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CSV codec

Gregg Irwin edited this page Oct 4, 2019 · 4 revisions


CSV codec implements CSV/DSV parser and emiter for Red language. It implements RFC 4180 support with extension to support non-standard data.

Supported data formats

Before explaining how each function works, let's have a look at how a table can be represented in Red. We will start with a simple table:

Name    | Mass  | Orbit
Mercury | 0.055 | 0.4
Venus   | 0.815 | 0.7
Earth   | 1.0   | 1.0
Mars    | 0.107 | 1.5

This table can be represented in Red in more different ways. The simplest one is block!:

["Name" "Mass" "Orbit" "Mercury" 0.055 0.4 "Venus" 0.815 0.7 "Earth" 1.0 1.0 "Mars" 0.107 1.5]

I intentionally haven't formatted the block, so it's obvious that without additional knowledge of record length, it's hard to guess it. This leads us to second solution: block! of block!s:

[["Name" "Mass" "Orbit"]["Mercury" 0.055 0.4]["Venus" 0.815 0.7]["Earth" 1.0 1.0]["Mars" 0.107 1.5]]

This nicely represents the original table and is probably closest to CSV data also. This is the default output of load-csv function. However there's one problem, it's not obvious if first block! is header or record. Which brings us to third solution: block! of map!s (or object!s, if you prefer), called as-records in load-csv:

	#(Name: "Mercury" Mass: 0.055 Orbit: 0.4)
	#(Name: "Venus" Mass: 0.815 Orbit: 0.7)
	#(Name: "Earth" Mass: 1.0 Orbit: 1.0)
	#(Name: "Mars" Mass: 0.107 Orbit: 1.5)

This format is very obvious and self-explanatory. However also very redundant. Which brings us to last solution, map! (again, or object!) of columns, called as-columns in load-csv:

	Name: ["Mercury" "Venus" "Earth" "Mars"]
	Mass: [0.055 0.815 1.0 0.107]
	Orbit: [0.4 0.7 1.0 1.5]

The redundancy here is much lower but at the cost that you need to write special function to get one record. As shown above, each format has its advantages and disadvantages. That's why it makes sense to support them all and let the user decide which one to use while using sane default that's most similar to CSV data structure. Choosing the right format depends on a lot of circumstances, for example, memory usage - column store is more efficient if you have more rows than columns. The bigger the difference, the more efficient.

Bear in mind that the example above uses rich data types in the output, but the CSV codec doesn't do that itself. In order to keep the codec small and focused, it only parses the data into chunks of text and puts those into structures. Converting them to Red datatypes is beyond the scope of the codec, and is handled by other functions operating on the structures the codec produces.


load-csv decodes string! of CSV data to Red block! or map!, depending on the mode. Usage is simple:

load-csv csv-data

There are some refinements to modify function behavior:

  • /with delimiter - Use different delimiter. Default is a comma (,).
  • /header - Treat the first line as a header. Will return map! with columns as keys.
  • /as-columns - Return map! of columns. If /header is not used, columns are named automatically from A to Z, then from AA to ZZ, etc. /as-columns/header is the same as /header.
  • /as-records - Return block! of map!s. Keys are named by columns using the same rules as with /as-columns refinement.
  • /flat - Return flat block! instead of block! of block!s.
  • /trim - Ignore spaces between quotes and delimiter.
  • /quote qt-char - Use different quotes character. Default is the double quote (").

Some refinements cannot be used together, for example /as-columns and /as-records. If you use an invalid combination of refinements, load-csv will throw an error.

If you want the default format, but to separate the header, this is an easy way to do it.

>> s: {a,b,c^/1,2,3^/4,5,6}
== "a,b,c^/1,2,3^/4,5,6"
>> data: load-csv s
== [["a" "b" "c"] ["1" "2" "3"] ["4" "5" "6"]]
>> hdr: take data
== ["a" "b" "c"]
>> data
== [["1" "2" "3"] ["4" "5" "6"]]

The rationale for /header's behavior is that it means it should be used, not just that it exists.


to-csv encodes block!, map! or object! and returns string! of CSV data. There are some refinements to modify function behavior:

  • /with delimiter - Use different delimiter. Default is a comma (,).
  • /skip size - Treat block! as table of records with size fields.
  • /quote qt-char - Use different quotes character. Default is the double quote (").
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