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How to import csv file in Python

Understanding CSV Files

Think of CSV (Comma Separated Values) files like a simplified spreadsheet stored as a plain text file. Each line in the CSV file corresponds to a row in the spreadsheet. Within a line, fields are separated by commas, each representing a cell in the spreadsheet.

Why Use CSV Files?

CSV files are simple and universal. They are easy to read and write from the code and can be opened with any text editor. This makes them a popular choice for data storage in many applications.

Getting Started with CSV in Python

Python provides a built-in module named 'csv' to work with CSV files. You can import this module into your code using the import statement.

import csv

This line allows you to access all the functions and classes available in the csv module.

Reading a CSV File

Let's start with reading a CSV file. Imagine a CSV file named 'students.csv' with the following content:


Here's how you can read this file in Python:

import csv

with open('students.csv', 'r') as file:
    reader = csv.reader(file)
    for row in reader:

Here, open is a built-in Python function that opens a file. 'r' stands for 'read mode', which means we're opening the file to read data from it. csv.reader creates an object that reads lines from the file. The for loop then iterates over each line, printing it to the console.

Understanding the Output

When you run the code, you'll see this output:

['name', 'age', 'grade']
['John', '12', '7']
['Sally', '13', '7']
['Emma', '14', '9']

What we get is a list of lists, where each inner list represents a row of the file.

Working with CSV Data

Once you've read the data from a CSV file, you can work with it just like any other data in Python. For example, you can access individual fields in a row using indexing.

import csv

with open('students.csv', 'r') as file:
    reader = csv.reader(file)
    for row in reader:
        print('Name: ', row[0], ', Age: ', row[1], ', Grade: ', row[2])

This code will output:

Name:  name , Age:  age , Grade:  grade
Name:  John , Age:  12 , Grade:  7
Name:  Sally , Age:  13 , Grade:  7
Name:  Emma , Age:  14 , Grade:  9

Writing to a CSV File

Writing to a CSV file is as simple as reading from it. Here's how you can write data to a CSV file:

import csv

data = [
    ['name', 'age', 'grade'],
    ['John', '12', '7'],
    ['Sally', '13', '7'],
    ['Emma', '14', '9']

with open('students.csv', 'w', newline='') as file:
    writer = csv.writer(file)

Here, 'w' stands for 'write mode', which means we're opening the file to write data to it. writer.writerows writes all the data rows to the file.

Dealing with CSV Headers

The first row of a CSV file often contains headers (field names). Python's csv module provides a handy DictReader class to read CSV files with headers. Here's how you can use it:

import csv

with open('students.csv', 'r') as file:
    reader = csv.DictReader(file)
    for row in reader:

This code will output:

{'name': 'John', 'age': '12', 'grade': '7'}
{'name': 'Sally', 'age': '13', 'grade': '7'}
{'name': 'Emma', 'age': '14', 'grade': '9'}

As you can see, each row is now a dictionary that maps field names to field values. This makes it easier to work with CSV data, especially when it has many fields.


Learning to import CSV files in Python opens up a world of possibilities for working with data. Whether you're building a data analysis tool or a web application, understanding how to read and write CSV files is a great skill to have in your toolkit.

Think of CSV files as a box of Lego bricks. Each line or row is a unique piece that you can use to build a variety of structures, from simple data tables to complex machine learning models. With Python's csv module, you have the tools you need to open the box and start building. So, go ahead and build something amazing!