R Tip: Use seq_len() to Avoid The Backwards Sequence Bug

February 19, 2018
By

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Another R tip. Use seq_len() to avoid The backwards seqeunce bug.

Many R users use the “colon sequence” notation to build sequences. For example:

for(i in 1:5) {
  print(paste(i, i*i))
}
#> [1] "1 1"
#> [1] "2 4"
#> [1] "3 9"
#> [1] "4 16"

However, the colon notation can be unsafe as it does not properly handle the empty sequence case:

n <- 0

1:n
#> [1] 1 0

Notice the above example built a reversed sequence, instead of an empty sequence. To avoid this use seq_len():

seq_len(5)
#> [1] 1 2 3 4 5

n <- 0
seq_len(n)
#> integer(0)

integer(0)” is a length zero sequence of integers (not a sequence containing the value zero).

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