methods (version 3.6.2)

findMethods: Description of the Methods Defined for a Generic Function


The function findMethods converts the methods defined in a table for a generic function (as used for selection of methods) into a list, for study or display. The list is actually from the class listOfMethods (see the section describing the class, below).

The list will be limited to the methods defined in environment where if that argument is supplied and limited to those including one or more of the specified classes in the method signature if that argument is supplied.

To see the actual table (an environment) used for methods dispatch, call getMethodsForDispatch. The names of the list returned by findMethods are the names of the objects in the table.

The function findMethodSignatures returns a character matrix whose rows are the class names from the signature of the corresponding methods; it operates either from a list returned by findMethods, or by computing such a list itself, given the same arguments as findMethods .

The function hasMethods returns TRUE or FALSE according to whether there is a non-empty table of methods for function f in the environment or search position where (or for the generic function generally if where is missing).

The defunct function getMethods is an older alternative to findMethods , returning information in the form of an object of class MethodsList, previously used for method dispatch. This class of objects is deprecated generally and will disappear in a future version of R.


findMethods(f, where, classes = character(), inherited = FALSE,
      package = "")

findMethodSignatures(..., target = TRUE, methods = )

hasMethods(f, where, package)

## Deprecated in 2010 and defunct in 2015 for \code{table = FALSE}: getMethods(f, where, table = FALSE)



A generic function or the character-string name of one.


Optionally, an environment or position on the search list to look for methods metadata.

If where is missing, findMethods uses the current table of methods in the generic function itself, and hasMethods looks for metadata anywhere in the search list.


If TRUE in a call to getMethods the returned value is the table used for dispatch, including inherited methods discovered to date. Used internally, but since the default result is the now unused mlist object, the default will likely be changed at some point.


If supplied, only methods whose signatures contain at least one of the supplied classes will be included in the value returned.


Logical flag; if TRUE, the table of all methods, inherited or defined directly, will be used; otherwise, only the methods explicitly defined. Option TRUE is meaningful only if where is missing.


In the call to findMethodSignatures, any arguments that might be given to findMethods.


Optional flag to findMethodSignatures; if TRUE, the signatures used are the target signatures (the classes for which the method will be selected); if FALSE, they will be the signatures are defined. The difference is only meaningful if inherited is TRUE.


In the call to findMethodSignatures, an optional list of methods, presumably returned by a previous call to findMethods. If missing, that function will be call with the … arguments.


In a call to hasMethods, the package name for the generic function (e.g., "base" for primitives). If missing this will be inferred either from the "package" attribute of the function name, if any, or from the package slot of the generic function. See ‘Details’.

The Class for lists of methods

The class "listOfMethods" returns the methods as a named list of method definitions (or a primitive function, see the slot documentation below). The names are the strings used to store the corresponding objects in the environment from which method dispatch is computed. The current implementation uses the names of the corresponding classes in the method signature, separated by "#" if more than one argument is involved in the signature.



Object of class "list" The method definitions.

Note that these may include the primitive function itself as default method, when the generic corresponds to a primitive. (Basically, because primitive functions are abnormal R objects, which cannot currently be extended as method definitions.) Computations that use the returned list to derive other information need to take account of this possibility. See the implementation of findMethodSignatures for an example.


Object of class "character". The names of the formal arguments in the signature of the generic function.


Object of class "list". A list of the signatures of the individual methods. This is currently the result of splitting the names according to the "#" separator.

If the object has been constructed from a table, as when returned by findMethods, the signatures will all have the same length. However, a list rather than a character matrix is used for generality. Calling findMethodSignatures as in the example below will always convert to the matrix form.


Object of class "genericFunction". The generic function corresponding to these methods. There are plans to generalize this slot to allow reference to the function.


Object of class "character". The names as noted are the class names separated by "#" .


Class "'>namedList", directly.

Class "'>list", by class "namedList", distance 2.

Class "'>vector", by class "namedList", distance 3.


The functions obtain a table of the defined methods, either from the generic function or from the stored metadata object in the environment specified by where. In a call to getMethods, the information in the table is converted as described above to produce the returned value, except with the table argument.

Note that hasMethods, but not the other functions, can be used even if no generic function of this name is currently found. In this case package must either be supplied as an argument or included as an attribute of f, since the package name is part of the identification of the methods tables.

See Also

showMethods, selectMethod, Methods_Details


Run this code
mm <-  findMethods("Ops")
findMethodSignatures(methods = mm)
# }

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