This tutorial covers the following topic – Python Write File/Read File. It describes the syntax of the writing to a file in Python. Also, it explains how to write to a text file and provides several examples for help.

For writing to a file in Python, you would need a couple of functions such as Open(), Write(), and Read(). All these are built-in Python functions and don’t require a module to import.

There are majorly two types of files you may have to interact with while programming. One is the text file that contains streams of ASCII or UNICODE (UTF-8) characters. Each line ends with a newline (“\n”) char, a.k.a. EOL (End of Line).

Another type of file is called binary that contains machine-readable data. It doesn’t have, so-called line as there is no line-ending. Only the application using it would know about its content.

Anyways, this tutorial will strictly tell you to work with the text files only.

Python Write File Explained with Examples

Let’s begin this tutorial by taking on the first call required to write to a file in Python, i.e., Open().

Open File in Python

You first have to open a file in Python for writing. Python provides the built-in open() function.

The open() function would return a handle to the file if it opened successfully. It takes two arguments, as shown below:

''' Python open file syntax '''
 file_handle = open("file_name", "access_mode")

The first argument is the name or path of the file (including file name). For example – sample_log.txt or /Users/john/home/sample_log.txt.

And the second parameter (optional) represents a mode to open the file. The value of the “access_mode” defines the operation you want to perform on it. The default value is the READ only mode.

# Open a file named "sample_log.txt" 
# It rests in the same directory as you are working in. 
file_handle1 = open("sample_log.txt")

# Let's open the file from a given path
file_handle2 = open("/Users/john/home/sample_log.txt")

File Open Modes

It is optional to pass the mode argument. If you don’t set it, then Python uses “r” as the default value for the access mode. It means that Python will open a file for read-only purpose.

However, there are a total of six access modes available in python.

  • “r” –  It opens a text file for reading. It keeps the offset at the start of the file. If the file is missing, then it raises an I/O error. It is also the default mode.
  • “r+” –  It opens the file for both READ and WRITE operations. It sets the offset at the start of the file. An I/O error occurs for a non-existent file.
  • “w” –  It opens a file for writing and overwrites any existing content. The handle remains at the start of the data. If the file doesn’t exist, then it creates one.
  • “w+” –  It opens the file for both READ and WRITE operations. Rest, it works the same as the “w” mode.
  • “a” –  It opens a file for writing or creates a new one if the file not found. The handle moves to the end (EOF). It preserves the existing content and inserts data to the end.
  • “a+” –  It opens the file for both READ and WRITE operations. Rest, it works the same as the “a” mode.

Check out a few examples:

# Open a file named "sample_log.txt" in write mode
# It rests in the same directory as you are working in.
file_handle1 = open("sample_log.txt", "w")

# Open the file from a given path in append mode
file_handle2 = open("/Users/john/home/sample_log.txt", "a")

Write File in Python

Python provides two functions to write into a text file: Write() and Writelines().

1. write() – Let’s first use write() for writing to a file in Python. This function puts the given text in a single line.

''' Python write() function '''
 file_handle.write("some text")

But, first, open any IDE and create a file named “sample_log.txt” for our test. Don’t make any other changes to it.

Please note – If you try to open a file for reading and it doesn’t exist, then Python will throw the FileNotFoundError exception.

To edit this file from your Python program, we’ve given the following code:

# A simple example - Python write file
file_handle = open("sample_log.txt","w") 

file_handle.write("Hello Everyone!") 
file_handle.write("It is my first attempt to write to a file in Python.") 
file_handle.write("I'll first open the file and then write.") 
file_handle.write("Finally, I'll close it.") 


We’ve opened the file in “w” mode, which means to overwrite anything written previously. So, after you open it and see its content, you’ll find the new text in four different lines.

2. writelines() – The writelines() function takes a list of strings as the input and inserts each of them as a separate line in one go. You can check its syntax below:

''' Python writelines() function '''
 file_handle.writelines([str1, str2, str3, ...])

Append File in Python

You also need to know how to append the new text to an existing file. There are two modes available for this purpose: a and a+.

Whenever you open a file using one of these modes, the file offset is set to the EOF. So, you can write the new content or text next to the existing content.

Let’s understand it with a few lines of code:

We’ll first open a file in “a” mode. If you run this example the first time, then it creates the file.

# Python Append File in "a" mode Example
fh = open("test_append_a.txt", "a")
fh.write("Insert First Line\n")
fh.write("Append Next Line\n")

So far, two lines have been added to the file. The second write operation indicates a successful append.

