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How to import a file in Python

Getting Started with File Importation in Python

If you're new to programming, one of the most common tasks you might encounter is file importation. In simple terms, file importation is like fetching a book from a library. You need the book (data) for your research (program), and you need to bring it from the library (source folder) to your study table (Python environment).

In Python, file importation can be done in a few simple steps. Today, we're going to learn how to import a file in Python using a .txt file as an example. You can apply the same steps to other file types as well.

Understanding the 'open' Function

The first step in importing a file in Python is to use the built-in function open(). This function works like a key, opening the door to the file you want to import. It has two parameters: the file name and the mode.

For example:

file = open('example.txt', 'r')

In this example, example.txt is the name of the file we want to import, and 'r' is the mode we're opening the file in. The 'r' stands for read mode, which means we're only looking at the data, not changing it. Think of it as glancing through the book without making any annotations.

Exploring Different Modes

There are several modes you can open a file in. We've already met 'r', but there are a few others:

  • 'w' for write mode: This is like taking a pen to your book and making notes. If the file doesn't exist, Python will create it for you.
  • 'a' for append mode: This is like adding more notes at the end of your book. It won't erase your previous notes.
  • 'x' for exclusive creation mode: This is like trying to get a new book, but if the book already exists, you won't get a new one. In technical terms, this creates a new file, but if the file already exists, the operation fails.
  • 'b' for binary mode: This is used when dealing with non-text files like images or executable files.
  • '+' for updating (reading and writing): This is like being able to read the book and also make notes or changes anywhere you like.

Reading the File

After opening the file, the next step is to read its contents. You can use the read() function to do this. It's like reading the contents of the book you've just fetched from the library.

Here's how to use it:

file = open('example.txt', 'r')

Running this piece of code will print out the contents of example.txt.

Closing the File

Once you're done with the file, it's important to close it using the close() function. Leaving files open could lead to memory leaks which can slow down or crash your program. It's like ensuring that you return the book to the library after you're done reading it.

Here's how to close a file:

file = open('example.txt', 'r')

Using 'with' Statement

Sometimes, you might forget to close the file. To avoid this, Python provides a safer way to handle files using the with statement. It automatically closes the file once the nested block of code is executed, even if there's an error within the block.

Here's how to use the with statement:

with open('example.txt', 'r') as file:


Importing and working with files in Python doesn't have to be a daunting task. With the simple built-in functions like open(), read(), and close(), you can easily fetch your data, read or modify it, and ensure it's safely returned to its source. Remember the library-book analogy and you'll have a solid intuition for handling files in Python. So next time you need to access a file in Python, just think of it as a trip to the library. Happy Programming!