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How To Edit Big CSV Files

10-15-2023 // Nick End, Founder

What is the easiest way to edit a big CSV?

Open the CSV in Row Zero, a blazingly fast spreadsheet designed for big data. Once imported, use Row Zero tools to filter, sort, search (ctrl + F), write spreadsheet functions, edit individual values, and extract certain data sets. For more details read on or skip to the sections below:

  1. What are CSVs?
  2. Use cases for editing and transforming CSVs
  3. What tools are best for editing big CSVs?
  4. Import a big CSV to Row Zero
  5. Methods to edit and transform CSVs
  6. Conclusion

What are CSVs?

CSV stands for comma separated values. CSV files contain data separated by commas as shown in the example below.

"ID","studyName","Sample Number","Species","Region","Island","Stage","Individual ID","Clutch Completion","Date Egg","Culmen Length (mm)","Culmen Depth (mm)","Flipper Length (mm)","Body Mass (g)","Sex","Delta 15 N (o/oo)","Delta 13 C (o/oo)","Comments"
"1","PAL0708",1,"Adelie Penguin (Pygoscelis adeliae)","Anvers","Torgersen","Adult, 1 Egg Stage","N1A1","Yes",2007-11-11,39.1,18.7,181,3750,"MALE",NA,NA,"Not enough blood for isotopes."
"2","PAL0708",2,"Adelie Penguin (Pygoscelis adeliae)","Anvers","Torgersen","Adult, 1 Egg Stage","N1A2","Yes",2007-11-11,39.5,17.4,186,3800,"FEMALE",8.94956,-24.69454,NA
"3","PAL0708",3,"Adelie Penguin (Pygoscelis adeliae)","Anvers","Torgersen","Adult, 1 Egg Stage","N2A1","Yes",2007-11-16,40.3,18,195,3250,"FEMALE",8.36821,-25.33302,NA
"4","PAL0708",4,"Adelie Penguin (Pygoscelis adeliae)","Anvers","Torgersen","Adult, 1 Egg Stage","N2A2","Yes",2007-11-16,NA,NA,NA,NA,NA,NA,NA,"Adult not sampled."
"5","PAL0708",5,"Adelie Penguin (Pygoscelis adeliae)","Anvers","Torgersen","Adult, 1 Egg Stage","N3A1","Yes",2007-11-16,36.7,19.3,193,3450,"FEMALE",8.76651,-25.32426,NA

CSVs are common file formats because the simple schema makes them easy to process and they can be opened by a large number of software products. The simplicity of the file format makes CSVs an attractive choice for storing any datasets but particularly large datasets. Challenges arise when an application opens a big csv and needs to manipulate or transform it.

Use Cases for editing and transforming CSVs?

Across business functions, there are a wide range of reasons in which you may need to edit or transform CSV files. Often exports from one application need to be explored, currated, and imported to other platforms. Some common use cases are:

  • cleaning lists of marketing contacts
  • updating information on sales prospects for input to CRM systems
  • combining logistcs data from a 3PL with ecommerce data
  • Searching for anamolies
  • Data exploration and graphing

What tools are best for editing big CSVs?

The reality is there are not many tools that make it easy to edit big CSVs. Spreadsheets like Google Sheets and Microsoft Excel make it very easy to edit CSVs. The challenge is those applications were not designed to handle large data sets that have now become common in every job function. To read more about spreadsheet size limitations see our posts on the Excel row limit and Google Sheets row limit. Once CSVs get too big for legacy spreadsheets, there aren't many other applications that are easily interactive for editing puropses. A previous post, How to Open Big CSVs, covered 5 options for opening big CSVs but of those options, Row Zero is the most interactive tool for editing big CSVs because it works just like Excel and Google Sheets. Below we review various methods for editing and exploring big csvs with Row Zero.

Import a big CSV to Row Zero

Before attempting any of the methods below, first import your data to Row Zero using the steps below.

  1. Click on the 'Data' menu
  2. Select upload from computer or import from S3, using the import from link or Connect a S3 Bucket methods.
  3. Review import details and click 'Import.'

Methods to edit and explore big CSVs

  1. Search (Ctrl + F)
  2. Sort
  3. Filter
  4. Graph
  5. Pivot table
  6. IF Statements
  7. Combining with VLOOKUP or XLOOKUP
  8. Export CSV

Search (Ctrl + F)


  • Easy searching - The Ctrl + F search function allows you to easily locate specific data points or patterns in a large CSV file.
  • Quick Corrections - Search helps in making fast changes or updates to particular data entries.
  • Error Spotting - Ctrl + F is useful for identifying and addressing inconsistencies or discrepancies in a dataset.

Instructions: To use the CTRL + F feature, navigate to the sheet in your Row Zero workbook that contains the csv file you imported. Press 'Control' + 'F" at the same time and the search feature will pop up in the upper right-hand corner. Enter the text or number you want to search for and Row Zero will identify all the occurrences and highlight them. Use the up and down arrows to jump to the subsequent or previous occurence. CTRL + F



  • Organize Data - Sorting enables you to arrange the CSV file's content in ascending or descending order based on selected columns.
  • Data Prioritization - It's essential for understanding the distribution of values, spotting trends, and identifying outliers.
  • Enhanced Readability - Sorted data makes it easier to navigate and analyze the information in the file.

