation...)

Currently all members of Dialect deal with the format of the records, not with the extraction of records from the file. (lineterminator is used only when writing).

The "CommentedFile" filter above is a good recipe for all cases, and is easy to use. I recommend closing this issue.
msg98422 - (view) Author: √Čric Araujo (eric.araujo) * (Python committer) Date: 2010-01-27 13:25

Shouldn't the comment char definition belong in a dialect class? The reader would still have to be modified to skip these lines, but having this char in the dialect would not require a change to csv.reader signature.

Kind regards
msg98426 - (view) Author: Amaury Forgeot d'Arc (amaury.forgeotdarc) * (Python committer) Date: 2010-01-27 13:49
> Shouldn't the comment char definition belong in a dialect class?
The proposed patch does this correctly; then csv.reader automatically accepts the dialect parameters to override the selected dialect.

I'm still -1 on the feature - not standard enough, and easy to implement outside the csv module.
msg98436 - (view) Author: Skip Montanaro (skip.montanaro) * Date: 2010-01-27 16:07
Amaury> Comment lines in csv data may be common in some areas, but they
    Amaury> are not part of any standard, and they are not the only possible
    Amaury> extension to csv files (for example: ignore empty lines, or a
    Amaury> terminal \ for line continuation...)

Or different peoples' notion of how to comment strings.  Precidely because
there is no standard way to comment out content in CSV files people are free
to dream up anything they want, including,
but not limited to:

    * C- or C++-style comments
    * MoinMoin-style comments, where "##" introduces a comment but a lone
      "#" introduces a meta command to the parser

Trying to accommodate the myriad varieties of way s people might decide to
comment out content would put an undue burden on the csv module's parser.

msg98438 - (view) Author: Antoine Pitrou (pitrou) * (Python committer) Date: 2010-01-27 16:11
Agreed with Skip, Raymond and Amaury.
Since the csv module returns you an iterator, it's easy enough to wrap it in another iterator.
msg98447 - (view) Author: Skip Montanaro (skip.montanaro) * Date: 2010-01-27 18:43
Antoine> Since the csv module returns you an iterator, it's easy enough
    Antoine> to wrap it in another iterator.

I prefer to do this sort of stuff as a pre-processing step, so I generally
wrap the file object input and use that iterator as the input "file" for the
csv reader.  I'm sure it's largely a matter of taste and what you need to
do.  Certainly wrapping the csv reader's output would be useful to provide
sensible missing values.

msg98807 - (view) Author: Senthil Kumaran (orsenthil) * (Python committer) Date: 2010-02-04 00:50
Here is another -1 for this proposed feature. Having a comments in the csv fields and providing a way to deal will complicate matters more than required. Different suggestions of how to accomplish it has been suggested here. As others, I too recommend closing it. (It is assigned to andewmcnamara, so I guess, he would close it).
msg98808 - (view) Author: Andrew McNamara (andrewmcnamara) * (Python committer) Date: 2010-02-04 02:10
Okay, while I am sympathetic to the points raised by the people asking for this enhancement, I'm persuaded to reject it by the arguments that the potential benefit is outweighed by the increase in complexity (code and documentation).

While the attached patch from Iain requires relatively minor and innocuous changes to the state machine, it only satisfies a limited subset of users, and the effect of complexity is geometric. In other words, to understand the state machine, you need to understand the relation of each state to every other state, etc.

As to why the core of the module is implemented in C, the sort of stateful parsing done by the module is one area where python does not excel (Ha!). Stripping comments, on the other hand, CAN be done with reasonable efficiency from python (and considerably more flexibility). Also, it has been my experience that CSV files that use comments typically have other non-standard features as well, requiring additional pre- and post-processing in any case.
msg98812 - (view) Author: Andrew McNamara (andrewmcnamara) * (Python committer) Date: 2010-02-04 04:05
Note that there is one case that cannot easily be addressed via pre-processing: where the comment character coincidently appears at the start of a line within a multi-line quoted field. For example:

# This is a comment
1, 2, "This is field^M

What this should produce is debatable, but it would be hard to make it produce:

  ["1", "2", "This is field^M#3"]

without implementing it within the parser.
Date User Action Args
2010-08-29 13:40:43florian-rathgebersetnosy: + florian-rathgeber
2010-02-04 04:05:37andrewmcnamarasetmessages: + msg98812
2010-02-04 02:10:23andrewmcnamarasetstatus: open -> closed
resolution: rejected
messages: + msg98808
2010-02-04 00:50:33orsenthilsetnosy: + orsenthil
messages: + msg98807
2010-01-27 18:43:25skip.montanarosetmessages: + msg98447
2010-01-27 16:11:58pitrousetnosy: + pitrou
messages: + msg98438
2010-01-27 16:07:22skip.montanarosetmessages: + msg98436
2010-01-27 13:49:33amaury.forgeotdarcsetmessages: + msg98426
2010-01-27 13:25:53eric.araujosetnosy: + eric.araujo
messages: + msg98422
2010-01-27 13:17:04amaury.forgeotdarcsetnosy: + amaury.forgeotdarc
messages: + msg98421
2010-01-27 11:46:11Mario.Fasoldsetnosy: + Mario.Fasold
messages: + msg98415
2008-04-15 08:01:50rhettingersetnosy: + rhettinger
messages: + msg65506
2008-04-15 07:16:58andrewmcnamarasetmessages: + msg65505
2008-04-13 03:33:03skip.montanarosetassignee: skip.montanaro -> andrewmcnamara
messages: + msg65434
nosy: + andrewmcnamara
2005-06-22 19:48:01iain_haslamcreate