A small csv annoyance at work necessitated me writing a script to automate the fix for said annoyance.

The problem:

I had CSV files that were generated from the PDF reading app Tabula. When these files were opened in Sublime Text 2 or Excel, the newline characters in between double quotes were rendered and data that was supposed to be on a single line would end up on multiple lines. This was annoying and I wanted remove this so that it could be displayed and manipulated properly in Excel. (Yes, I know, Excel is rough but we do what we must when the business demands it).

My desired end result is that I would be able to use an Alfred script to make it simple to execute this. At first I thought I would copy in the text I needed fixed and then I could put the corrected data back into my clipboard. This worked quite well for my JSONify Alfred script which converts a single line of JSON into human-readable JSON. But I’m generally always working with actual CSV files, so I decided to have it read from a file and write to a new one.

In Alfred, the workflow is quite simple:

  1. Create a File Filter — In my case, the files are always on my desktop. My file filter is triggered with “cn” and it searches my desktop for .csv files.

  2. Pass file to Run Script — This file is then passed to a Python script that I wrote. The actual Alfred script runs python csvnewlineremove.py {query} in bash.

Here’s the Python script:

# -*- coding: utf-8 -*-
import csv, os, sys
import StringIO

input_file = sys.argv[1]

with open(input_file, "rb") as csv_file:
    csv_data = StringIO.StringIO(csv_file.read())

final_location = os.path.expanduser("~/Desktop/alfredfixed.csv")

with open(final_location, "wb") as output:
    mywriter = csv.writer(output)
    filtered = (line.replace('\r', '') for line in csv_data)

    for record in csv.reader(filtered):

sys.argv[1] parses the input file directory which is then read as a string by StringIO. I did this after a bunch of googling as a way to pull in the contents of a file as a string. I’m not 100% sure this is necessary but it works. I need to look into this more.

final_location is a way for me to output the file to the desktop of whoever happens to be using the workflow.

The final with sets up a csv writer instance in mywriter. The magic happens in filtered. Originally I thought I needed to remove excess new lines (\n). But when I opened up the file in a hex editor (I recommend Hex Fiend) I discovered that it was actually character returns (0D in hex) that were causing the problem. So by switching in the replace field \n with \r, it worked.

The Stack Overflow question I referenced most closely was this one. As you’ll notice, the accepted answer had the final record wrapped in a tuple call. I’m not sure why they did that except to make the data immutable. I’ve left in it as it seems safer.

All in all, this was a fun little project that I’ve now automated and it won’t slow me up anymore.