[R] read.spss (package foreign) and character columns

RINNER Heinrich H.RINNER at tirol.gv.at
Thu Aug 28 14:31:39 CEST 2003

Thanks to Brian Ripley, Douglas Bates and Thomas Petzoldt for their

I agree that it is not really a problem, as you can easily use sub() after
read.spss() to get rid of the blanks (I had already done that).

On the other hand, it might be important to _know_ about the fact that
characters are filled with blanks here.
[I noticed it because I used a character variable as the common column in a
merge(tab1,tab2,by=XCHAR), where tab1 came into R from an SPSS file using
read.spss(), and tab2 came into R from an Excel file via odbc using
odbcConnectExcel(). The merge failed on some cases, because some values of
XCHAR from tab1 had trailing blanks, the values of tab2 had none.]

I know now, so I know what to do in future cases.
But as not everybody else might be aware of this, my suggestion would be
that it could be worth adding a short comment about this in help(read.spss),
so noone will be "surprised".


> -----Ursprüngliche Nachricht-----
> Von: RINNER Heinrich [mailto:H.RINNER at tirol.gv.at] 
> Gesendet: Mittwoch, 27. August 2003 18:06
> An: 'r-help at stat.math.ethz.ch'
> Betreff: [R] read.spss (package foreign) and character columns
> Dear R users!
> I am using R Version 1.7.1, Windows XP, package "foreign" 
> (Version: 0.6-1),
> SPSS 11.5.1.
> There is one thing I noticed with "read.spss", and I'd like 
> to ask if this
> is considered to be a feature, or possibly a bug:
> When reading character columns, character strings seem to get 
> filled with
> blanks at the end.
> Simple example:
> In SPSS, create a file with one variable called "xchar" of type "A5"
> (character of length 5), and  3 values ("a", "ab", "abcde"), 
> save it as
> "test.sav".
> In R:
> > library(foreign)
> > test <- read.spss("test.sav", to.data.frame=T)
> > test
> 1 a    
> 2 ab   
> 3 abcde
> > levels(test$XCHAR)
> [1] "a    " "ab   " "abcde"
> Shouldn't it rather be "a" "ab" "abcde" (no blanks)?
> -Heinrich.
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> R-help at stat.math.ethz.ch mailing list
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