O.rka O.rka - 1 month ago 13
R Question

Append value to empty vector in R?

I'm trying to learn R and I can't figure out how to append to a list.

If this were Python I would . . .

#Python
vector = []
values = ['a','b','c','d','e','f','g']

for i in range(0,len(values)):
vector.append(values[i])


How do you do this in R?

#R Programming
> vector = c()
> values = c('a','b','c','d','e','f','g')
> for (i in 1:length(values))
+ #append value[i] to empty vector

Answer

Here are several ways to do it. All of them are discouraged. Appending to an object in a for loop causes the entire object to be copied on every iteration, which causes a lot of people to say "R is slow", or "R loops should be avoided".

# one way
for (i in 1:length(values))
  vector[i] <- values[i]
# another way
for (i in 1:length(values))
  vector <- c(vector, values[i])
# yet another way?!?
for (v in values)
  vector <- c(vector, v)
# ... more ways

help("append") would have answered your question and saved the time it took you to write this question (but would have caused you to develop bad habits). ;-)

Note that vector <- c() isn't an empty vector; it's NULL. If you want an empty character vector, use vector <- character().

Also note, as BrodieG pointed out in the comments: if you absolutely must use a for loop, then at least pre-allocate the entire vector before the loop. This will be much faster than appending for larger vectors.

set.seed(21)
values <- sample(letters, 1e4, TRUE)
vector <- character(0)
# slow
system.time( for (i in 1:length(values)) vector[i] <- values[i] )
#   user  system elapsed 
#  0.340   0.000   0.343 
vector <- character(length(values))
# fast(er)
system.time( for (i in 1:length(values)) vector[i] <- values[i] )
#   user  system elapsed 
#  0.024   0.000   0.023