Spreadsheet Interface for Entering Data

A spreadsheet-like editor for entering or editing data.

utilities, file
data.entry(…, Modes = NULL, Names = NULL)
dataentry(data, modes)
de(…, Modes = list(), Names = NULL)

A list of variables: currently these should be numeric or character vectors or list containing such vectors.


The modes to be used for the variables.


The names to be used for the variables.


A list of numeric and/or character vectors.


A list of length up to that of data giving the modes of (some of) the variables. list() is allowed.


The data entry editor is only available on some platforms and GUIs. Where available it provides a means to visually edit a matrix or a collection of variables (including a data frame) as described in the Notes section.

data.entry has side effects, any changes made in the spreadsheet are reflected in the variables. The functions de, de.ncols, de.setup and de.restore are designed to help achieve these side effects. If the user passes in a matrix, X say, then the matrix is broken into columns before dataentry is called. Then on return the columns are collected and glued back together and the result assigned to the variable X. If you don't want this behaviour use dataentry directly.

The primitive function is dataentry. It takes a list of vectors of possibly different lengths and modes (the second argument) and opens a spreadsheet with these variables being the columns. The columns of the dataentry window are returned as vectors in a list when the spreadsheet is closed.

de.ncols counts the number of columns which are supplied as arguments to data.entry. It attempts to count columns in lists, matrices and vectors. de.setup sets things up so that on return the columns can be regrouped and reassigned to the correct name. This is handled by de.restore.


de and dataentry return the edited value of their arguments. data.entry invisibly returns a vector of variable names but its main value is its side effect of assigning new version of those variables in the user's workspace.


The details of interface to the data grid may differ by platform and GUI. The following description applies to the X11-based implementation under Unix. the GraphApp-based implementation under Windows.

You can navigate around the grid using the cursor keys or by clicking with the (left) mouse button on any cell. The active cell is highlighted by thickening the surrounding rectangle. Moving to the right or down will scroll the grid as needed: there is no constraint to the rows or columns currently in use.

There are alternative ways to navigate using the keys. Return and (keypad) Enter and LineFeed all move down. Tab moves right and Shift-Tab move left. Home moves to the top left.

PageDown or Control-F moves down a page, and PageUp or Control-B up by a page. End will show the last used column and the last few rows used (in any column).

Using any other key starts an editing process on the currently selected cell: moving away from that cell enters the edited value whereas Esc cancels the edit and restores the previous value. When the editing process starts the cell is cleared. The cursor changes to an I-beam to indicate that the cell is in enter mode. In numerical columns (the default) only letters making up a valid number (including -.eE) are accepted, and entering an invalid edited value (such as blank) enters NA in that cell. The last entered value can be deleted using the BackSpace or Del(ete) key. Only a limited number of characters (currently 29) can be entered in a cell, and if necessary only the start or end of the string will be displayed, with the omissions indicated by > or <. (The start is shown except when editing.)

Double-clicking on a cell selects the cell and makes it into an editable field (a cursor will appear at the end of the text and it will change to the text highlight colour). The edited text is entered by selecting another cell, for example by hitting Return. There is no way to cancel the edits. The field will be expanded to the right if necessary to accommodate existing long strings, so it is preferable not to edit in the right-most displayed column. (The editable field is itself scrollable.)

Entering a value in a cell further down a column than the last used cell extends the variable and fills the gap (if any) by NAs (not shown on screen).

The column names can only be selected by clicking in them. This gives a popup menu to select the column type (currently Real (numeric) or Character) or to change the name. Changing the type converts the current contents of the column (and converting from Character to Real may generate NAs.) If changing the name is selected the header cell becomes editable (and is cleared). As with all cells, the value is entered by moving away from the cell by clicking elsewhere or by any of the keys for moving down (only). Enter the changes made in the popup window by clicking on its close box.

New columns are created by entering values in them (and not by just assigning a new name). The mode of the column is auto-detected from the first value entered: if this is a valid number it gives a numeric column. Unused columns are ignored, so adding data in var5 to a three-column grid adds one extra variable, not two.

There is a popup-menu accessed by right-clicking anywhere in the window that refers to the currently selected cell. This can copy the value to or paste from the clipboard, or paste in common values in that column. Copying and pasting can also be accessed by the usual keyboard shortcuts Control-C and Control-V.

Columns can be resized by selecting and dragging a line (the cursor will change) within limits: columns must be between 4 and 50 chars wide. The Autosize item on the popup menu will resize the currently selected column. The Copy button copies the currently selected cell: paste copies the last copied value to the current cell, and right-clicking selects a cell and copies in the value. Initially the value is blank, and attempts to paste a blank value will have no effect.

Control-L will refresh the display, recalculating field widths to fit the current entries.

In the default mode the column widths are chosen to fit the contents of each column, with a default of 10 characters for empty columns. you can specify fixed column widths by setting option de.cellwidth to the required fixed width (in characters). (set it to zero to return to variable widths). The displayed width of any field is limited to 600 pixels (and by the window width). 50 characters (and by the window width).

The initial size of the data editor window is taken from the default dimensions of a pager (see Rconsole), but adjusted downwards to show a whole number of rows and columns.


The data entry window responds to X resources of class R_dataentry. Resources foreground, background and geometry are utilized.

See Also

vi, edit: edit uses dataentry to edit data frames.

  • data.entry
  • dataentry
  • de
  • de.ncols
  • de.restore
  • de.setup
library(utils) # call data entry with variables x and y data.entry(x, y)
Documentation reproduced from package utils, version 3.4.1, License: Part of R 3.4.1

Community examples

Looks like there are no examples yet.