[R] write.table very slow

David Brahm brahm at alum.mit.edu
Thu Dec 6 16:15:12 CET 2001

Cole Harris <coleh at quasarintl.com> writes:
> When writing tables with a large number of columns, write.table() seems to
> take way too much time...

I tackled this problem once in S-Plus, but I have not tested the following code
thoroughly in R.  Please give it a try and let me know if it helps!  It mimics
the behavior of:
      write.table(tbl, file, quote=F, sep="\t", row.names=T)
but writes the output in "blocks", where the block size (in rows) is set by
parameter "bsize".  Try bsize=1 to write one row at a time, and set verbose=T
to watch its progress.

g.output <- function(tbl, file="", append=F, hdr=T, sep="\t",
                     digits=NULL, verbose=F, bsize=7e4/length(tbl)) {
  if (is.numeric(digits))
    digits <- structure(as.list(rep(digits, , length(tbl))), names=names(tbl))
  for (i in names(digits)) if (is.numeric(tbl[[i]]))
    tbl[[i]] <- as.character(round(tbl[[i]], digits[[i]]))
  if (!append) unlink(file)
  if (hdr && (!append || !file.exists(file)))                     # Header line
    cat(paste(names(tbl), collapse=sep), sep="\n", file=file)

  if (!(nt <- length(tbl[[1]]))) return(invisible())
  ix <- c(seq(1, nt, by=round(bsize)), nt+1)
  cfun <- function(tbl, i1, i2, nt, file, sep, verbose) {
    if (verbose) cat("From", i1, "to", i2, date(), "\n")
    if (i1 != 1 || i2 != nt) tbl <- g.subset(tbl, i1:i2)    # g.subset is below
    y <- do.call("paste", c(tbl, list(sep=sep)))
    cat(y, sep="\n", file=file, append=(file != ""))
  for (i in seq(ix)[-1]) cfun(tbl, ix[i-1], ix[i]-1, nt, file, sep, verbose)

g.subset <- function(x, q=T, reverse=F) {
  y <- list()
  test <- is.na(seq(along=x[[1]])[q])  # give "" for NA subsets of char vectors
  f <- function(z) if (is.character(z)) ifelse(test,"",z[q]) else z[q]
  for (j in seq(x)) y[[j]] <- if (reverse) rev(f(x[[j]])) else f(x[[j]])
  names(y) <- names(x)
  if (is.data.frame(x)) data.frame(y) else y

                              -- David Brahm (brahm at alum.mit.edu)
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