pillar v1.4.6


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Coloured Formatting for Columns

Provides 'pillar' and 'colonnade' generics designed for formatting columns of data using the full range of colours provided by modern terminals.



maturing R build
status Coverage
status CRAN

pillar provides tools for styling columns of data, artfully using colour and unicode characters to guide the eye.


# pillar is installed if you install the tidyverse package:

# Alternatively, install just pillar:

# Or the the development version from GitHub:
# install.packages("devtools")


pillar is a developer-facing package that is not designed for end-users but will eventually be incorporated in packages like tibble.


x <- 123456789 * (10 ^ c(-3, -5, NA, -8, -10))
#>       <dbl>
#> 123457.    
#>   1235.    
#>     NA     
#>      1.23  
#>      0.0123

If you render this in a console that supports colour, you’ll see something that looks like this:


The primary user of this package is tibble, which lets pillar do all the formatting work. Packages that implement a data type to be used in a tibble column can add color with only a few changes:

  1. Implement the pillar_shaft() method for your data type.
  2. Add pillar to Suggests and implement dynamic method registration using vctrs::s3_register().
    • If you don’t mind the dependency, you can also add it to Imports, and import the methods you override with a regular NAMESPACE import.

tidyverse/hms#43 shows the changes that were necessary to add colored output for the hms package:

  • pillar.R for the actual implementation (old name colformat.R)
  • DESCRIPTION for the dependency
  • zzz.R for the dynamic method registration

Some more detail is given below.

Implementing pillar_shaft.your_class_name()

This method accepts a vector of arbitrary length and is expected to return an S3 object with the following properties:

  • It has an attribute "width"
  • It can have an attribute "min_width", if missing, "width" is used
  • It must implement a method format(x, width, ...) that can be called with any value between min_width and width
    • This method must return an object that inherits from character and has attributes "align" (with supported values "left", "right", and "center") and "width"

The function new_pillar_shaft() returns such an object, and also correctly formats NA values. In many cases, the implementation of pillar_shaft.your_class_name() will format the data as a character vector (using color for emphasis) and simply call new_pillar_shaft(). See pillar_shaft.numeric() for a code that allows changing the display depending on the available width.

Useful helpers

  • style_neg() to format negative values
  • style_num() to format numbers
  • style_subtle() to de-emphasize


  • TextPlots for use of Braille characters

  • spark for use of block characters.

The earliest use of unicode characters to generate sparklines appears to be from 2009.

Exercising these ideas to their fullest requires a font with good support for block drawing characters. PragamataPro is one such font.

Functions in pillar

Name Description
new_ornament Helper to define the contents of a pillar
colonnade Format multiple vectors in a tabular display
extra_cols Retrieve information about columns that didn't fit the available width
align Alignment helper
format_type_sum Format a type summary
deprecated Deprecated functions
expect_known_display Test helpers
new_pillar_shaft Constructor for column data
pillar-package pillar: Coloured Formatting for Columns
pillar Format a vector suitable for tabular display
type_sum Provide a succinct summary of an object
new_pillar_type Prepare a column type for formatting
new_pillar_title Prepare a column title for formatting
pillar_shaft Column data
style_num Styling helpers
dim_desc Format dimensions
get_extent Calculate display width
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License GPL-3
URL https://github.com/r-lib/pillar
BugReports https://github.com/r-lib/pillar/issues
Encoding UTF-8
LazyData true
NeedsCompilation no
Packaged 2020-07-10 13:36:04 UTC; kirill
Repository CRAN
Date/Publication 2020-07-10 17:10:13 UTC

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