Reading a binary file with python


I find particularly difficult reading binary file with Python. Can you give me a hand?
I need to read this file, which in Fortran 90 is easily read by

int*4 n_particles, n_groups
real*4 group_id(n_particles)
read (*) n_particles, n_groups
read (*) (group_id(j),j=1,n_particles)

In detail, the file format is:

Bytes 1-4 -- The integer 8.
Bytes 5-8 -- The number of particles, N.
Bytes 9-12 -- The number of groups.
Bytes 13-16 -- The integer 8.
Bytes 17-20 -- The integer 4*N.
Next many bytes -- The group ID numbers for all the particles.
Last 4 bytes -- The integer 4*N. 

How can I read this with Python? I tried everything but it never worked. Is there any chance I might use a f90 program in python, reading this binary file and then save the data that I need to use?


Read the binary file content like this:

with open(fileName, mode='rb') as file: # b is important -> binary
    fileContent =

then “unpack” binary data using struct.unpack:

The start bytes: struct.unpack("iiiii", fileContent[:20])

The body: ignore the heading bytes and the trailing byte (= 24); The remaining part forms the body, to know the number of bytes in the body do an integer division by 4; The obtained quotient is multiplied by the string 'i' to create the correct format for the unpack method:

struct.unpack("i" * ((len(fileContent) -24) // 4), fileContent[20:-4])

The end byte: struct.unpack("i", fileContent[-4:])


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *