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fseek> <fread
[edit] Last updated: Sat, 12 May 2012

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(PHP 4 >= 4.0.1, PHP 5)

fscanfParses input from a file according to a format


mixed fscanf ( resource $handle , string $format [, mixed &$... ] )

The function fscanf() is similar to sscanf(), but it takes its input from a file associated with handle and interprets the input according to the specified format, which is described in the documentation for sprintf().

Any whitespace in the format string matches any whitespace in the input stream. This means that even a tab \t in the format string can match a single space character in the input stream.

Each call to fscanf() reads one line from the file.



A file system pointer resource that is typically created using fopen().


The specified format as described in the sprintf() documentation.


The optional assigned values.

Return Values

If only two parameters were passed to this function, the values parsed will be returned as an array. Otherwise, if optional parameters are passed, the function will return the number of assigned values. The optional parameters must be passed by reference.


Version Description
4.3.0 Before this time, the maximum number of characters read from the file was 512 (or up to the first \n, whichever came first). But now, arbitrarily long lines will be read and scanned.


Example #1 fscanf() Example

while (
$userinfo fscanf($handle"%s\t%s\t%s\n")) {
    list (
$name$profession$countrycode) = $userinfo;
//... do something with the values

Example #2 Contents of users.txt

javier  argonaut        pe
hiroshi sculptor        jp
robert  slacker us
luigi   florist it

See Also

  • fread() - Binary-safe file read
  • fgets() - Gets line from file pointer
  • fgetss() - Gets line from file pointer and strip HTML tags
  • sscanf() - Parses input from a string according to a format
  • printf() - Output a formatted string
  • sprintf() - Return a formatted string

fseek> <fread
[edit] Last updated: Sat, 12 May 2012
add a note add a note User Contributed Notes fscanf
dave at dave dot st 01-Jan-2009 11:58
The fgetd() function suggested by worldwideroach on 14-Jul-2005 04:33 does not handle the last buffer-load of data correctly. At least not for my requirement. It is possible for EOF to have been reached but for there still to be characters in $sRecord.

For the, er... record I got better results with this version:

function fgetd(&$rFile, $sDelim, $iBuffer=1024) {

$sRecord = '';

feof($rFile)) {
$iPos = strpos($sRecord, $sDelim);
    if (
$iPos === FALSE) {
$sRecord .= fread($rFile, $iBuffer);
    } else {
fseek($rFile, 0-strlen($sRecord)+$iPos+strlen($sDelim), SEEK_CUR);
substr($sRecord, 0, $iPos);

// Last read got some more data before hitting EOF?
if ($sRecord != '') {
    if ((
$iPos = strpos($sRecord, $sDelim)) !== FALSE) {
fseek($rFile, 0-strlen($sRecord)+$iPos+strlen($sDelim), SEEK_CUR);
substr($sRecord, 0, $iPos);
    else {
  else {
arentzen at religion dot dk 30-Sep-2007 02:56
If you want fscanf()to scan one variable in a large number of lines,  e.g an Ipadress in a line with more variables, then use fscanf with explode()
= "somefile.txt";
$fp = fopen($filename, "r") or die ("Error opening file! \n");
$u = explode(" ",$line); // $u is the variable eg. an IPadress
while ($line = fscanf($fp,"%s",$u)) {
preg_match("/^$u/",$_SERVER['REMOTE_ADDR'])) {$badipadresss++;} // do something and continue scan
Besides, fscanf()is much faster than fgets()
Bertrand dot Lecun at prism dot uvsq dot Fr 30-May-2007 12:48
It would be great to precise in the fscanf documentation
that one call to the function, reads a complete line.
and not just the number of values defined in the format.

If a text file contains 2 lines each containing 4 integer values,
reading the file with 8 fscanf($fd,"%d",$v) doesnt run !
You have to make 2
fscanf($fd,"%d %d %d %d",$v1,$v2,$v3,$v4);

Then 1 fscanf per line. at gmail dot com 24-Jul-2006 12:46
to include all type of visible chars you should try:

<?php fscanf($file_handler,"%[ -~]"); ?>
worldwideroach at hotmail dot com 14-Jul-2005 09:33
Yet another function to read a file and return a record/string by a delimiter.  It is very much like fgets() with the delimiter being an additional parameter.  Works great across multiple lines.

function fgetd(&$rFile, $sDelim, $iBuffer=1024) {
    $sRecord = '';
    while(!feof($rFile)) {
        $iPos = strpos($sRecord, $sDelim);
        if ($iPos === false) {
            $sRecord .= fread($rFile, $iBuffer);
        } else {
            fseek($rFile, 0-strlen($sRecord)+$iPos+strlen($sDelim), SEEK_CUR);
            return substr($sRecord, 0, $iPos);
    return false;
rudigreen at gmail dot com 01-Jul-2005 03:43
I have a function for reading delimited files, it works for multiple lines too (i think...)

//$fh - is the file pointer
//$delim - is the seperator
//$callback - self explanatory
//$len - optional
function file_read_delim($fh,$delim,$callback,$len=1024)
$rec = '';
$buf = fread($fh,$len);
strpos($buf,$delim) === false)
$rec .= $buf;
$strs = explode($delim,$buf);
            foreach (
$strs as $ele)
$rec .= $ele;
$rec = '';

//Here is an example how to use the function

$fh = fopen($filename,'r');
'Could not open file for reading';
//call the function

"$rec \n";
me at hesterc dot fsnet dot co dot uk 25-May-2004 07:03
I have a simpler method I use to parse delimited text. Using the data posted by gozer at fanhunter dot com, here is my script. Maybe it is faster?


