Forge Forge - 1 year ago 102
R Question

apply function to column names using a list of data frames

I'm trying to apply a very complex function to a list of more than 50 Data Frames.
Let's use a very simple function to lowercase names and just 3 data frames for the sake of clarity, but my general approach is coded below

# Data Sample. Every column name is different accross Data Frames

quality <- data.frame(FIRST=c(1,5,3,3,2), SECOND=c(3,6,1,5,5))
thickness <- data.frame(THIRD=c(6,0,9,1,2), FOURTH=c(2,7,2,2,1))
distance <- data.frame(ONEMORE=c(0,0,1,5,1), ANOTHER=c(4,1,9,2,3))

# list of dataframes

dfs <- list(quality, thickness, distance)

# a very simple function (just for testing)
# actually a very complex one is used on real data

BetterNames <- function(x) {
names(x) <- tolower(names(x))

# apply function to data frame list

dfs <- lapply(dfs, BetterNames)

# I know the expected R behaviour is to modify a copy of the object,
# instead of the original object itself. So if you get the names
# you get the original version, not the needed one



is there any way of using any function inside a loop or "apply" in place for a huge amount of data frames?

As a result we must get the modified one replacing the original one for every data frame in the list (big list)

I know there's a trick using Data Table, but I wonder if using base R is that possible.

Expected Results:


[1] "first" "second"

Pointed out to this answer: Rename columns in multiple dataframes, R

But not working. You can't use a vector of string names in my case because my new names are not a fixed list of strings.[EDITED DATA]

for(df in dfs) {
df.tmp <- get(df)
names(df.tmp) <- BetterNames(df)
assign(df, df.tmp)

> names(quality)
[1] "quality" NA


Answer Source

i'd use a simple yet effective parse & eval approach.

Let's use a for loop to compose a command that suited your needs:

for(df in dfs) {

command <- paste0("names(",df,") <- BetterNames(",df,")")
# print(command)


[1] "first"  "second"

[1] "third"  "fourth"

[1] "onemore"  "another"
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