Why isn’t there an honest file format for tabular knowledge?

Tabular knowledge is in every single place. I help studying and writing tabular knowledge 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 knowledge codecs suck. There doesn’t appear to be something that’s fairly house environment friendly, easy and fast to parse and textual content primarily based (not binary) so you possibly can view and edit it with a typical editor.

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

CSV is a large number. One quote within the fallacious place and the file is invalid. It’s tough to parse effectively utilizing a number of cores, as a result of quoting (you possibly can’t begin parsing from half manner by 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 (generally comma, generally semicolon). Writing a parser to deal with all of the completely different dialects is under no circumstances trivial. Microsoft Excel and Apple Numbers don’t even agree on tips on how 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 so forth.

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

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

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

Why can’t we’ve got a format the place:

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

No escaping. If you wish to put u001F or u001E in your knowledge – powerful you possibly can’t. Use a unique format.

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

It may very well 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 may used when values are saved in column main order (column1, column 2 and so forth).

Is there nothing like this already? Perhaps there’s 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-Could-2022 **

“Javascript” -> “JSON” in para 5.

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