Dr. Mark Gardener


Providing training for:

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  • R The statistical programming language
  • Data management
  • Data mining

Tips and Tricks - for R and Excel

On these pages you can find tips, tricks and hints for using both R and Excel. At the end of each tip there are links forwards and backwards as appropriate. There is also an index of R tips and an index of Excel tips.

For most analytical purposes the combination of Excel and R is unbeatable! Excel is great as a data management tool and for preparing data for analysis. You can also use it to get an overview of your data or to make simple (and not so simple) graphs. R is an analytical "swiss army knife" and can carry out a mind-boggling array of analytical routines as well as producing great graphics.

Tips & Tricks for R | Tips & Tricks for Excel | An Introduction to R | MonogRaphs | Writer's Bloc

Use save() to save one or more objects to disk.

Use save.image() to save all objects to disk.


Save all objects to disk as separate files

You can easily save one or more objects to disk using save() or save.image(). However, if you want to save many items, each as a separate file, you have to use a loop and a paste() command...

It is easy to save the objects you have stored in the R Console. You can save individual items with save().

save(..., list = character(), file = "filename")

You can either type the names of the items to save, separated by commas, or provide a list. The list can be any object or command that produces names of objects.

If you want to save all items you have then you can use:

save(list = ls(), file = "filename")

A convenience function save.image() does the same thing. You just specify the filename to hold the data. If you omit the filename R saves to a defult file: this is what is opened when R starts up and what happens when you say "yes" when asked if you want to save the workspace.

Use a for() loop and the paste() command to save objects to disk as separate items.


Both save() and save.image() will create a single file when you run them. In most cases this is helpful but there are times when you want to save objects as separate files. One such occasion might be when you are making an R package. You will need to save data items as separate .RData files and functions as .R files.

You can use a simple loop and the paste() function to save all objects to a folder as separate files.

obj = ls()

for(i in 1:length(obj))
save(list = (obj[i]),
file = paste(obj[i],".RData", sep = ""))
rm(i, obj)

You start by listing everything and saving the result to a named object (obj in this case).

The loop runs for as many times as there are items in the listing; length(obj). Each time the loop goes around it takes the name of an item; list = obj[i] and saves it to a file.

The filename is built using the paste() command. This joins things together, with the sep = instruction telling R what character to use (if any) between items. In the example I used the name of the item; obj[i] and added .RData to the name. Note that ".RData" is in quotes. The sep = "" part tells R to use no character in the joining.

The result is that every item obtained by ls() is saved to disk as a separate .RData file. The files will go to your working directory unless you alter it, either using the setwd() command or by prepending a pathname to the paste() command.

Use a custom function to separate functions and variables (data) as an alternative to ls().


Separate listing for functions and variables

If you have both data and functions in your workspace you'll need to split them. I found these custom functions on the [R] Help forum via a web search:

ls.funs <- function(env=sys.frame(-1)) unlist(lapply(ls(env=env),
                    function(x) if(is.function(get(x)))x))

ls.vars <- function(env=sys.frame(-1)) unlist(lapply(ls(env=env),
                    function(x) if(!is.function(get(x)))x))
# To use type:

You can use these new functions instead of ls() and make a new object containing the names. Simply use ".RData" for varaibles (data) and ".R" for functions to get the correct file extensions.

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An introduction to R

See my Publications about Excel, R, statistics and data analysis Courses in R, data analysis, data management and statistics Visit the R Project website

See my Publications about statistics and data analysis.

MonogRaphs: random topics in R

Writer's Bloc – my latest writing project includes R scripts

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