5 Best Ways to Print Lines Containing a Given String in a File Using Python

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πŸ’‘ Problem Formulation: In Python programming, a common task involves searching through a text file to find all lines that contain a specific string, and then printing those lines to the console. For example, if we have a log file, we might want to find all entries that contain the word “error”. The desired output would be a list of strings, each corresponding to a line in the file that includes the word “error”.

Method 1: Using a Simple Loop with an if Statement

One straightforward approach to find and print lines containing a given string is by using a simple for-loop to iterate over each line in the file. Within the loop, an if statement checks if the given string is in the current line. If it is, that line is printed. This method is easy to understand and implement.

Here’s an example:

with open('example.txt', 'r') as file:
    for line in file:
        if 'error' in line:

Output for a hypothetical ‘example.txt’ that contains lines with the word ‘error’ would be the lines themselves printed out.

This code snippet opens ‘example.txt’ in read mode and then iterates over each line. The if 'error' in line checks if the substring ‘error’ exists within the line. If it does, the entire line is printed to the console.

Method 2: Using the readlines() Method

We can use the readlines() method to load all lines of a file into a list and then iterate through this list, printing only those lines that contain the specified substring. This method loads the entire file into memory at once, which could be a disadvantage for very large files.

Here’s an example:

with open('example.txt', 'r') as file:
    lines = file.readlines()
    for line in lines:
        if 'error' in line:

This results in the same output as Method 1β€”lines containing the word ‘error’ are printed.

This method differs from the first by reading all lines at once with readlines(). Then it iterates over the list of lines, printing each one that contains ‘error’.

Method 3: Using List Comprehensions with file Object

List comprehensions offer a concise way to achieve the same functionality as looping, with potentially faster execution and less code. They are a Pythonic way of filtering content from a file based on the presence of a substring within each line.

Here’s an example:

with open('example.txt', 'r') as file:
    [print(line) for line in file if 'error' in line]

Again, the output will consist of all lines that include the string ‘error’.

This one-liner uses a list comprehension to iterate over each line of the file, checking for ‘error’ and printing the line in a single succinct expression.

Method 4: Using the fileinput Module

The fileinput module provides a way to loop over lines from multiple input streams. This approach is beneficial when you need to read lines from files listed in sys.argv or from the standard input, filtered by a string.

Here’s an example:

import fileinput

for line in fileinput.input('example.txt'):
    if 'error' in line:

Output will be the same; we get the lines with our specified string.

This approach uses the fileinput.input() function to abstract the file reading process, which makes your code more flexible and can be used within a script that applies the same logic to multiple files.

Bonus One-Liner Method 5: Using the grep-like itertools.filterfalse

Python’s itertools module has a filterfalse function that is essentially the opposite of filter; it returns only the elements for which the function you pass returns False. Combined with the sys.stdout.write function, this allows you to mimic Unix’s grep command functionality.

Here’s an example:

from itertools import filterfalse
import sys

with open('example.txt', 'r') as file:
    sys.stdout.writelines(filterfalse(lambda line: 'error' not in line, file))

The screen will display every line from ‘example.txt’ that contains the string ‘error’.

In this snippet, filterfalse is used to filter out lines that do not contain ‘error’. The remaining lines are passed to sys.stdout.writelines, which prints them just as with a regular print.


  • Method 1: Simple Loop with if Statement. Easy to understand. Not the most efficient for large files.
  • Method 2: Using readlines() Method. Simple, but can be memory-intensive for large files.
  • Method 3: List Comprehensions with file Object. Concise and Pythonic. Not as easy to read for beginners.
  • Method 4: Using fileinput Module. Flexible and script-friendly for multiple files. Slightly more complex usage than other methods.
  • Method 5: grep-like itertools.filterfalse. Mimics Unix grep. Not as straightforward and requires extra knowledge about the itertools and sys modules.