R Basics

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R is a free software environment for statistical computing and graphics. The following is some basics about R data types.

Comparison of vector,list,matrix and dataframe

  vector list matrix dataframe
creation c list matrix data.frame
same type Y N Y N
class class of its elements list matrix data.frame
name names names names(for col name) names (for column name)
dimnames dimnames(c)<-list(c(row1,row2),c(col1,col2)) sames as matrix
arithmetic member-wise (cycling rule) cbind or cbind
index [] numeric or name [] -list [row,] [row,column] [,col] [[]] -column vector
    [[]]-member(vector) [n] and [[]] retrieve member as deconstructed [] -column slice

Basic Data Types


To extract a substring, we apply the substr function.



A complex value in R is defined via the pure imaginary value i.


Vectors can be combined via the function c. Elements will be coerced into same type if not already.

Arithmetic operations of vectors are performed member-by-member, i.e., memberwise.

Recycling Rule

If two vectors are of unequal length, the shorter one will be recycled in order to match the longer vector.

Vector Index

  1. We retrieve values in a vector by declaring an index inside a single square bracket “[]” operator.
  2. Negative Index: it would strip the member whose position has the same absolute value as the negative index.
  3. Out-of-Range Index will be reported as NA
  4. can be used with numeric index vector, such as a[c(2,3,3)] etc
  5. or, with logical index vector, such as a[c(TRUE,FALSE)], NB should have the same length as the original.

Named vector

vector members can be assigned with names with

and its member can be retrieved with following.


Matrix is contructed with matrix function. I can be combined based on rows with rbind, or columns with cbind, tranposed with t, decontructed with c.


A list is a generic vector containing other objects.

We retrieve a list slice with the single square bracket “[]”

and its member can be retrieved with double brakets “[[]]”


A data frame is used for storing data tables. It is a list of vectors of equal length.

Data Frame Column Vector

We reference a data frame column with the double square bracket “[[]]” operator.

Data Frame Column Slice

We retrieve a data frame column slice with the single square bracket “[]” operator.

Min. :10.40 Min. :4.000 Min. : 71.1 Min. : 52.0 Min. :2.760 Min. :1.513 Min. :14.50 Min. :0.0000 Min. :0.0000 Min. :3.000 Min. :1.000
1st Qu.:15.43 1st Qu.:4.000 1st Qu.:120.8 1st Qu.: 96.5 1st Qu.:3.080 1st Qu.:2.581 1st Qu.:16.89 1st Qu.:0.0000 1st Qu.:0.0000 1st Qu.:3.000 1st Qu.:2.000
Median :19.20 Median :6.000 Median :196.3 Median :123.0 Median :3.695 Median :3.325 Median :17.71 Median :0.0000 Median :0.0000 Median :4.000 Median :2.000
Mean :20.09 Mean :6.188 Mean :230.7 Mean :146.7 Mean :3.597 Mean :3.217 Mean :17.85 Mean :0.4375 Mean :0.4062 Mean :3.688 Mean :2.812
3rd Qu.:22.80 3rd Qu.:8.000 3rd Qu.:326.0 3rd Qu.:180.0 3rd Qu.:3.920 3rd Qu.:3.610 3rd Qu.:18.90 3rd Qu.:1.0000 3rd Qu.:1.0000 3rd Qu.:4.000 3rd Qu.:4.000
Max. :33.90 Max. :8.000 Max. :472.0 Max. :335.0 Max. :4.930 Max. :5.424 Max. :22.90 Max. :1.0000 Max. :1.0000 Max. :5.000 Max. :8.000

Data Frame Row Slice

We retrieve rows from a data frame with the single square bracket operator, just like what we did with columns. However, in additional to an index vector of row positions, we append an extra comma character. This is important, as the extra comma signals a wildcard match for the second coordinate for column positions.

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