How to Correctly Read Data from a Text File in Python

What will you learn?

In this comprehensive guide, you will master the art of effectively reading data stored in text files using Python. By exploring strategies and best practices, you’ll troubleshoot common issues that may hinder your code from accessing file contents as expected.

Introduction to the Problem and Solution

Encountering challenges when reading data from text files in Python is not uncommon. Issues can stem from incorrect file paths, improper use of file reading methods, or misconceptions about file handling operations. Understanding these pitfalls is vital for debugging and ensuring smooth access and manipulation of data stored on disk.

To overcome these hurdles, we will delve into opening, reading, and closing text files in Python while emphasizing common mistakes and best practices. By following these guidelines, you can steer clear of errors and ensure seamless interaction between your program and text files.


# Example code snippet for reading a text file in Python

# Open the file using 'with' statement to ensure proper closure after its block is exited.
with open('example.txt', 'r') as file:
    # Read the content of the file
    content =

# Copyright PHD


The provided example showcases a robust method for reading data from a text file in Python. Utilizing the with statement guarantees the file is correctly closed even if an error occurs within its block, simplifying resource management and enhancing code readability.

  • Open Function: The built-in open() function opens a file either in binary or text mode.
  • File Modes: Using ‘r’ argument opens the file in read-only mode.
  • Reading Content: The .read() method reads the entire content into a string variable named content.
  • Print Content: Finally, we display the read content by printing content.

Understanding these components will empower you to efficiently manage files, whether handling plain text logs or intricate datasets stored locally.

  1. How do I handle FileNotFoundError?

  2. A: Ensure that your specified path correctly points to where your text file is located relative to your script’s execution context.

  3. What encoding should I use when opening a file?

  4. A: For most English language texts without special characters, UTF-8 (default) works well; adjust based on specific requirements (e.g., ‘utf-16’ for certain international texts).

  5. Can I append data instead of overwriting it?

  6. A: Yes! Use ‘a’ mode (append) instead of ‘w’ (write) when opening your file if preserving existing content is desired.

  7. How do I read lines individually?

  8. A: Utilize .readlines() method which returns list where each element represents one line from your file.

  9. Is there a difference between �+� modes and regular ones?

  10. A: Yes; adding ‘+’ allows updating (both writing & reading). For instance,’r+’ opens for both reading & writing but doesn’t truncate existing contents unlike ‘w+’ does.


Mastering techniques discussed herein equips you to confidently tackle diverse scenarios encountered in the field with proficiency. Reading data from text files is fundamental across various Python applications, enabling you to parse configurations or analyze extensive datasets efficiently.

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