[R] Efficient passing through big data.frame and modifying select fields

Johannes Graumann johannes_graumann at web.de
Tue Nov 25 15:16:01 CET 2008

Hi all,

I have relatively big data frames (> 10000 rows by 80 columns) that need to be exposed to "merge". Works marvelously well in general, but some fields of the data frames actually contain multiple ";"-separated values encoded as a character string without defined order, which makes the fields not match each other.


> frame1[1,1]
[1] "some;thing"
[2] "thing;some"

In order to enable merging/duplicate identification of columns containing these strings, I wrote the following function, which passes through the rows one by one, identifies ";"-containing cells, splits and resorts them.

ResortCombinedFields <- function(dframe){
    stop("\"ResortCombinedFields\" input needs to be a data frame.")
  for(row in seq(nrow(dframe))){
    for(mef in grep(";",dframe[row,])){
      dframe[row,mef] <- paste(sort(unlist(strsplit(dframe[row,mef],";"))),collapse=";")

works fine, but is horribly inefficient. How might this be tackled more elegantly?

Thanks for any input, Joh

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