· r-2

R: write.csv - unimplemented type 'list' in 'EncodeElement'

Everyone now and then I want to serialise an R data frame to a CSV file so I can easily load it up again if my R environment crashes without having to recalculate everything but recently ran into the following error:


> write.csv(foo, "/tmp/foo.csv", row.names = FALSE)
Error in .External2(C_writetable, x, file, nrow(x), p, rnames, sep, eol,  : 
  unimplemented type 'list' in 'EncodeElement'

If we take a closer look at the data frame in question it looks ok:


> foo
  col1 col2
1    1    a
2    2    b
3    3    c

However, one of the columns contains a list in each cell and we need to find out which one it is. I've found the quickest way is to run the typeof function over each column:


> typeof(foo$col1)
[1] "double"

> typeof(foo$col2)
[1] "list"

So 'col2' is the problem one which isn't surprising if you consider the way I created 'foo':


library(dplyr)
foo = data.frame(col1 = c(1,2,3)) %>% mutate(col2 = list("a", "b", "c"))

If we do have a list that we want to add to the data frame we need to convert it to a vector first so we don't run into this type of problem:


foo = data.frame(col1 = c(1,2,3)) %>% mutate(col2 = list("a", "b", "c") %>% unlist())

And now we can write to the CSV file:


write.csv(foo, "/tmp/foo.csv", row.names = FALSE)

$ cat /tmp/foo.csv
"col1","col2"
1,"a"
2,"b"
3,"c"

And that's it!

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