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datapackage (MATLAB)

a MATLAB function to read data package formatted data

Tabular Data Package Description

The MATLAB function datapackage reads in formatted data that conforms to the tabular data standard. The standard is designed to be easily transmitted over HTTP or be saved on a local disk.

In short, a tabular data package contains two or more files:

  • datapackage.json
  • one or more tabular data files in CSV format

The datapackage.json file contains meta information pertaining to the data files, including:

  • dataset name, description, and license
  • description of data files
    • data fields (column) information (e.g. name, type)

Examples of data distributed in datapackage format can be found from the Open Knowledge Foundation.

Getting the datapackage MATLAB function

To use the datapackage function:

  1. Download from the file from the MATLAB Central File Exchange.
  2. Unzip the file and place the file datapackage.m on your MATLAB path (e.g. your My Documents/MATLAB folder on Windows).
  3. Use the function (see examples below).

This GitHub repo is a development library. To contribute fork this repo. See instruction for the development version, below.

MATLAB Function Description and Examples

The datapackage function reads formatted data from either a URL or local file path. The function first searches for the datapackage.json file, which determines which CSV files will be loaded.

For example, you can download a datapackage off the web:

% Note, the trailing "/" is important
[data, meta] = datapackage('');

You can load a datapackage locally:

% The trailing "/" is also important
[data, meta] = datapackage('C:\path\to\package\');


  • In-line data, that is contained in the datapackage.json file, is not supported. It is not clear if this is even allowed per the standard:

    All data files MUST be in CSV format

  • The field (column) attribute types date and datetime are converted to a MATLAB numerical date format using the built-in datenum function convert a number string. The call to datenum has no format string specified, so it seems like it is quite likely to give up. In this case, the function keeps the date as a string.

  • Quote characters in CSV files other than the double quote (") are not supported. This is because the underlying MATLAB function (textscan) has no facility for this.

  • Since MATLAB R2013b, the table data type has been included in base MATLAB. Previously, the dataset was included in the MATLAB Statistics Toolbox. The datapackage function will default to returning a table object. If the MATLAB release is before R2013b, the datapackage function will return a dataset object. If neither table nor dataset is available, the function will return an error.

Getting the development version

This repo is a development library, including a dependent JSON library (JSONLab)

In order to install run the following:

git clone
git submodule init
git submodule update

Because MATLAB has no native JSON reader, this project uses the open source jsonlab function loadjson (and the unit tests use savejson). The project home page can be found here.

Making the MATLAB Central zip

The file for download from the MATLAB Central File Exchange website is made by running make. The makefile combines the datapackage.m file with the loadjson.m file from jsonlab and creates a zip with the license in the bin/ directory.


Unit Tests

Unit tests are contained in the file ./tests/datapackagetest.m. The unit tests use MATLAB's built-in unit test framework. To run the tests, run the following from within the ./tests/ directory:

results = runtests('datapackagetest.m');

If there is minimal printout to the command window, then all tests passed.

Core Data package Testing

In addition to unit testing, the file ./tests/coredatasetstests.m attempts to load the 20 "core" data package sets. First, all files are read in using default settings (no optional name/value pairs). At the time of writing, one data packages requires additional name/value pairs in order to avoid errors.


The MATLAB Central File Exchange and this source code are distributed under the BSD-2 License.


Load Tabular Data Packages in MATLAB







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