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Randomly select N lines from a file, on the fly

by blokhead (Monsignor)
on Oct 09, 2008 at 01:00 UTC ( [id://716109]=CUFP: print w/replies, xml ) Need Help??

Many people know the trick from perlfaq about how to choose a line uniformly at random from a file (or pipe), without knowing a priori how many lines are coming.

Here is a generalization of the method that chooses a random subset (without repetition) of N random lines from a file. The method only needs to keep N lines of the file in memory. It also preserves the ordering of lines. If the little script is named sample, you use it like this:

$ sample 10 somelongfile.txt ## to get 10 random lines $ some long command | sample 50 > mysample.txt
Proof of correctness is fairly straight-forward by induction.

Note: perlfaq recommends File::Random for the case of choosing 1 random line. And indeed, the random_line function in that module has an option to choose more than 1 line. However, it selects with repetition.

my $wanted = shift || 10; my @got; die "Invalid number of lines!\n" if $wanted < 1; while (<>) { if (@got < $wanted) { push @got, $_; } elsif (rand($.) < $wanted) { splice @got, rand(@got), 1; push @got, $_; } } die "Not enough lines!\n" if @got < $wanted; print @got;

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Re: Randomly select N lines from a file, on the fly
by ambrus (Abbot) on Oct 09, 2008 at 09:56 UTC

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