= fopen ("sections.dat","r");

if (!
$fp) {echo "<p>Unable to open remote file.</p>"; exit;}

while (!
$line = fgets($fp, 2048);
$out = array($line);
 list (
$id, $name, $description, $language, $directory, $id_uplevel, $order, $hassubsection) = split ("\|", $out[0]);
$id_uplevel-$order-$hassubsection<br />\n";



Avoid the php extension on a data file - it will cause PHP to parse the file, but there is no PHP in it.

The "2048" value on line 2 of the loop is set for long lines. 1024 works fine, but I had to increase it with a large database I use a similar script to read.

You don't need to open and close the speech marks (as in gozer at fanhunter dot com's example) in the echo line, just use the variables inbetween the dashes.

(Remove the line break halfway through the echo line - it is just there for this forum.)
matt at mattsinclair dot com 21-Jan-2004 12:36
A better way to use fscanf() would be this:

= fopen("users.txt", "r");
while (!
feof($handle)) {
$userinfo = fscanf($handle, "%s\t%s\t%s\n");
   if (
$userinfo) {
     list (
$name, $profession, $countrycode) = $userinfo;
//... do something with the values

as you can see, instead of waiting for fscanf() to fail to return a value... it waits for the the pointer to get to the end of the file... this way, if for some reason one of your lines does not match your expression, it will not kill the loop.  it will simply go on to the next line.
robert at NOSPAM dot NOSPAM 24-Oct-2002 04:08
actually, instead of trying to think of every character that might be in your file, excluding the delimiter would be much easier.

for example, if your delimiter was a comma use:


instead of:

%[a-zA-Z0-9.| ... ]

Just make sure to use %[^,\n] on your last entry so you don't include the newline.
ruiner911 at yahoo dot com 15-Aug-2002 01:01
Clear the variables before you scan them in.  As a programmer this should have been very apparent.  Goof.
eugene at pro-access dot com 16-Mar-2002 12:39
If you want to read text files in csv format or the like(no matter what character the fields are separated with), you should use fgetcsv() instead. When a text for a field is blank, fscanf() may skip it and fill it with the next text, whereas fgetcsv() correctly regards it as a blank field.
gozer at fanhunter dot com 07-Mar-2002 06:53
A few days ago we got multiple mySQL crashes due to a hardware failure and other processes running.
While we thought it could be the mySQL daemon overloaded, we started looking for alternate ways to get our little databases working so we started using fscanf to parse files.

We ran into multiple problems due to the whitespace and other characters that were in our database. Finally, we made it to work using sets as remarked.

Our final function is:

  function get_sections($include_dir){
    $filename = $include_dir . "sections.dat.php";
    $datafile = fopen ($filename ,"r");
    while ($sectioninfo = fscanf ($datafile, "%[0-9]|%[a-zA-Z0-9@&;:,. /!?-]|%[a-zA-Z0-9@&;:,. /!?-]|%[a-zA-Z]|%[a-zA-Z0-9@/?&;.+=-]|%[0-9]|%[0-9]|%[0-9]\n")) {
        list($id, $name, $description, $language, $directory, $id_uplevel, $order, $hassubsection) = $sectioninfo;

        // Show output
        echo $id . "-" . $name. "-" . $description . "-" . $language . "-" . $directory . "-" . $id_uplevel . "-" . $order . "-" . $hassubsection . "<br>\n";

The contents of sections.dat.php (for example):

1|home|P&aacute;gina principal de Fanhunter.|castellano|==|0|0|0
2|fanhunter|Secci&oacute;n principal dedicada al universo Fanhunter.|castellano|fanhunter/|1|0|0
3|outfan|Secci&oacute;n principal dedicada al universo Outfan.|castellano|outfan/|1|0|0
4|fanpiro|Secci&oacute;n principal dedicada al universo Fanpiro.|castellano|fanpiro/|1|0|0
5|tienda|La tienda de Fanhunter.|castellano|tienda/|1|0|0
6|the zone|Secci&oacute;n principal Miscel&aacute;nea.|castellano|thezone/|1|0|0
7|flfcn|Secci&oacute;n principal dedicada a Fan Letal/Fan con Nata.|castellano|fanletal/|1|0|0
8|foro|Nuestro foro de discusi&oacute;n.|castellano|foro/|1|0|0
9|chat|Secci&oacute;n para chatear.|castellano|chat/|1|0|0
10|links|Secci&oacute;n recopilatoria de enlaces de inter&eacute;s a otras p&aacute;ginas.|castellano|links/|1|0|0

Note: The '==' in directory means no directory needed to be specified.
Pay attention to linebreaks, as this forum puts some of them into the code I pasted.

Good luck guys.
james at zephyr-works dot com 08-Jul-2001 12:29
fscanf works a little retardedly I've found. Instead of using just a plain %s you probably will need to use sets instead. Because it works so screwy compared to C/C++, fscanf does not have the ability to scan ahead in a string and pattern match correctly, so a seemingly perfect function call like:

fscanf($fh, "%s::%s");

With a file like:


Will not work. When fscanf looks for a string, it will look and stop at nothing except for a whitespace so :: and everything except whitespace is considered part of that string, however you can make it a little smarter by:

fscanf($fh, "%[a-zA-Z0-9,. ]::%[a-zA-Z0-9,. ]" $var1, $var2);

Which tells it that it can only accept a through z A through Z 0 through 9 a comma a period and a whitespace as input to the string, everything else cause it to stop taking in as input and continue parsing the line. This is very useful if you want to get a sentence into the string and you're not sure of exactly how many words to add, etc.
yasuo_ohgaki at hotmail dot com 12-Mar-2001 11:59
For C/C++ programmers.

fscanf() does not work like C/C++, because PHP's fscanf() move file pointer the next line implicitly.

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