Read line by line of a file in R

December 1, 2013

(This article was first published on Gregor Gorjanc (gg), and kindly contributed to R-bloggers)

Are you using R for data manipulation for later use with other programs, i.e., a workflow something like this:

  1. read data sets from a disk,
  2. modify the data, and
  3. write it back to a disk.
All fine, but of data set is really big, then you will soon stumble on memory issues. If data processing is simple and you can read only chunks, say only line by line, then the following might be useful:
## File
file <- "myfile.txt"
## Create connection
con <- file(description=file, open="r")
## Hopefully you know the number of lines from some other source or
com <- paste("wc -l ", file, " | awk '{ print $1 }'", sep="")
n <- system(command=com, intern=TRUE)
## Loop over a file connection
for(i in 1:n) {
tmp <- scan(file=con, nlines=1, quiet=TRUE)
## do something on a line of data

Created by Pretty R at

To leave a comment for the author, please follow the link and comment on their blog: Gregor Gorjanc (gg). offers daily e-mail updates about R news and tutorials on topics such as: Data science, Big Data, R jobs, visualization (ggplot2, Boxplots, maps, animation), programming (RStudio, Sweave, LaTeX, SQL, Eclipse, git, hadoop, Web Scraping) statistics (regression, PCA, time series, trading) and more...

If you got this far, why not subscribe for updates from the site? Choose your flavor: e-mail, twitter, RSS, or facebook...

Comments are closed.


Mango solutions

RStudio homepage

Zero Inflated Models and Generalized Linear Mixed Models with R

Dommino data lab

Quantide: statistical consulting and training



CRC R books series

Six Sigma Online Training

Contact us if you wish to help support R-bloggers, and place your banner here.

Never miss an update!
Subscribe to R-bloggers to receive
e-mails with the latest R posts.
(You will not see this message again.)

Click here to close (This popup will not appear again)