Re: [Rd] (PR#8192) [ subscripting sometimes loses names

From: Wacek Kusnierczyk <>
Date: Sat, 31 Jan 2009 22:36:45 +0100

Christian Brechbühler wrote:

>>> data.frame(val=1:3,row.names=letters[1:3])[,1]
>> [1] 1 2 3
>> but it's not obvious that the result should be named using the row.names
>> and (in particular) whether or why it should differ from .....[[1]] and
>> ....$val.

this might be a good argument, if not that [,1] returning a vector rather than a one-column data frame is already inconsistent (with [,1:2], for example). if [,1] were not dropping the data.frame class and were returning a data frame instead, it would be obvious the result should use row names.


will keep the class and row names, though ?'[' says "drop: For matrices and arrays.".

it doesn't mean that dropping row names (or dropping dimensions) isn't useful and handy in specific cases, but this makes it no less inconsistent.

>> Given that for most purposes, extracting the relevant names would
>> just be unnecessary red tape, I'd say that we can do without it.
> Compare
>> data.frame(val=1:3,row.names=letters[1:3])[,1]
> [1] 1 2 3
>> as.matrix(data.frame(val=1:3,row.names=letters[1:3]))[,1]
> a b c
> 1 2 3
> X[,1] preserves row names if X is a matrix, and loses them if X is a data
> frame. To me, this is ugly and inconsistent.
> One might argue that having names and dimnames at all is "red tape", and
> wastes memory and computational efficiency -- after all, Fortran arrays had
> no names. But R chose to drag along the names (sometimes), and it can be
> very helpful to us humans. Now R should do it consistently.


i support this opinion. whether to have or not to have row names is a design decision, and both options may be reasonably argued for and against. but lack of consistency is seldom any good; r consistently lacks consistency.

vQ mailing list Received on Sat 31 Jan 2009 - 21:40:31 GMT

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