5 Best Ways to Display Python CSV Data as a Table

5/5 - (1 vote)

πŸ’‘ Problem Formulation: You’ve got a CSV file that needs to be presented clearly and concisely as a table. Whether it’s for data analysis, sharing results, or simply visualizing content, the transformation of CSV data into a table format can be crucial. For this article, we assume you have a CSV file with several columns and rows and you want to display this data within a Python environment as a neatly formatted table.

Method 1: Using Pandas DataFrame

Pandas is an indispensable library in the Python data science ecosystem. It provides a DataFrame object, which is a two-dimensional labeled data structure with columns of potentially different types. This makes it excellent for representing CSV files as tables. The pd.read_csv() function quickly loads the CSV into a DataFrame that can then be easily manipulated and displayed.

Here’s an example:

import pandas as pd

data = pd.read_csv('example.csv')

The output typically resembles a neatly formatted table, depending on the contents of ‘example.csv’.

This code snippet reads a CSV file into a DataFrame, which inherently understands tabular data. We then print out the DataFrame, which Pandas formats as a table automatically in the console.

Method 2: Using Python’s CSV Module

Python’s built-in CSV module can also be used for CSV file manipulation and display. It contains a reader function that can be used to iterate through rows in the CSV file and print them as a table. While this approach requires more coding than using Pandas, it is a built-in module and doesn’t require an additional installation.

Here’s an example:

import csv

with open('example.csv', newline='') as csvfile:
    data = csv.reader(csvfile)
    for row in data:
        print(' | '.join(row))

The output will have the CSV row elements separated by ‘ | ‘, appearing as a rudimentary table.

The code uses the CSV module to read each row from the CSV file and joins the elements with a ‘ | ‘ character to visually represent the rows as a table-like structure.

Method 3: Using Tabulate

The Tabulate library provides an easy way to render a list of dictionaries or a list of lists as a table. It’s great for when you need to print table data to the console in a human-readable format. Installation is easy via pip, and it supports various table formats like grid, fancy grid, and more.

Here’s an example:

from tabulate import tabulate

data = [['Name', 'Age', 'City'],
        ['Alice', 24, 'New York'],
        ['Bob', 29, 'San Francisco']]

print(tabulate(data, headers='firstrow', tablefmt='grid'))

The output will display a neatly formatted grid-like table with headers.

This snippet creates a list of lists where the first list represents the headers of the table. We then feed this data into the tabulate() function which outputs a table-formatted string.

Method 4: Using SQLite in-memory

If your task involves more complex query operations, you might want to make use of an in-memory SQLite database. The csv data can be imported into a database table, and then using SQL queries, we can retrieve and display the data in a tabular format. Although it’s an overkill for simple tasks, it’s extremely powerful for larger datasets and complex queries.

Here’s an example:

import sqlite3
import pandas as pd

data = pd.read_csv('example.csv')
conn = sqlite3.connect(':memory:')
data.to_sql('my_table', conn, index=False)

cur = conn.cursor()
cur.execute('SELECT * FROM my_table')
rows = cur.fetchall()

for row in rows:

This code will load the CSV file into a SQLite in-memory database and then fetch all rows from the table to print them.

The code snippet demonstrates how to read CSV data into a Pandas DataFrame, transfer it to an SQLite in-memory database, and then retrieve and print each row. This can be useful for performing SQL operations on the data.

Bonus One-Liner Method 5: Using PrettyTable

PrettyTable is a simple Python library designed to make it quick and easy to represent tabular data in visually appealing ASCII tables. It can turn a list of lists or another tabular data source into a well-formatted table with just a couple of lines.

Here’s an example:

from prettytable import PrettyTable

table = PrettyTable(["Name", "Age", "City"])
table.add_row(["Alice", 24, "New York"])
table.add_row(["Bob", 29, "San Francisco"])


The output will be a simple table with the specified rows and columns.

With just a few lines, this code snippet creates a PrettyTable object, adds rows to it, and prints a formatted ASCII table. It’s an incredibly straightforward method for generating simple tables.


  • Method 1: Pandas DataFrame. Widely used for data analysis. Provides powerful data manipulation options. May not be ideal for lightweight applications due to its extensive library size.
  • Method 2: Python’s CSV Module. Comes baked into Python’s standard library. Good for simple CSV reading and writing operations without external dependencies. Less functional than Pandas.
  • Method 3: Tabulate. Easy to use for quickly rendering tables in a variety of formats. Lightweight and supports a wide range of table styles. Not as feature-rich as Pandas.
  • Method 4: SQLite in-memory. Great for applying SQL operations on data. Overkill for simple table formatting needs. Offers the power and complexity of a relational database.
  • Method 5: PrettyTable. Extremely simple and ideal for creating nice-looking ASCII tables. Limited functionality for data manipulation beyond what is available through basic table operations.