Skip to the content.



Tablesaw is all about tables and tables are made of columns. You’ll often need to work with individual columns and Tablesaw provides a large collection of tools for that. We’ll cover the basics here.

Let’s start with a definition. A column is a named vector of data, all of a single type. Some elements may be missing, and it’s important to deal with those. We cover that later.

Here are the supported column types. All concrete column types are in the api package. For the details on each kind see the appropriate Javadoc files.

There are two columns for textual data:

There are multiple columns for numeric data, including five concrete types:

Four kinds of temporal columns are supported:

All mathematical operations return double values or instances of DoubleColumn. As you’d expect, it holds 8-byte floating point numbers.

We’ll begin by looking at the operations that are common to all column types.

Create a Column

Columns are usually created by importing a data file. They can also be instantiated by calling one of the static create() methods defined on the appropriate class. For example, you can create an empty DateColumn as follows:

DateColumn column = DateColumn.create("test");

The new column has the name “test”, and a ColumnType of LOCAL_DATE. Names are important. We often ask a table for a column by name. All the columns within a given table must have unique names. You can always get the name of a column by calling name(), and its type by calling type().

To create a column with data, you can initialize the column with an array:

double[] values = {1, 2, 3, 7, 9.44242, 11};
DoubleColumn column = DoubleColumn.create("my numbers", values);

Once you have a column, you can add it to a table using the addColumns() method on Table.


Adding, editing, and removing data

You can add data to columns as shown below, but if your column is part of a table, you must take care to ensure that each column has the same number of elements.

DateColumn.append(LocalDate.of(2016, 2, 28));

To change the value of an element in a column you can use the set(index, value) method. This will replace the existing value at the given position with the new value.

doubleColumn.set(4, 123.2);

Normally, you don’t remove data from a column in the normal sense. To remove elements from the middle of column would cause problems if the column is part of a table. However, if you do want to get rid of some elements you have two choices. The first is to set the value to missing as shown below.


Your other option is to create a new column without the offending data elements. This is done with filters as described below.

Other common operations:

Columns do all the things you expect, here’s an incomplete list of standard operations:

name()                  // returns the name of the column
type()                  // returns the ColumnType, e.g. LOCAL_DATE
size()                  // returns the number of elements
isEmpty()               // returns true if column has no data; false otherwise
first(n) and last(n)    // returns the first and last n elements
max() and min()         // returns the largest and smallest elements
top(n) and bottom(n)    // returns the n largest and smallest elements
print()                 // returns a String representation of the column
copy()					// returns a deep copy of the column
emptyCopy()				// returns a column of the same type and name, but no data
unique()				// returns a column of only the unique values
countUnique()			// returns the number of unique values
asSet()                 // returns the unique values as a java Set
summary()				// returns a type specific summary of the data
void sortAscending()	// sorts the column in ascending order 
void sortDescending()	// sorts the column in ascending order 
append(value)    		// appends a single value to the column
appendCell(string) 		// converts the string to the correct type and appends the result    
append(otherColumn)     // Appends the data in other column to this one
removeMissing()			// returns a column with all missing values removed    

These operations are available on nearly all column types. Each operates on an entire column.

To operate on the values of a column, you have two choices. You can work with individual values, or use column-wise operations to work with all the values in a column in the same way. To work with individual values, you can just iterate over the column:

DateColumn weekLater = DateColumn.create("Week Later");
for (LocalDate date: dates) {

Just about anything you can do with an individual LocalDate you can do with an entire DateColumn, using column-wise operations. For example, the above loop could be written as:

DateColumn weekLater = dates.plusDays(7);

This is an example of a mapping function. You can find the date mapping functions in the interface DateMapFunctions. Many of the methods there deal with adding and subtracting units of time (days, weeks, months, etc), and calculating the column-wise differences between two date columns. Others provide access to elements of a date. The method month(), for example, returns a StringColumn containing the month for a given date. The methods year(), dayOfWeek(), dayOfMonth(), etc. function similarly.

Other columns have similar mapping functions.


You can filter two ways. The first is with the built-in predicates, like IsMonday(). See the end of this post for a full list of the built-in predicates for LocalDateColumn.

Writing Predicates for filtering columns

You can write a Predicate class to filter a date column using where(Predicate<LocalDate>). For example, if you want all the leap days in a column, you could create this Java 8 predicate.

LocalDatePredicate leapDays = new Predicate<LocalDate>() {
  int dayOfMonth = 29;
  int monthValue = 2;
  public boolean test(LocalDate i) {
    return i.getDayOfMonth() == dayOfMonth && i.getMonthValue() = 2;

which you can use as:

DateColumn filtered = dates.where(dates.eval(leapDays);

In the line above, the call to dates.eval(aPredicate) returns a Selection object holding the position of every element in the column that passes the predicate’s test() method. The surrounding call to where(aSelection), applies that selection to the column and returns a new column with all the passing values.

Built-in Date Predicates

There are numerous built-in date predicates. For example:

DateColumn filtered = dates.isMonday();
DateColumn filtered = dates.isInQ2();
DateColumn filtered = dates.isLastDayOfTheMonth();

Perhaps not surprisingly, there are a number that find specific dates or date ranges:

LocalDate date1 = LocalDate.of(2016, 2, 20);
LocalDate date2 = LocalDate.of(2016, 4, 29);
DateColumn filtered = dates.isEqualTo(date1);
DateColumn filtered = dates.isAfter(date1);
DateColumn filtered = dates.isOnOrAfter(date1);
DateColumn filtered = dates.isBetweenIncluding(date1, date2);

The built-in method in this case is preferable as it has been optimized. But you can write your own if you need something not already provided.

You can find a full list in the JavaDoc for DateColumn.

Using filters to conditionally edit data

The section on editing values above assumes you’ve identified the specific values you want to change. Often with large datasets, you know you want to change some values, without knowing where they are, or even how many are in the dataset. The easiest way to perform a bulk update of values meeting some condition is with set(aSelection, aNewValue). Each column implements an appropriate variation of this method. DoubleColumn, for example, has a version that takes a double as the second argument, and StringColumn has a version that takes a string.

You can use a built-in filter method like those discussed above to provide the selection. Here’s one example:

doubleColumn.set(doubleColumn.isGreaterThan(100), 100);

This would set any value above 100 to equal 100 exactly. This approach can be very helpful for dealing with missing data, which you might want to set to an average value for example.

double avg = doubleColumn.mean();
doubleColumn.set(doubleColumn.isMissing(), avg)

NOTE: When working with missing values, always test with the isMissing() method, rather than test using the column type’s MISSING_VALUE constant. For doubles, MISSING_VALUE returns Double.NaN, and since Double.NaN does not equal Double.NaN, a test like doubleValue == MISSING_VALUE will fail to detect missing values.

Formatting data

You can print data as individual values, columns or tables. The output format can be controlled by setting a type-specific formatter on a column. For example, to change how numbers are displayed you can call setPrintFormatter() on a NumberColumn, passing in a NumberColumnFormatter. Each formatter serves two functions, displaying true values and handling of missing ones. NumberColumnFormatter has several pre-configured options, including printing as currency or percents.

See the Table documentation for how to add and remove columns