15 Ways to Read CSV Files in Python with Pandas

This tutorial explains how to read a CSV file in python using read_csv function of pandas package. Without use of read_csv function, it is not straightforward to import CSV file with python object-oriented programming.

Pandas is an awesome powerful python package for data manipulation and supports various functions to load and import data from various formats. Here we are covering how to deal with common issues in importing CSV file.

Read CSV Files in Python with Pandas
Table of Contents

Install and Load Pandas Package

Make sure you have pandas package already installed on your system. If you set up python using Anaconda, it comes with pandas package so you don't need to install it again. Otherwise you can install it by using command pip install pandas.

Next step is to load the package by running the following command. pd is an alias of pandas package. We will use it instead of full name "pandas".

import pandas as pd
Download Sample Data for Import

You can get sample data by clicking the link below. Once you've clicked it, right-click and choose the Save as option to download it.

The sample data looks like below -

  ID first_name company  salary
0  11      David     Aon      74
1  12      Jamie     TCS      76
2  13      Steve  Google      96
3  14    Stevart     RBS      71
4  15       John       .      78

Example 1 : Read CSV file with header row

It's the basic syntax of read_csv() function. You just need to mention the filename. It assumes you have column names in first row of your CSV file.

mydata = pd.read_csv("workingfile.csv")

Incase the CSV files is not in your current working durectory, you can specify the full file location. Single backslash does not work in Python so use 2 backslashes while specifying file location.

mydata = pd.read_csv("C:\\Users\\deepa\\Documents\\workingfile.csv")

To check current working directory, you can run the command below.

import os

Incase you want to change the working directory, you can specify it in under os.chdir( ) function.


The above read_csv( ) function stores the data the way it should be as we have headers in the first row of our datafile.

It is important to highlight that header=0 is the default value. Hence we don't need to mention the header= parameter. It means header starts from first row as indexing in python starts from 0. The above code is equivalent to this line of code. pd.read_csv("workingfile.csv", header=0)

Inspect data after importing

It returns 5 number of rows and 4 number of columns. Column Names are ['ID', 'first_name', 'company', 'salary']

See the column types of data we imported. first_name and company are character variables. Remaining variables are numeric ones.

ID             int64
first_name    object
company       object
salary         int64

Example 2 : Read CSV file with header in second row

Suppose you have column or variable names in second row. To read this kind of CSV file, you can submit the following command.

mydata = pd.read_csv("workingfile.csv", header = 1)

header=1 tells python to pick header from second row. It's setting second row as header. It's not a realistic example. I just used it for illustration so that you get an idea how to solve it. To make it practical, you can add random values in first row in CSV file and then import it again.

   11    David     Aon  74
0  12    Jamie     TCS  76
1  13    Steve  Google  96
2  14  Stevart     RBS  71
3  15     John       .  78
Define your own column names instead of header row from CSV file
mydata0 = pd.read_csv("workingfile.csv", skiprows=1, names=['CustID', 'Name', 'Companies', 'Income'])

skiprows = 1 means we are ignoring first row and names= option is used to assign variable names manually.

   CustID     Name Companies  Income
0      11    David       Aon      74
1      12    Jamie       TCS      76
2      13    Steve    Google      96
3      14  Stevart       RBS      71
4      15     John         .      78

Example 3 : Skip rows but keep header

mydata = pd.read_csv("workingfile.csv", skiprows=[1,2])

In this case, we are skipping second and third rows while importing. Don't forget index starts from 0 in python so 0 refers to first row and 1 refers to second row and 2 implies third row.

   ID first_name company  salary
0  13      Steve  Google      96
1  14    Stevart     RBS      71
2  15       John       .      78

Instead of [1,2] you can also write range(1,3). Both means the same thing but range( ) function is very useful when you want to skip many rows so it saves time of manually defining row position.

