[R] Specifying data type when creating a dataframe using RODBC

Prof Brian Ripley ripley at stats.ox.ac.uk
Wed May 13 07:48:26 CEST 2009

On Tue, 12 May 2009, Mark Na wrote:

> H R-helpers,
> I am using the following code to make a dataframe from an Excel spreadsheet:
> library(RODBC)
> channel <- odbcConnectExcel("Spreadsheet.xls")
> Data <- sqlFetch(channel, "Tab1")
> odbcClose(channel)
> One column (several, actually) in the spreadsheet contains integers in
> its first few rows but later values in these columns contain a mixture
> of numbers, letters and symbols (it's an ID variable, containing e.g.,
> 12, 14, 19, 19B, 19C, 19/20)
> R creates this column as a numeric variable (I think because its first
> few variables are numbers) but as soon as R gets to the non-numeric
> values (e.g., 19/20) it replaces them with NA.

R doesn't do that: nor does RODBC.  You can try reading the column 
with 'as.is = TRUE' (see ?sqlFetch), but this looks like a well-known 
Excel/ODBC driver bug where Excel decides the column is numeric based 
on the first few entries and hence exports it as numbers (and NULLs, 
the SQL version of NAs).

> So, my question is: how can I specify that certain columns are to be
> read as character variables BEFORE the dataframe is created?

You can try specifying the column type in Excel, so it is recorded on 
the spreadsheet.  I am not sure that works in all cases.

> I have tried using as.character() in the third line (above) but it
> creates a very long first column containing all of my data...
> Thanks for any help you might provide,
> Mark Na
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Brian D. Ripley,                  ripley at stats.ox.ac.uk
Professor of Applied Statistics,  http://www.stats.ox.ac.uk/~ripley/
University of Oxford,             Tel:  +44 1865 272861 (self)
1 South Parks Road,                     +44 1865 272866 (PA)
Oxford OX1 3TG, UK                Fax:  +44 1865 272595

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