Maturing lifecycle

tibble deals with a few levels of name repair:

  • minimal names exist. The names attribute is not NULL. The name of an unnamed element is "" and never NA. Tibbles created by the tibble package have names that are, at least, minimal.

  • unique names are minimal, have no duplicates, and can be used where a variable name is expected. Empty names, and ... or .. followed by a sequence of digits are banned.

    • All columns can be accessed by name via df[["name"]] and df$`name` and with(df, `name`).

  • universal names are unique and syntactic (see Details for more).

universal implies unique, unique implies minimal. These levels are nested.

The .name_repair argument of tibble() and as_tibble() refers to these levels. Alternatively, the user can pass their own name repair function. It should anticipate minimal names as input and should, likewise, return names that are at least minimal.

The existing functions tidy_names(), set_tidy_names(), and repair_names() are soft-deprecated.

minimal names

minimal names exist. The names attribute is not NULL. The name of an unnamed element is "" and never NA.

Examples:

Original names of a vector with length 3: NULL
                           minimal names: "" "" ""
    Original names: "x" NA
                           minimal names: "x" ""

Request .name_repair = "minimal" to suppress almost all name munging. This is useful when the first row of a data source -- allegedly variable names -- actually contains data and the resulting tibble is destined for reshaping with, e.g., tidyr::gather().

unique names

unique names are minimal, have no duplicates, and can be used (possibly with backticks) in contexts where a variable is expected. Empty names, and ... or .. followed by a sequence of digits are banned If a data frame has unique names, you can index it by name, and also access the columns by name. In particular, df[["name"]] and df$`name` and also with(df, `name`) always work.

There are many ways to make names unique. We append a suffix of the form ...j to any name that is "" or a duplicate, where j is the position. We also change ..# and ... to ...#.

Example:

Original names:     ""     "x"     "" "y"     "x"  "..2"  "..."
  unique names: "...1" "x...2" "...3" "y" "x...5" "...6" "...7"

Pre-existing suffixes of the form ...j are always stripped, prior to making names unique, i.e. reconstructing the suffixes. If this interacts poorly with your names, you should take control of name repair.

universal names

universal names are unique and syntactic, meaning they:

  • Are never empty (inherited from unique).

  • Have no duplicates (inherited from unique).

  • Are not .... Do not have the form ..i, where i is a number (inherited from unique).

  • Consist of letters, numbers, and the dot . or underscore _ characters.

  • Start with a letter or start with the dot . not followed by a number.

  • Are not a reserved word, e.g., if or function or TRUE.

If a data frame has universal names, variable names can be used "as is" in code. They work well with nonstandard evaluation, e.g., df$name works.

Tibble has a different method of making names syntactic than base::make.names(). In general, tibble prepends one or more dots . until the name is syntactic.

Examples:

 Original names:     ""     "x"    NA      "x"
universal names: "...1" "x...2" "...3" "x...4"
    Original names: "(y)"  "_z"  ".2fa"  "FALSE"
 universal names: ".y." "._z" "..2fa" ".FALSE"

See also

rlang::names2() returns the names of an object, after making them minimal.

The Names attribute section in the "tidyverse package development principles".

Examples

# NOT RUN {
## by default, duplicate names are not allowed
tibble(x = 1, x = 2)
# }
## you can authorize duplicate names tibble(x = 1, x = 2, .name_repair = "minimal")
#> # A tibble: 1 x 2 #> x x #> <dbl> <dbl> #> 1 1 2
## or request that the names be made unique tibble(x = 1, x = 2, .name_repair = "unique")
#> New names: #> * x -> x...1 #> * x -> x...2
#> # A tibble: 1 x 2 #> x...1 x...2 #> <dbl> <dbl> #> 1 1 2
## by default, non-syntactic names are allowed df <- tibble(`a 1` = 1, `a 2` = 2) ## because you can still index by name df[["a 1"]]
#> [1] 1
df$`a 1`
#> [1] 1
## syntactic names are easier to work with, though, and you can request them df <- tibble(`a 1` = 1, `a 2` = 2, .name_repair = "universal")
#> New names: #> * `a 1` -> a.1 #> * `a 2` -> a.2
df$a.1
#> [1] 1
## you can specify your own name repair function tibble(x = 1, x = 2, .name_repair = make.unique)
#> # A tibble: 1 x 2 #> x x.1 #> <dbl> <dbl> #> 1 1 2
fix_names <- function(x) gsub("%", " percent", x) tibble(`25%` = 1, `75%` = 2, .name_repair = fix_names)
#> # A tibble: 1 x 2 #> `25 percent` `75 percent` #> <dbl> <dbl> #> 1 1 2
fix_names <- function(x) gsub("\\s+", "_", x) tibble(`year 1` = 1, `year 2` = 2, .name_repair = fix_names)
#> # A tibble: 1 x 2 #> year_1 year_2 #> <dbl> <dbl> #> 1 1 2
## purrr-style anonymous functions and constants ## are also supported tibble(x = 1, x = 2, .name_repair = ~ make.names(., unique = TRUE))
#> # A tibble: 1 x 2 #> x x.1 #> <dbl> <dbl> #> 1 1 2
tibble(x = 1, x = 2, .name_repair = ~ c("a", "b"))
#> # A tibble: 1 x 2 #> a b #> <dbl> <dbl> #> 1 1 2
## the names attibute will be non-NULL, with "" as the default element df <- as_tibble(list(1:3, letters[1:3]), .name_repair = "minimal") names(df)
#> [1] "" ""