Sort Variables of Data Frame by Column Names in R (2 Examples)


In this R tutorial you’ll learn how to order variables of a data matrix by column names.

The tutorial will consist of the following topics:

Let’s jump right to the examples!


Creation of Example Data

Let’s first create some example data:

data <- data.frame(a = 1:5,                 # Create data
                   d = letters[1:5],
                   c = 3,
                   b = 5:1)
data                                        # Show data
#   a d c b
# 1 1 a 3 5
# 2 2 b 3 4
# 3 3 c 3 3
# 4 4 d 3 2
# 5 5 e 3 1

As you can see based on the previous output of the RStudio console, our exemplifying data has five rows and four columns. The variable names of our columns are unordered.


Example 1: Order Data Frame Columns by Variable Names Using order & names Functions

The following R syntax explains how to use the order and names functions to reorder the variables of a data table alphabetically.

data_new1 <- data[ , order(names(data))]    # Apply order & names
data_new1                                   # Print updated data
#   a b c d
# 1 1 5 3 a
# 2 2 4 3 b
# 3 3 3 3 c
# 4 4 2 3 d
# 5 5 1 3 e

As you can see based on the previous output, our data frame columns were reordered in alphabetical order.


Example 2: Order Data Frame Columns by Variable Names Using dplyr Package

In this Example, I’ll illustrate how to use the functions of the dplyr package to sort a data frame in R. We first have to install and load the dplyr package, if we want to use the corresponding functions:

install.packages("dplyr")                   # Install & load dplyr package

Now, we can apply the following R code to sort our data frame with dplyr:

data_new2 <- data %>%                       # Sort with dplyr
data_new2                                   # Print updated data
#   a b c d
# 1 1 5 3 a
# 2 2 4 3 b
# 3 3 3 3 c
# 4 4 2 3 d
# 5 5 1 3 e

The output is exactly the same as in Example 1.


Video & Further Resources

Have a look at the following video of the Statistics Globe YouTube channel. I illustrate the R code of this tutorial in the video.


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In addition, I can recommend to have a look at the related posts of my website:


In this article you learned how to reorder data frame columns by name in R programming. Let me know in the comments, in case you have additional questions.


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