Cast a vector to specified type

vec_cast() provides general coercions from one type of vector to another, and along with vec_type2() forms the foundation of the vctrs type system. It should generally not be called by R users, but is important for R developers. vec_restore() is designed specifically for casting a bare vector to the original type; it's useful when relying NextMethod() for the actual implementation. vec_cast_common(...) casts a collection to vectors to the same type.

vec_cast(x, to)

vec_cast_common(..., .to = NULL)

vec_restore(x, to)

# S3 method for logical vec_cast(x, to)

# S3 method for integer vec_cast(x, to)

# S3 method for double vec_cast(x, to)

# S3 method for character vec_cast(x, to)

# S3 method for list vec_cast(x, to)

x, ...

Vectors to cast.

to, .to

Type to cast to. If NULL, x will be returned as is.


A vector the same length as x with the same type as to, or an error if the cast is not possible. A warning is generated if information is lost when casting between compatible types (i.e. when there is no 1-to-1 mapping for a specific value).

Casting rules

Casting is more flexible than coercion, and allows for the possibility of information loss. This diagram summarises possible coercions. vec_cast() from any type connected to another type, provided that the arrows are followed in only one direction. For example you can cast from logical to character, and list to time, but you can not cast from logical to datetime.

Most casts are not symmetric: you can cast all integers to doubles, but you can only cast a subset of doubles back to integers. If a cast is potentially lossy, a warning message will be shown whenever an actual loss occurs (which may only be for some elements of a vector).

The rules for coercing from a list are fairly strict: each component of the list must be of length 1, and must be coercible to type to. This ensures that a round-trip to and form list is possible, without opening the door to very flexible list flattening (which should be the job of a more specialised function).

S3 dispatch

vec_cast() dispatches on both arguments because casting depends on both the type of x and of to. This is implemented by having methods of vec_cast(), e.g. vec_cast.integer() also be S3 generics, which call e.g. vec_cast.integer.double().

Note that vec_cast() dispatch on its second argument, so that the name of the final method uses the same convention as methods, i.e. vec_cast.integer.double() casts double to integers, in the same way that as.integer.double() would.

Whenever you implemenet a vec_cast.new_class() generic/method, make sure to always provide vec_cast.new_class.default() ( which should call stop_incompatible_cast()) and vec_cast.new_class.vctrs_unspecified() (which should call vec_unspecified_cast()).

See vignette("s3-vector") for full details.

Restoring attributes

A restore is a specialised type of cast, primarily used in conjunction with NextMethod() or a C-level function that works on the underlying data structure. A vec_restore() method can assume that x has the correct type (although the length may be different) but all attributes have been lost and need to be restored. In other words, vec_restore(vec_data(x), x) should yield x.

To understand the difference between vec_cast() and vec_restore() think about factors: it doesn't make sense to cast an integer to a factor, but if NextMethod() or other low-level function has stripped attributes, you still need to be able to restore them.

The default method copies across all attributes so you only need to provide your own method if your attributes require special care (i.e. they are dependent on the data in somew way). When implementing your own method, bear in mind that many R users add attributes to track additional metadat that is important to them, so you should preserve any attributes that don't require special handling for your class.

  • vec_cast
  • vec_cast_common
  • vec_restore
  • vec_cast.logical
  • vec_cast.integer
  • vec_cast.double
  • vec_cast.character
  • vec_cast.list
# x is a double, but no information is lost
vec_cast(1, integer())

# Information is lost so a warning is generated
# }
vec_cast(1.5, integer())
# }
# No sensible coercion is possible so an error is generated
# }
vec_cast(1.5, factor("a"))
# }
# Cast to common type
vec_cast_common(factor("a"), factor(c("a", "b")))
vec_cast_common(factor("a"), Sys.Date(), .to = list())
# }
Documentation reproduced from package vctrs, version 0.1.0, License: GPL-3

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