[R] Which data structure in R can mimic hash in PERL best?

Hans W. Borchers hwborchers at googlemail.com
Sat Nov 15 17:27:07 CET 2008

> Dear all,
>    Which data structure in R can mimic hash in PERL? I'd like to set
> up a lookup table, which could be accomplished by HASH if using PERL.
> Which of the data structures in R is the most efficient for lookup
> table?
> Thanks for your help.
> Best regards,
> Leon

The regular answer to this is "named arrays/vectors" or "environments" 
and has been given several times here on R-help. Unfortunately, 
everybody is applying a different terminology such as 'maps', 'hashes', 
'tables' or 'dictionaries', etc., so it's difficult to search for those 

Below I enclose a solution that I have written some month ago. It is 
given in pythonic language, but you can easily translate it into the 
corresponding Perl terms. One drawback is that one cannot use numbers
as keys, only keys following the naming conventions for variable names
are allowed.

Hans Werner Borchers
ABB Corporate Research

#-- Define functions on Hash Tuples (Python alike) ---------------------

def.h <- function() new.env(hash=TRUE)
len.h <- function(dict) length(ls(envir=dict))
set.h <- function(key, val, dict) assign(key, val, envir=dict)
get.h <- function(key, dict, default=NULL) {
    if (exists(key, envir=dict)) { get(key, dict)
    } else { default } 
has_key <- function(key, dict) exists(key, envir=dict)
keys.h <- function(dict) ls(envir=dict)
items.h <- function(dict) as.list(dict)
values.h <- function(dict, mode='character') {
    l <- as.list(dict)
    n <- length(l)
    if (n==0) invisible(NULL)
    v <- vector('character', n)
    for (i in 1:n) v[i] <- l[[i]]
    if (mode=='numeric') v <- as.numeric(v)
del.h <- function(key, dict) {
    if (exists(key, envir=dict)) {
        val <- get.h(key, dict)
        rm(list=c(key), envir=dict)
    } else {
        val <- NULL
clear.h <- function(dict) {
    rm(list=keys.h(dict), envir=dict)

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