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Consistency in 'i' for integer and logical types #697

arunsrinivasan opened this issue Jun 16, 2014 · 3 comments · Fixed by #3589

Consistency in 'i' for integer and logical types #697

arunsrinivasan opened this issue Jun 16, 2014 · 3 comments · Fixed by #3589


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@arunsrinivasan arunsrinivasan commented Jun 16, 2014

Currently, there is one small inconsistency in row-subset using integer and logical types:

DT <- data.table(x=1:2, y=c(TRUE, FALSE))
v1 = 1L

i as integer:

#    x    y
#1: 1 TRUE
# Error in eval(expr, envir, enclos) : object 'x' not found 
# Corrected the output here.. Thanks to @eddi.
#    x    y
#1: 1 TRUE
#    x     y
#1: 1  TRUE
#2: 2 FALSE

The same happens for logical type as well.

The question is, can we get this indexing to work without the need for ( for cases where i is a column in DT instead of throwing the error?

Edit: Cleaned up noise and retained just the resolution.

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@mattdowle mattdowle commented Jun 17, 2014

FR #633 title says "and maybe . and .. prefixes to symbols". There I was thinking . and .. on the symbols themselves. We do that anyway ourselves (manually) right? So it's really just building it in.

ids = c("id1","id2")
DT[ids]     # uses ids in calling scope because i is a single variable name
             # on its own (rule in ?data.table).  Common usage now.
DT[ logicalCol == TRUE ]   # pretty clear,  but possible mistakes if logicalCol
               # isn't actually a column but is in calling scope
DT[ logicalCol ]     # 'not found' currently but better error could suggest : 
DT[ (logicalCol) ]   # currently what I do to make it not a single name
DT[ .logicalCol ]     # same, but error if no column is called "logicalCol"
         # even if it does exist in calling scope (more robust)
DT[ colA > ..value ]   # use 'value' in calling scope even if there's a column
                        # called "value".  We do this manually currently by
                        # defining ..value in calling scope.
DT[ .colA > .colB ]    # be explicit that colA and colB must be in DT
                        # otherwise error
DT[ colA > colB,  strict.scope=TRUE]  # same,  without needing . prefixes

strict.scope could be a global option as usual. All variables would have to be column names and the only way to get to calling scope would be to use the .. prefix. I seem to remember Hadley suggested something like this to us once.

. and .. are really just an extension of the i. and x. prefixes on variable names that we already have, similar to SQL prefixes and useful in join inherited scope.

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@arunsrinivasan arunsrinivasan commented Jun 17, 2014

Okay, sounds good.

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@MichaelChirico MichaelChirico commented May 23, 2019

On current master, this is the error:

x is not found in calling scope and it is not a column of type logical. When the first argument inside DT[...] is a single symbol, data.table looks for it in calling scope.

For y we get:


y is not found in calling scope but it is a column of type logical. If you wish to select rows where that column is TRUE, either wrap the symbol with '()' or use ==TRUE to be clearest to readers of your code.

So, it seems we could at least make the error message a bit more consistent:

x is not found in calling scope but it is a column of type integer...

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3 participants