An embarrassing admission; Copy pasting tables with text containing spaces from Excel to R

May 11, 2012

(This article was first published on Data and Analysis with R, at Work, and kindly contributed to R-bloggers)

I can’t believe I didn’t learn how to do it earlier, but I never knew how to accurately copy tables from excel that had text with spaces in them, and paste into a data frame in R without generating confusion around spaces representing different variables.

Say you have a column title in a table in excel like “Group Size”.  You then copy the table and try to load it into R using: my.table = read.table(“clipboard”, header=TRUE).  R then gives you an error like this:

Error in scan(file, what, nmax, sep, dec, quote, skip, nlines, na.strings,  : 
  line 1 did not have 2 elements

That’s where I stopped most times and made sure that my column titles had no spaces in them (replacing spaces with dots), or just did something else entirely.  Finally, I learned that if you add one teeny tiny argument to the read.table command… read.table(“clipboard”, header=TRUE, sep=”\t”) … then all text values with spaces in them actually get imported into R without a fuss!  Spaces in column names get converted into dots automatically, but actual text values in the columns with spaces are untouched and accessible as they should be in R.  Yay!

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