Instructions: To sort your data in Row Zero, simply select your data with CTRL + A or CTRL + SHIFT and the arrow keys. Once your data is selected, select sort and drop down arrows will appear in the header row. Click on the header for the column to be sorted by and use the sort menu to choose the sort method. More detailed instructions can be found in the sort documenation here. Sort string



  • Data Segmentation - Filtering allows you to isolate specific subsets of data that meet certain criteria.
  • Focused Analysis - It simplifies the process of focusing on particular data points, which can be useful for detailed examination.
  • Troubleshooting - Filtering helps identify and address data quality issues or outliers.

Instructions: To filter your data in Row Zero, simply select your data with CTRL + A or CTRL + SHIFT and the arrow keys. Once your data range is selected, select filter and drop down arrows will appear in the header row. Click on the header for the column to be filtered by and use the filter menu to choose the method. More detailed instructions can be found in the filter documenation here. Filter string or int



  • Visual Insights: Creating graphs or pivot tables provides a visual representation of the data, making trends and patterns more evident.
  • Aggregated Information: Pivot tables are especially helpful for summarizing data and performing calculations.
  • Comparative Analysis: Graphs can help in comparing different aspects of the dataset effectively.

Instructions: To graph a data set in Row Zero, simply select the data set range with CTRL + A or by selecting the columns to be graphed and hit the graph button in the top menu bar. Once the graph has been created, use the graphing menu to add or edit series, update formating, or plot multiple axis. For more details on graphing capabilities in Row Zero see the Graphing documentation here. Graphing button

Pivot Table


  • Data Summarization - Pivoting allows you to summarize and consolidate data, making it easier to grasp overall trends and patterns.
  • Comparative Analysis - Pivoting can reveal correlations and relationships that may not be immediately apparent in the original CSV file.
  • Ad Hoc Analysis - Pivot tables allow for ad hoc analysis, where you can interactively explore and filter data to answer specific questions.

Instructions: To pivot a big data set in Row Zero, select the range with CTRL + A or CTRL + SHIFT and the arrow keys. Once the desired range is selected, right-click and select 'Pivot' form the context menu. Follow the steps to select the desired location and select values. For more detailed instructions view the Row Zero pivot documentation here. Create pivot table

IF Statements


  • Conditional Logic - Using IF statements in spreadsheet software allows you to apply conditional rules to your data.
  • Data Cleaning - IF statements can be used to correct errors or inconsistencies in the dataset.
  • Data Transformation - IF statements help in creating new columns or variables based on specific conditions.

Instructions: To clean or add a column using an if statement, use an empty column in the spreadsheet or insert a new column in the desired location (right click > Insert column). Enter a column header in the top row and then type an IF statement in first row below the header. IF statement syntax can be founder in the IF Function documentation here. IF function

Once the IF function is entered for the first row, perform a double click drag by double clicking on the lower-right hand corner of the cell with the first IF statement. The IF statement will then be autofilled down through all rows below. Fill Down

Combining with VLOOKUP or XLOOKUP


  • Data Integration - Combining data from multiple CSV files or sources is helpful for creating a comprehensive dataset.
  • Data Enrichment - Combinations can be used to append additional information to the existing data.
  • Enhanced Analysis - Combining data facilitates more in-depth analysis and reporting.

Instructions: To combine two large CSVs using VLOOKUP or XLOOKUP, import both CSVS to sheets in Row Zero's Data Import options. Once imported it is best to use XLOOKUP, the successor to VLOOKUP, but Row Zero will support both at lighting fast speeds. In the example pictures below, we were working with a 2.5M row data set. Identify which column the XLOOKUP will go in. Type your function using the normal XLOOKUP syntax. Once the formula executes in the first cell, double click on the lower right-hand corner of that cell and it will fill down the entire column instantly. XLOOKUP formula XLOOKUP Double Click XLOOKUP Fill Down

Export CSV

Once the big CSV has been explored, edited or transformed, it sometimes needs to be exported so the information can be uploaded to another system of record. To export your newly edited CSV from Row Zero, go to File > Download as CSV. Row Zero Download as CSV


In conclusion, editing and exploring large CSV files can be a complex task if you don't have the right tool. While CSVs are common and simple file formats, the challenges arise when handling significant amounts of data. Row Zero provides a seamless solution for these challenges, offering a blazingly fast spreadsheet designed for handling big data.

Row Zero easily imports your CSV files and provides a variety of tools to make your data management more straightforward. From the ease of searching with Ctrl + F to sorting, filtering, graphing, and creating pivot tables, Row Zero streamlines the process. Additionally, you can use IF statements for data cleaning and transformation, combine data using VLOOKUP or XLOOKUP, and finally, export the edited CSV for use in other systems.

Additionally all the features that make Row Zero great at editing big CSVs are also useful for working with large data sets stored in data warehouses. For more information on connecting Row Zero to your data warehouse, view all of Row Zero's data import options.