Why isn’t there a good file format for tabular information?

Tabular information is in all places. I help studying and writing tabular information in varied codecs in all 3 of my software program software. It is a vital a part of my data transformation software. However all of the tabular information codecs suck. There doesn’t appear to be something that’s moderately house environment friendly, easy and fast to parse and textual content primarily based (not binary) so you may view and edit it with an ordinary editor.

Most tabular information at present will get exchanged as: CSV, Tab separated, XML, JSON or Excel. And they’re all extremely sub-optimal for the job.

CSV is a multitude. One quote within the fallacious place and the file is invalid. It’s tough to parse effectively utilizing a number of cores, because of the quoting (you may’t begin parsing from half manner by means of a file). Completely different quoting schemes are in use. You don’t know what encoding it’s in. Use of separators and line endings are inconsistent (typically comma, typically semicolon). Writing a parser to deal with all of the totally different dialects is by no means trivial. Microsoft Excel and Apple Numbers don’t even agree on the best way to interpret some edge instances for CSV.

Tab separated is a bit higher than CSV. However can’t retailer tabs and nonetheless has points with line endings, encodings and many others.

XML and JSON are tree buildings and never appropriate for effectively storing tabular information (plus different points).

There’s Parquet. It is rather environment friendly with it’s columnar storage and compression. However it’s binary, so can’t be seen or edited with normal instruments, which is a ache.

Don’t even get me began on Excel’s proprietary, ghastly binary format.

Why can’t we have now a format the place:

  • Encoding is all the time UTF-8
  • Values saved in row main order (row 1, row2 and many others)
  • Columns are separated by u001F (ASCII unit separator)
  • Rows are separated by u001E (ASCII file separator)
  • Er, that’s all the specification.

No escaping. If you wish to put u001F or u001E in your information – robust you may’t. Use a unique format.

It could be moderately compact, environment friendly to parse and straightforward to manually edit (Notepad++ reveals the unit separator as a ‘US’ image). You may write a quick parser for it in minutes. Typing u001F or u001E in some editors is perhaps a faff, however it’s hardly a showstopper.

It could possibly be referred to as one thing like “unicode separated worth” (hat tip to @fakeunicode on Twitter for the identify) or “unit separated worth” with file extension .usv. Perhaps a unique extension might used when values are saved in column main order (column1, column 2 and many others).

Is there nothing like this already? Perhaps there may be and I simply haven’t heard of it. If not, shouldn’t there be?

And sure I’m conscious of the related XKCD cartoon ( https://xkcd.com/927/ ).

** Edit 4-Might-2022 **

“Javascript” -> “JSON” in para 5.

It has been pointed on the above will provide you with a single line of textual content in an editor, which isn’t nice for human readability. A fast repair for this may be to make the file delimiter a u001E character adopted by an LF character. Any LF that comes instantly after an u001E could be ignored when parsing. Any LF not instantly after an u001E is a part of the info. I don’t find out about different editors, however it’s straightforward to view and edit in Notepad++.