How to Use Python’s `seek()` and `tell()` Functions for File Handling

When working with files in Python, it’s crucial to understand how to manage the file cursor position and track it effectively. Python provides two essential functions, `seek()` and `tell()`, that play a significant role in managing the current position within a file. These functions are especially useful when dealing with large files or when seeking specific data within a file. This article will delve into their functionalities, use cases, and practical examples to demonstrate their functions.

1. Understanding `seek()` and `tell()`.

1.1 `seek()`.

  1. The `seek()` function is used to move the file cursor to a specific position within the file.
  2. It takes two arguments: `offset`, which represents the number of bytes to move, and an optional `whence` argument that defines the reference point for the offset.
  3. The `whence` argument can take the following values:
  4. `0` (default): Represents the beginning of the file.
  5. `1`: Represents the current file position.
  6. `2`: Represents the end of the file.

1.2 `tell()`.

  1. The `tell()` function returns the current position of the file cursor, representing the number of bytes from the beginning of the file.

2. Examples.

  1. Let’s explore these functions with some practical examples:

2.1 Example 1: Using `seek()` and `tell()` for File Navigation.

  1. Source code.
    def file_navigation_by_seek_and_tell():
        # Open a file in read mode
        file = open('example.txt', 'r')
        # Read the first 10 characters
        data =
        print("Data read:", data)
        # Get the current cursor position
        position = file.tell()
        print("Current position:", position)
        # Move the cursor to the beginning of the file
        # Read the first 5 characters from the beginning
        data_again =
        print("Data read after seeking:", data_again)
        # Close the file
    if __name__ == "__main__":
  2. Output.
    Data read: hello pyth
    Current position: 10
    Data read after seeking: hello

2.2 Example 2: Using `seek()` to Jump to a Specific Location.

  1. Source code.
    def jump_to_specific_position():
        # Open a file in binary mode
        file = open('example.txt', 'rb')
        # Move the cursor to the 5th byte
        # Read and print the data from the 5th byte
        data =
        print("Data from the 5th byte onwards:", data)
        # Close the file
    if __name__ == "__main__":
  2. Output.
    Data from the 5th byte onwards: b' python\r\nI love python programming'

In both examples, we first open the file using the `open()` function, perform necessary operations, and then close the file using the `close()` method. This practice ensures proper resource management and prevents potential data loss or corruption.

3. Conclusion.

  1. The `seek()` and `tell()` functions are crucial tools for efficient file handling in Python.
  2. By leveraging these functions, developers can easily navigate through files, read data from specific positions, and efficiently manage file operations.
  3. Understanding these functions enables smoother handling of file I/O operations and helps in building robust applications that deal with various file formats and data processing requirements.

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