CSV Module

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This XQuery Module contains a single function to parse CSV input. CSV (comma-separated values) is a popular representation for tabular data, exported e. g. from Excel.


All functions and errors in this module are assigned to the http://basex.org/modules/csv namespace, which is statically bound to the csv prefix.


XML: Direct, Attributes

If the direct or attributes format is chosen, a CSV string is converted to XML:

  • The resulting XML document has a csv root element.
  • Rows are represented via record elements.
  • Fields are represented via entry elements. The value of a field is represented as text node.
  • If the header option is set to true, the first text line is parsed as table header:
    • If format is set to direct, the field names are encoded, as described in the Conversion Module, and used as element names.
    • Otherwise, if format is attributes, the field names will be stored in name attributes.

A little advice: in the Database Creation dialog of the GUI, if you select CSV Parsing and switch to the Parsing tab, you can see the effects of some of the conversion options.


With the xquery format, CSV records are converted to a sequence of arrays:

  • The resulting value will be a map with a records and an optional names key.
  • Records are organized as a sequence of arrays. A single array contains the entries of a single record.
  • The column names will be available if header option is set to true.

The CSV map can e.g. be accessed as follows:

  • $csv?records[5] returns all entries of the 5th record (row)
  • $csv?records?(2) returns all entries of the 2nd field (column)
  • $csv?names?* returns the names of all fields (if available)
  • Return enumerated strings for all records:

<syntaxhighlight lang="xquery"> for $record at $pos in $csv?records return $pos || ". " || string-join($record?*, ', ') </syntaxhighlight>

The resulting representation consumes less memory than XML-based formats, and values can be directly accessed without conversion. Thus, it is recommendable for very large inputs and for efficient ad-hoc processing.


In the following table, all available options are listed. The Excel column lists recommended options for data that is processed with Excel or Open/Libre Office.

Option Description Allowed Default Direction Excel
separator Defines the character which separates the values of a single record. comma, semicolon, colon, tab, space or a single character comma parse, serialize semicolon or comma, depending on the region
header Indicates if the first line of the parsed or serialized CSV data is a table header. yes, no no parse, serialize
format Specifies the format of the XML data:
  • With direct conversion, field names are represented as element names
  • With attributes conversion, field names are stored in name attributes
  • With xquery conversion, the input is converted to an XQuery map
direct, attributes, xquery direct parse, serialize
lax Specifies if a lax approach is used to convert QNames to JSON names. yes, no yes parse, serialize no
quotes Specifies how quotes are parsed:
  • Parsing: If the option is enabled, quotes at the start and end of a value will be treated as control characters. Separators and newlines within the quotes will be adopted without change.
  • Serialization: If the option is enabled, the value will be wrapped with quotes if it contains characters that might be treated as control characters. A quote character in the value will be encoded according to the rules of the backslashes option.
yes, no yes parse, serialize yes
backslashes Specifies how quotes and other characters are escaped:
  • Parsing: If the option is enabled, \r, n and \t will be replaced with the corresponding control characters. All other escaped characters will be adopted as literals (e.g.: \""). If the option is disabled, two consecutive quotes will be replaced with a single quote (unless quotes is enabled and the quote is the first or last character of a value).
  • Serialization: If the option is enabled, \r, n, \t, " and the separator character will be encoded with a backslash. If the option is disabled, quotes will be duplicated.
yes, no no parse, serialize no
allow In Excel, a value will be evaluated if it starts with the character -, +, =, @, \t or \r. A regular expression can be specified to reject data that will be handled differently than expected by an application, or that may be malicious (see https://owasp.org/www-community/attacks/CSV_Injection for more details). string serialize [^-+=\t\r].*|[-+]\d*([,.]\d+)?



Signatures csv:doc($uri as xs:string?) as item()?
csv:doc($uri as xs:string?, $options as map(*)?) as item()?
Summary Fetches the CSV document referred to by the given $uri and converts it to an XQuery value. The $options argument can be used to control the way the input is converted.
Errors parse: the specified input cannot be parsed as CSV document.
options: the specified options are conflicting.


Signatures csv:parse($string as xs:string?) as item()?
csv:parse($string as xs:string?, $options as map(*)?) as item()?
Summary Converts the CSV $string to an XQuery value. The $options argument can be used to control the way the input is converted.
Errors parse: the specified input cannot be parsed as CSV document.


Signatures csv:serialize($input as item()?) as xs:string
csv:serialize($input as item()?, $options as map(*)?) as xs:string
Summary Serializes the specified $input as CSV, using the specified $options, and returns the result as string.

Values can also be serialized as CSV with the standard Serialization feature of XQuery:

  • The parameter method needs to be set to csv, and
  • the options presented in this article need to be assigned to the csv parameter.
Errors serialize: the input cannot be serialized.


Example 1: Converts CSV data to XML, interpreting the first row as table header:

Input addressbook.csv: <syntaxhighlight lang="xml"> Name,First Name,Address,City Huber,Sepp,Hauptstraße 13,93547 Hintertupfing </syntaxhighlight>

Query: <syntaxhighlight lang="xquery"> let $text := file:read-text('addressbook.csv') return csv:parse($text, map { 'header': true() }) </syntaxhighlight>

Result: <syntaxhighlight lang="xml"> <csv>

   <Address>Hauptstraße 13</Address>
   <City>93547 Hintertupfing</City>

</csv> </syntaxhighlight>

Example 2: Converts some CSV data to XML and back, and checks if the input and output are equal. The expected result is true:

Query: <syntaxhighlight lang="xquery"> let $options := map { 'lax': false() } let $input := file:read-text('some-data.csv') let $output := $input => csv:parse($options) => csv:serialize($options) return $input eq $output </syntaxhighlight>

Example 3: Converts CSV data to XQuery and returns distinct column values:

Query: <syntaxhighlight lang="xquery"> let $text := ``[Name,City Jack,Chicago Jack,Washington John,New York ]`` let $options := map { 'format': 'xquery', 'header': true() } let $csv := csv:parse($text, $options) return (

 'Distinct values:',
 let $records := $csv('records')
 for $name at $pos in $csv('names')?*
 let $values := $records?($pos)
 return (
   '* ' || $name || ': ' || string-join(distinct-values($values), ', ')

) </syntaxhighlight>

Result: <syntaxhighlight lang="xquery"> Distinct values:

  • Name: Jack, John
  • City: Chicago, Washington, New York



Code Description
parse The input cannot be parsed.
serialize The node cannot be serialized.


Version 9.7
Version 9.4
Version 9.1
  • Updated: csv:parse can be called with empty sequence.
Version 9.0
  • Added: xquery option
  • Removed: map option
  • Updated: error codes updated; errors now use the module namespace
Version 8.6
  • Updated: Options: improved Excel compatibility
Version 8.0
  • Added: backslashes option
Version 7.8
  • Updated: csv:parse now returns a document node instead of an element, or an XQuery map if format is set to map.
  • Added: format and lax options

The module was introduced with Version 7.7.2.