Get and Set List Elements with magrittr

February 1, 2020
By

[This article was first published on Random R Ramblings, and kindly contributed to R-bloggers]. (You can report issue about the content on this page here)
Want to share your content on R-bloggers? click here if you have a blog, or here if you don't.

Introduction

Did you know that the magrittr pipe, %>%, can be used for more than just data.frames and tibbles? In this blog post, we look at how we can create get and set functions for list elements.

Getting List Elements

First, let’s create a simple list.

z1 <- list(a = pi, b = 2.718, c = 0.57721)
z1
# $a
# [1] 3.141593
# 
# $b
# [1] 2.718
# 
# $c
# [1] 0.57721

Let’s say we want to access an element of this list, typically we would use the [[ function to do so.

z1[[2]]
# [1] 2.718

But let’s say we need to access this list as part of a chain using magrittr’s pipe operator, %>%. How can we do that? Well we can pipe our list into a . which acts as a placeholder for the list, on which we can perform our subset.

library(magrittr)
z1 %>% .[[2]]
# [1] 2.718

Another solution is to call [[ using its syntactic form [[() using backticks (or quotes, see ?Quotes).

z1 %>% `[[`(2)
# [1] 2.718

Admittedly, these two solutions don’t look very nice. So what we can do instead is assign the [[ function to an object which will, in effect, be a callable wrapper function.

get <- .Primitive("[[") # Equivalent to get <- `[[`
get(z1, 2)
# [1] 2.718

Primitives are functions that are internally implemented by R and so .Primitive("[[") tells R to dispatch to the underlying C code, which will be able to correctly identify which [[ method to use on the list class (see ?.Primitive for more details).

Since our list is now the first argument of get(), we have a much “cleaner” looking way of accessing elements of a list with the magrittr pipe operator than [[. And so, let’s access the second element of our list using get() and the magrittr pipe.

z1 %>% get(2)
# [1] 2.718

We can also access the list using its names, too.

z1 %>% get("b")
# [1] 2.718

It even works with recursive indexing!

z2 <- list(a = list(b = 9, c = "hello"), d = 1:5)
z2
# $a
# $a$b
# [1] 9
# 
# $a$c
# [1] "hello"
# 
# 
# $d
# [1] 1 2 3 4 5
z2 %>% get(c("a", "c")) # equivalent to z %>% get(c(1, 2))
# [1] "hello"

Note, you may want to choose a better name than get to avoid clashes with the base::get() function.

Setting List Elements

Similarly we can create a set() function to assign values to elements of our list using .Primitive("[[<-"). Let’s add a fourth element to our list.

set <- .Primitive("[[<-")
z1 <- z1 %>% set("d", 4.6692)
z1
# $a
# [1] 3.141593
# 
# $b
# [1] 2.718
# 
# $c
# [1] 0.57721
# 
# $d
# [1] 4.6692

And now just as set() giveth, set() taketh away.

z1 <- z1 %>% set("d", NULL)
z1
# $a
# [1] 3.141593
# 
# $b
# [1] 2.718
# 
# $c
# [1] 0.57721

Of course as this is a list, we can set any kind of data.

z1 %>% set("data", data.frame(a = c(1, 2, 2, 4), b = c(2, 3, 7, 4)))
# $a
# [1] 3.141593
# 
# $b
# [1] 2.718
# 
# $c
# [1] 0.57721
# 
# $data
#   a b
# 1 1 2
# 2 2 3
# 3 2 7
# 4 4 4

Or even overwrite elements.

z1 %>% set("b", 4.6692)
# $a
# [1] 3.141593
# 
# $b
# [1] 4.6692
# 
# $c
# [1] 0.57721

Conclusion

This was just a short blog post to highlight the power of magrittr in combination with R primitives. We also saw how to rewrite and manipulate syntactic forms of internal R functions. What other interesting use cases have you found for the magrittr pipe?

To leave a comment for the author, please follow the link and comment on their blog: Random R Ramblings.

R-bloggers.com offers daily e-mail updates about R news and tutorials about learning R and many other topics. Click here if you're looking to post or find an R/data-science job.
Want to share your content on R-bloggers? click here if you have a blog, or here if you don't.



If you got this far, why not subscribe for updates from the site? Choose your flavor: e-mail, twitter, RSS, or facebook...

Comments are closed.

Search R-bloggers

Sponsors

Never miss an update!
Subscribe to R-bloggers to receive
e-mails with the latest R posts.
(You will not see this message again.)

Click here to close (This popup will not appear again)