th 215 - Python File.Tell() Issue: Strange Numbers Returned - Solutions Included

Python File.Tell() Issue: Strange Numbers Returned – Solutions Included

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If you are a Python developer or you work with Python on a regular basis, you may be familiar with the Python file.tell() issue. This problem occurs when you try to read the current byte position within a file, but strange numbers are returned instead of the expected values.The issue stems from the fact that Python counts each newline character as two bytes instead of one, which can cause confusion when trying to find the correct byte position. This can be especially problematic if you are working with binary files or need to perform operations based on the byte position within a file.Fortunately, there are several solutions available to address this problem. One option is to use the universal newline mode when opening files, which ensures that all newline characters are treated as a single byte. Another option is to use the io module, which provides a more consistent approach to handling newlines and encoding issues.If you are encountering the Python file.tell() issue, it is important to take steps to address it to ensure that your code is behaving as expected. By understanding the underlying cause of the problem and utilizing the appropriate solutions, you can avoid unexpected behavior and ensure that your Python code runs smoothly and efficiently.In conclusion, if you want to avoid strange numbers being returned while using the file.tell() function in Python, it’s important to make sure you understand how newlines are counted in Python and take steps to address any discrepancies. Utilizing the universal newline mode or the io module can go a long way in ensuring that your code behaves as expected and that you can accurately track the byte position within your files. So, if you want to avoid running into issues with file.tell(), take the time to learn about these solutions and implement them in your code.

th?q=Python%20File - Python File.Tell() Issue: Strange Numbers Returned - Solutions Included
“Python File.Tell() Giving Strange Numbers?” ~ bbaz


Python is a high-level programming language that offers various features to the developer. However, programming can sometimes be annoying, especially when facing strange errors or issues. One of these issues relates to the Python File.Tell() method, which returns unexpected numbers. In this article, we will discuss this problem and explore some solutions.

Python File.Tell() Method

The Python File.Tell() returns the current position of the file pointer within an opened file object. The method takes no arguments, and its usage is simple. The pointer refers to the next byte to be read or written in the file. A common use case for this method is to track the position of a particular section in a file.

The Issue with Python File.Tell()

While the Python File.Tell() method works well in most cases, it can sometimes return strange numbers like -1 or 4294967294. These numbers aren’t meaningful or helpful to the developer, and hence they can cause confusion while debugging.

Reason Behind the Strange Numbers

The reason behind the strange numbers returned by Python File.Tell() is related to the type of file opened. Python represents the pointer position as an integer. However, if the file was opened in binary mode or univeral newline mode, the interpreted integer’s range changes. Python uses 32-bit signed integers to represent offsets in binary mode and 64-bit signed integers to represent offsets in text or universal newline mode.

Solutions to the Python File.Tell() Issue

Use Relative Offsets

Using relative offsets helps avoid the issue entirely. For instance, instead of calling file.tell(), call, SEEK_CUR) to get the current position. This method returns a reliable offset.

Open the File in Text Mode

Opening the file in text mode ensures that Python uses 64-bit offsets, hence avoiding the strange numbers. One can open a file in text mode by including the letter ‘t’ or ‘b’ in the mode string when opening the file. For example, use r+b instead of rb.

Use with Statement

The ‘with’ statement simplifies the process of opening and closing files. The context manager is responsible for releasing the file handle when done, making it less likely to encounter strange numbers.

Use io module

The io module provides the BufferedIOBase.tell() method, which works better than the Python File.Tell() method. BufferedIOBase provides the tell() method with a more explicit return type that avoids the strange numbers.


Python File.Tell() issue can sometimes cause inconvenience to developers. However, solutions like using relative offsets and opening the file in text mode can help mitigate it. Using ‘with’ statement and io module are also viable options that provide a better experience while working with files in Python.

Method Pros Cons
file.tell() Simple Returns Strange Numbers in some edge cases, SEEK_CUR) Returns reliable offset Can be cumbersome
Open File in Text Mode Avoids strange numbers Might not be applicable for all use cases.
Use with statement Simplifies the process of opening and closing files Might not always work
io module Better return type, avoids strange numbers Requires additional import and functionality to be learned


While the Python File.Tell() issue can sometimes cause frustration, it’s comforting to know that multiple viable solutions exist. Choosing between them depends on the specific use case and developer preference. The table above can help make this decision more accessible. In general, it’s always a good idea to be aware of any potential issues to ensure smooth programming experience.

Hello there, fellow Python enthusiasts and blog visitors! We hope that you have found our discussion on the strange numbers returned from the tell() method helpful and informative. To wrap things up, we would like to offer some final thoughts and solutions regarding this common issue.

First of all, it’s important to note that the tell() method in Python is used to determine the current position or offset within a file. This can be incredibly useful for reading and writing files, but as we mentioned earlier, it can sometimes return unexpected values. This is because tell() returns the byte count rather than the character count, which can be affected by factors such as encoding and line endings.

To avoid encountering strange numbers returned by tell(), we recommend using the io module and specifying the encoding of your file when reading or writing it. Additionally, you can use the len() function to determine the length of a file or string based on its character count rather than its byte count. These simple solutions can go a long way in preventing confusion and frustration when working with files in Python.

Thank you for reading our article on the strange numbers returned by the tell() method in Python. We hope that our insights and tips have been helpful to you, and we encourage you to continue exploring the world of Python programming. As always, happy coding!

Python File.Tell() Issue: Strange Numbers Returned – Solutions Included

People also ask about the Python File.Tell() issue and the strange numbers returned. Here are some of their queries:

  1. What is the Python File.Tell() method?
  2. Why am I getting strange numbers when using the File.Tell() method?
  3. How can I fix the strange numbers returned by File.Tell() in Python?
  4. Are there any alternative methods to File.Tell() that do not return strange numbers?


  1. The Python File.Tell() method returns the current position of the file pointer in bytes.
  2. The strange numbers returned by File.Tell() are actually the byte offset of the current file position. They may seem odd if you are not familiar with binary representation, but they are accurate.
  3. If you want to convert the byte offset to a more readable format, you can use the following code:
  • position = file.tell()
  • position_human_readable = f{position:,} bytes
  • Alternatively, you can use the File.Seek() method to move the file pointer to a specific position, rather than relying on the offset returned by File.Tell().