Whoever at Microsoft decided that a comma was a worthy choice as a delimiter for importing text files should be taken out and beaten and then shot. What was the thought process? “Hmmmm….. we need something to separate values in a text file, what’s a good choice? A pipe(|)? Nah, too common. A tilde(~)? Nah, still too common. I’ve got it! A comma. Nobody ever uses those!”

Microsoft has made a lot of stupid mistakes over the years, but this has to be the dumbest. As a result of this decision any comma used in the value of a field denotes the beginning of a new field, which often it’s not. (For example, my name commonly gets written as Paul J. Smith, Jr. If my name is stored as a single field in a comma delimited file that comma after “Smith” tells the computer a new field is started, so every field after that is off by one from its proper position, completely invalidating the file.)

One time at a previous assignment, we were developing a process to transfer data between two systems, which necessitated using a text file. The lead tech from the other system asked if we could use a pipe (|) as the delimiter in the file. My response was just “Thank you.” Pipes never appear in contemporary usage and make such a perfect delimiter. Microsoft needs to dump commas as separators and move to pipes, or just abandon the whole flat file thought process and move to XML as a go-between when a text file is required.

One thought on “I HATE CSV FILES!!!!!!

  1. Really, Paul? With all that is going on in the world, you decide to cast your angst against the CSV file?

    While a good Microsoft rant is always refreshing, I’m not sure you can pin this one on them. CSV was around before Microsoft.

    For flat files, CSV makes sense. Anything with a string likely to include a comma can be set off by quotation marks and parsed accordingly. Much simpler than XML, isn’t it?

    Anyway, I’d like to live in your world for a day. It must be nice when this is what you have to complain about.

    For more diatribes on the comma, listen to Vampire Weekend’s “Oxford Comma” which includes this bit of lyrical magic, “Who gives a [fudge] about an oxford comma?”

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