Reading Files in Clojure – Part 1

There are a few ways to read files in Clojure.


If you want to simply read a small file into a string then you can use slurp. This function works with local files as well as URLs.

An example:

user=> (print (slurp "/Users/brad/.bashrc"))

The namespace contains a reader function that returns a Make sure to call this inside a with-open call.

To use place the following namespace declaration at the top of your file.

(ns your-namespace-name
   (:require [ :as io]))

If you are in the repl and in user you can just require like this.

(require '[ :as io])

Now as an example you can read a file and print it line by line.

user=> (with-open [rdr (io/reader "/Users/brad/.bashrc")]
         (doseq [line (line-seq rdr)]
            (println line)))


The thing to notice in this example is that the code (print line) that is using the contents of the file is inside a with-open call. Also, the reader is being passed to the line-seq call, the return from which is a lazy sequence of strings from the file.

This lazy sequence concept is important to understand when working with Clojure. One way to look at is by considering what it is not. The lazy sequence is not an array which holds the entire set of strings but rather a mechanism that can get you the strings in a sequence as you need them.

In this example the doseq is doing the iterating by pulling each subsequent line out of the line-seq into line.

So, if you use this example you must realize that what you want to do to each line must be inside the with-open so the file stays open and with a sequence function like doseq to iterate over the sequence. This might seem foreign to readers expecting to call a function to get all the lines in a file, then iterate over them and then pass each line to a function. Here we must think functionally.


If you must have the entire set of strings from the file returned from your function you must realize the entire lazy sequence. The doall is used to do this.

In the following example you see doall is passed the line-seq results. Here doall will iterate through the entire sequence and return the fully realized sequence. Try the following and you see a list of strings returned.

(with-open [rdr (io/reader "/Users/brad/.bashrc")]
    (doall (line-seq rdr)))

Now, suppose you want to print those lists. See how you can again look through the sequence and print them.

(doseq [line (with-open [rdr (io/reader "/Users/brad/.bashrc")]
    (doall (line-seq rdr)))] (println line))))

Part 2

View part 2 here

See also:

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About brad

Brad Lucas is President and CEO of Beacon Hill, Inc., a New York based software development consultancy. Beacon Hill develops software for hedge fund and alternative investment firms looking to increase their competitive advantage through technology.
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3 Responses to Reading Files in Clojure – Part 1

  1. Alex Ott says:


    I added your blog to Planet Clojure (using Clojure tag, so don’t forget to mark posts with it ;-)

  2. Brad Lucas says:

    Thanks Alex. That is great. I appreciate it.

  3. Donald Parish says:

    I was just experimenting with clojure-csv today and was getting stuck on where to filter my fields. Your article makes it clear what I should do next. Good timing!