[R] retaining characters in a csv file

Hadley Wickham h.wickham at gmail.com
Tue Sep 22 23:58:40 CEST 2015

The problem is that quotes in csv files are commonly held to me
meaningless (i.e. they don't automatically force components to be

Earlier this morning I committed a fix to readr so that numbers
starting with a sequence of zeros are read as character strings. You
may want to try out the dev version: https://github.com/hadley/readr.


On Tue, Sep 22, 2015 at 5:00 PM, Therneau, Terry M., Ph.D.
<therneau at mayo.edu> wrote:
> I have a csv file from an automatic process (so this will happen thousands
> of times), for which the first row is a vector of variable names and the
> second row often starts something like this:
> 5724550,"000202075214",2005.02.17,2005.02.17,"F", .....
> Notice the second variable which is
>       a character string (note the quotation marks)
>       a sequence of numeric digits
>       leading zeros are significant
> The read.csv function insists on turning this into a numeric.  Is there any
> simple set of options that
> will turn this behavior off?  I'm looking for a way to tell it to "obey the
> bloody quotes" -- I still want the first, third, etc columns to become
> numeric.  There can be more than one variable like this, and not always in
> the second position.
> This happens deep inside the httr library; there is an easy way for me to
> add more options to the read.csv call but it is not so easy to replace it
> with something else.
> Terry T


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