Now, you’ll see the difference between the “a” and “a+” modes. Let’s try a read operation and see what happens. # io.UnsupportedOperation: not readable

The above line of code would fail as the “a” mode doesn’t allow READ. So, close it, open, and then do a read operation.

fh.close() # Close the file
fh = open("test_append_a.txt") # Open in the default read mode
print( # Now, read and print the entire file

The output is something like:

Insert First Line
Append Next Line

Let’s now try appending using the “a+” mode. Check out the below code:

# Python Append File in "a+" mode Example
fh = open("test_append_aplus.txt", "a+")
fh.write("Insert First Line\n")
fh.write("Append Next Line\n") # Set offset position to the start
print( # READ is sucess in a+ mode
 ## Output
 # Insert First Line
 # Append Next Line
fh.write("Append Another Line\n") # WRITE another line to the text file # Set the offset for reading
print( # Do the READ operation again
 ## Output
 # Insert First Line
 # Append Next Line
 # Append Another Line

Read File in Python

For reading a text file, Python bundles the following three functions: read(), readline(), and readlines()

1. read() – It reads the given no. of bytes (N) as a string. If no value is given, then it reads the file till the EOF.

''' Python read() function '''

2. readline() – It reads the specified no. of bytes (N) as a string from a single line in the file. It restricts to one line per call even if N is more than the bytes available in one line.

''' Python readline() function '''

3. readlines() – It reads every line presents in the text file and returns them as a list of strings.

''' Python readlines() function '''

It is so easy to use the Python read file functions that you can check yourself. Just type the following code in your IDE or the default Python IDE, i.e., IDLE.

# Python Read File Example
fh = open("sample_log.txt") # No need to specify the mode as READ is the default mode
print( # Expect the whole file to get printed here # Reset the file offset to the beginning of the file
print(fh.readline()) # Print just the first line from the file # Reset the offset again
print(fh.readlines()) # Print the list of lines
fh.close() # Close the file handle

Please note that the Python seek() function is needed to change the position of file offset. It decides the point to read or write in the file. Whenever you do a read/write operation, it moves along.

Close File in Python

File handling in Python starts with opening a file and ends with closing it. It means that you must close a file after you are finished doing the file operations.

Closing a file is a cleanup activity, which means to free up the system resources. It is also essential because you can only open a limited number of file handles.

Also, please note that any attempt to access the file after closing would throw an I/O error. You may have already seen us using it in our previous examples in this post.

With Statement in Python

If you want a cleaner and elegant way to write to a file in Python, then try using the WITH statement. It does the automatic clean up of the system resources like file handles.

Also, it provides out of the box exception handling (Python try-except) while you are working with the files. Check out the following example to see how with statement works.

# Write File in Python using WITH statement
# Sample code(1) Write to a text file
fh = open("sample_log.txt", "w") 
   fh.write("I love Python Programming!") 

# Sample code(2) Write using with statement 
with open("sample_log.txt", "w") as fh: 
   fh.write("I love Python even more!!")

Working sample code

Below is a full-fledged example that demonstrates the usage of the following functions:

  • Python Write file using write() & writelines()
  • Python Read file operations using read(), readline(), and readlines()
# Python Write File/ Read File Example
print("### Python Write File/ Read File Example ###\n")
file_handle = open("sample_log.txt", "w") 
list_of_strings = ["Python programming \n","Web development \n","Agile Scrum \n"] 

# Write a newline char at each line in the file
file_handle.write("Welcome! \n") 

# Open the text file for reading
file_handle = open("sample_log.txt", "r+") 

# Read the entire text file and display its content
print("1) Demonstrate Python read() function")
out =
print("\n>>>Python read() file output:\n{}".format(out))

# Now, set the file offset to the beginning

# Read the first line from the text file using readline()
print("2) Demonstrate Python readline() function")
out = file_handle.readline() 
print("\n>>>Python readline() file output:\n\tLine#1{}".format(out))

# Again, position the file offset to zero 

# Read the entire text file using readlines()
print("3) Demonstrate Python readlines() function")
out = file_handle.readlines()
print("\n>>>Python readlines() file output:")
for i, line in enumerate(out):
  print("\tLine#{} {}".format(i+1, line))

This Python program generates the following output:

read write file in python working example

Attempt the Quiz

We’ve now come to the closure of this Read/Write File in Python tutorial. If you have read it from the start to end, then file handling would be on your tips. However, we recommend the following quizzes to attempt.

These are quick questionnaires to test how much knowledge have you retained after reading the above stuff.

Also, you must use these concepts in your projects or can also write some hands-on code to solve real-time problems. It’ll certainly help you grasp faster and remember better.

By the way, if you wish to learn Python from scratch to depth, then do read our step by step Python tutorial.


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