What is colon operator?

What is colon operator?

What is colon operator?

This recipe explains what is colon operator


Recipe Objective

Colon operator (":") in R is a function that generates regular sequences. It is most commonly used in for loops, to index and to create a vector with increasing or decreasing sequence.

To look at the detailed R documention of the colon operator:


It is a binary operator i.e. it takes two arguments.

Syntax: a:b


a is the starting value of sequence ; b is the end value of the sequence

It generates a sequence from a to b in steps of 1 or -1 where value of b is included in the sequence.

This recipe is going to demonstrate 2 use cases of ":" operator

  1. Creating a sequential vector
  2. For loop

1. Creating a sequential vector

#in increasing sequence vector_in = 1:9 vector_in
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9
#in decreasing sequence vector_de = 1:-9 vector_de
1 0 -1 -2 -3 -4 -5 -6 -7 -8 -9

2. For loop

It is often used with the length() function in for loop to excecute a particular function on every element of a vector.

Example: we will square the elements of the vector using ":" and for loop

#creating a function to square the elements of a vector square_ = function(x){ for (i in 1:length(x)){ print(i^2) } } ​ # giving vector_in as an arguement to get the squares of the element square_(vector_in)
[1] 1
[1] 4
[1] 9
[1] 16
[1] 25
[1] 36
[1] 49
[1] 64
[1] 81

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