How to Read a File Backwards?

Posted on 1998-06-28
Medium Priority
Last Modified: 2010-05-03
I would like to Open a file, and read it backwards! How?
The file is regular text, no records with comma's or anything like that.
And, the text is much too big to use an Array to hold it all.

This is my problem:
I'm using a text artical as a Key in an encryption scheme. I would like the User to be
able to use the Key text backwards if they like. But I can't find a GOOD way to do this.
The text could be a complete novel or book. There is no way to use an Array to hold
it all. It must be read one line at a time, starting from the last line, without using
an Array or memory to store the whole text. The text is just regular text with no
comma's or seperation characters.
Any ideas?
Question by:jgore
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Expert Comment

ID: 1464491
You can try this : Read the text, then write to a listbox .

open "c:\text.txt" for input as #1
do until eof(1)
     line input #1, record
     list1.additem record
Close #1

index=  List1.listcount

while index > 0
         msgbox List1.List(index)
index = index + 1

Expert Comment

ID: 1464492
sorry it sould be index = index - 1

Author Comment

ID: 1464493
I don't think thats what I had in mind. It still puts the whole thing in memory
somewhere. A listbox is in memory I think. I don't think it could contain the
novel "War and Peace"!
I need to read the file backwards "one line at a time."
I think using a listbox would be just as bad as using an array.

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Accepted Solution

alamo earned 400 total points
ID: 1464494
I don't see a solution other than opening the file at the end and moving back to the beginning, doing your own parsing into lines.

This isn't so tough to do, really - I'll post full code to do it as a comment within the next ten minutes. Hope this will do what you need... good luck!

Expert Comment

ID: 1464495

Dim strBuffer As String
Dim lFileOffset As Long
' BufferLength MUST be a power of 2 to work
Private Const BufferLength As Integer = 512

Private Sub Command1_Click()
    ' test program
    Dim iFile As Integer
    Dim strLine As String
    iFile = OpenBackwards("c:\autoexec.bat")
        strLine = ReadBackwards(iFile)
        If Len(strLine) = 0 Then Exit Do
        ctr = ctr + 1
        Debug.Print strLine;
    Close iFile
End Sub

Public Function OpenBackwards(fname$) As Integer
' Opens the file for backwards read
' returns the file number if successful
' Caller must make sure the file exists before calling us
' We set the global variables lFileOffset and strBuffer
    Dim iFile As Integer
    iFile = FreeFile
    Open fname$ For Binary As #iFile
    lFileOffset = LOF(iFile)
    If lFileOffset = 0 Then
        Close iFile
        OpenBackwards = 0
        Exit Function
    End If
    ' Read in final block of file to "prime the pump"
    lFileOffset = (lFileOffset - 1) And Not BufferLength - 1
    strBuffer = Space$(LOF(iFile) - lFileOffset)
    Get #iFile, lFileOffset + 1, strBuffer
    ' After this we read BufferLength bytes at a time, for efficiency
    OpenBackwards = iFile
    If lFileOffset = 0 Then strBuffer = Chr$(13) + strBuffer
End Function

Public Function ReadBackwards(iFile As Integer) As String
' return the last unread line of the file (including the CR, and LF if present)
' when no more lines in the file we return a blank string
Dim strBuffer1 As String
Dim i, j, k As Integer
    ' First look in our buffer to see if there's a line there
        i = InStr(strBuffer, Chr$(13))
        If i > 0 Then
            j = InStr(i + 1, strBuffer, Chr$(13))
            If j > 0 Then
                    k = InStr(j + 1, strBuffer, Chr$(13))
                    If k = 0 Then
                        ' last one we found was last line, return it to caller
                        If Mid$(strBuffer, i + 1, 1) = Chr$(10) Then i = i + 1
                        ReadBackwards = Mid$(strBuffer, i + 1)
                        strBuffer = Left$(strBuffer, i)
                        Exit Function
                    End If
                    i = j
                    j = k
            End If
        End If
        ' we need to read more of file
        If lFileOffset > 0 Then
            lFileOffset = lFileOffset - BufferLength
            strBuffer1 = Space$(BufferLength)
            Get #iFile, lFileOffset + 1, strBuffer1
            strBuffer = strBuffer1 + strBuffer
            If lFileOffset = 0 Then strBuffer = Chr$(13) + strBuffer
            ReadBackwards = Mid$(strBuffer, 2)  ' this is in case no cr on last line
            strBuffer = ""
            Exit Function
        End If
End Function

Expert Comment

ID: 1464496
I wouldn't normally code the whole thing for a question here, but it's an interesting little problem to do it efficiently. After the very first read (which reads the very end of the file) it's reading backwards through the file 512 bytes at a time, with all reads aligned with the file block boundaries so it's reasonably quick.

It could use a little more error checking (for opening the file for example) but everyone does that their own way, so no real point adding it, you can do so :-)

Author Comment

ID: 1464497
I tried it and it worked!
I really thought there might be an easier way, like maybe I had missed
learning some command, or built-in function. Guess not!
Anyways, your code is pretty small and works great!
Thanks again!


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