Read file line by line using ifstream in C++

Read file line by line using ifstream in C++ :

First, make an ifstream:

#include <fstream>
std::ifstream infile("thefile.txt");

The two standard methods are:

  1. Assume that every line consists of two numbers and read token by token:int a, b; while (infile >> a >> b) { // process pair (a,b) }
  2. Line-based parsing, using string streams:#include <sstream> #include <string> std::string line; while (std::getline(infile, line)) { std::istringstream iss(line); int a, b; if (!(iss >> a >> b)) { break; } // error // process pair (a,b) }

You shouldn’t mix (1) and (2), since the token-based parsing doesn’t gobble up newlines, so you may end up with spurious empty lines if you use getline() after token-based extraction got you to the end of a line already.

Use ifstream to read data from a file:

std::ifstream input( "filename.ext" );

If you really need to read line by line, then do this:

for( std::string line; getline( input, line ); )
    ...for each line in input...

But you probably just need to extract coordinate pairs:

int x, y;
input >> x >> y;


In your code you use ofstream myfile;, however the o in ofstream stands for output. If you want to read from the file (input) use ifstream. If you want to both read and write use fstream.

Reading a file line by line in C++ can be done in some different ways.

[Fast] Loop with std::getline()

The simplest approach is to open an std::ifstream and loop using std::getline() calls. The code is clean and easy to understand.

#include <fstream>

std::ifstream file(FILENAME);
if (file.is_open()) {
    std::string line;
    while (std::getline(file, line)) {
        // using printf() in all tests for consistency
        printf("%s", line.c_str());

[Fast] Use Boost’s file_description_source

Another possibility is to use the Boost library, but the code gets a bit more verbose. The performance is quite similar to the code above (Loop with std::getline()).

#include <boost/iostreams/device/file_descriptor.hpp>
#include <boost/iostreams/stream.hpp>
#include <fcntl.h>

namespace io = boost::iostreams;

void readLineByLineBoost() {
    int fdr = open(FILENAME, O_RDONLY);
    if (fdr >= 0) {
        io::file_descriptor_source fdDevice(fdr, io::file_descriptor_flags::close_handle);
        io::stream <io::file_descriptor_source> in(fdDevice);
        if (fdDevice.is_open()) {
            std::string line;
            while (std::getline(in, line)) {
                // using printf() in all tests for consistency
                printf("%s", line.c_str());

[Fastest] Use C code

If performance is critical for your software, you may consider using the C language. This code can be 4-5 times faster than the C++ versions above, see benchmark below

FILE* fp = fopen(FILENAME, "r");
if (fp == NULL)

char* line = NULL;
size_t len = 0;
while ((getline(&line, &len, fp)) != -1) {
    // using printf() in all tests for consistency
    printf("%s", line);
if (line)

Benchmark — Which one is faster?

I have done some performance benchmarks with the code above and the results are interesting. I have tested the code with ASCII files that contain 100,000 lines, 1,000,000 lines and 10,000,000 lines of text. Each line of text contains 10 words in average. The program is compiled with -O3 optimization and its output is forwarded to /dev/null in order to remove the logging time variable from the measurement. Last, but not least, each piece of code logs each line with the printf() function for consistency.

The results show the time (in ms) that each piece of code took to read the files.

The performance difference between the two C++ approaches is minimal and shouldn’t make any difference in practice. The performance of the C code is what makes the benchmark impressive and can be a game changer in terms of speed.

                             10K lines     100K lines     1000K lines
Loop with std::getline()         105ms          894ms          9773ms
Boost code                       106ms          968ms          9561ms
C code                            23ms          243ms          2397ms
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