Hidden secret of skiprows option

When skiprows = 4, it means skipping four rows from top. skiprows=[1,2,3,4] means skipping rows from second through fifth. It is because when list is specified in skiprows= option, it skips rows at index positions. When a single integer value is specified in the option, it considers skip those rows from top

Example 4 : Read CSV file without header row

If you specify "header = None", python would assign a series of numbers starting from 0 to (number of columns - 1) as column names. In this datafile, we have column names in first row.

mydata0 = pd.read_csv("workingfile.csv", header = None)
See the output shown below-
Output: Read CSV File with Pandas
Add prefix to column names
mydata0 = pd.read_csv("workingfile.csv", header = None, prefix="var")

In this case, we are setting var as prefix which tells python to include this keyword before each column name.

 var0        var1     var2    var3
0   ID  first_name  company  salary
1   11       David      Aon      74
2   12       Jamie      TCS      76
3   13       Steve   Google      96
4   14     Stevart      RBS      71
5   15        John        .      78

Example 5 : Specify missing values

The na_values= options is used to set some values as blank / missing values while importing CSV file.

mydata00 = pd.read_csv("workingfile.csv", na_values=['.'])
   ID first_name company  salary
0  11      David     Aon      74
1  12      Jamie     TCS      76
2  13      Steve  Google      96
3  14    Stevart     RBS      71
4  15       John     NaN      78

Example 6 : Set Index Column

mydata01 = pd.read_csv("workingfile.csv", index_col ='ID')
   first_name company  salary
11      David     Aon      74
12      Jamie     TCS      76
13      Steve  Google      96
14    Stevart     RBS      71
15       John       .      78

As you can see in the above output, the column ID has been set as index column.

Example 7 : Read CSV File from External URL

You can directly read data from the CSV file that is stored on a web link. It is very handy when you need to load publicly available datasets from github, kaggle and other websites.

mydata02 = pd.read_csv("http://winterolympicsmedals.com/medals.csv")
This DataFrame contains 2311 rows and 8 columns. Using mydata02.shape, you can generate this summary.

Example 8 : Skip Last 5 Rows While Importing CSV

mydata04 = pd.read_csv("http://winterolympicsmedals.com/medals.csv", skip_footer=5)
In the above code, we are excluding bottom 5 rows using skip_footer= parameter.

Example 9 : Read only first 5 rows

mydata05 = pd.read_csv("http://winterolympicsmedals.com/medals.csv", nrows=5)

Using nrows= option, you can load top K number of rows.

Example 10 : Interpreting "," as thousands separator

mydata06  = pd.read_csv("http://winterolympicsmedals.com/medals.csv", thousands=",")

Example 11 : Read only specific columns

mydata07 = pd.read_csv("http://winterolympicsmedals.com/medals.csv", usecols=[1,5,7])

The above code reads only columns based on index positions which are second, sixth and eighth position.

Example 12 : Read some rows and columns

mydata08 = pd.read_csv("http://winterolympicsmedals.com/medals.csv", usecols=[1,5,7], nrows=5)

In the above command, we have combined usecols= and nrows= options. It will select only first 5 rows and selected columns.

Example 13 : Read file with semi colon delimiter

mydata09 = pd.read_csv("file_path", sep = ';')

Using sep= parameter in read_csv( ) function, you can import file with any delimiter other than default comma. In this case, we are using semi-colon as a separator.

Example 14 : Change column type while importing CSV

Suppose you want to change column format from int64 to float64 while loading CSV file into Python. We can use dtype = option for the same.

mydf = pd.read_csv("workingfile.csv", dtype = {"salary" : "float64"})

Example 15 : Measure time taken to import big CSV file

With the use of verbose=True, you can capture time taken for Tokenization, conversion and Parser memory cleanup.

mydf = pd.read_csv("workingfile.csv", verbose=True)

Example 16 : How to read CSV file without using Pandas package

To import CSV file with pure python way, you can submit the following command :

import csv
with open("C:/Users/DELL/Downloads/nycflights.csv") as f:
  d = DictReader(f)
You can also download and load CSV file from URL or external webpage.
import csv
import requests

response = requests.get('https://dyurovsky.github.io/psyc201/data/lab2/nycflights.csv').text
lines = response.splitlines()
d = csv.DictReader(lines)
l = list(d)

After completion of this tutorial, I hope you gained confidence in importing CSV file into Python with ways to clean and manage file. You can also check out this tutorial which explains how to import files of different format to Python. Once done, you should learn how to perform common data manipulation or wrangling tasks like filtering, selecting and renaming columns, identify and remove duplicates etc on pandas dataframe.

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About Author:
Deepanshu Bhalla

Deepanshu founded ListenData with a simple objective - Make analytics easy to understand and follow. He has over 10 years of experience in data science. During his tenure, he worked with global clients in various domains like Banking, Insurance, Private Equity, Telecom and HR.

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