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Back to Table one

October 2, 2020

In the past I reviewed several packages useful for making summary or regression tables in R.1 Recently, I stumbled upon the following blog post: My favourite R package for: summarising data, which nicely summarizes some of the oldest packages that I mentioned, and more recent ones. Despite being a huge fan of Hmisc, I find myself using skimr more regularly these days. I even added it to my .Rprofile file:

.loader <- function(p)
  suppressWarnings(suppressPackageStartupMessages(library(p, character.only = TRUE)))
.pkg <- c("ggplot2", "skimr")
if (interactive()) invisible(sapply(.pkg, .loader))

That being said, the object of this post is just to talk about the famous “Table 1” of epidemiology or medicine articles, which usually stands for a summary table of subjects or patients’ characteristics, stratified by clinical status, exposure, time points or whatever. I have always used Hmisc::summary.formula with the "reverse" option for that matter. Few days ago I needed to build some supplementary tables for a paper under review (yeah, it still happens to me!), and I wanted to try a quick one-liner. I heard about something like a “table 1” package last year, or maybe this was two years ago. After a quick search and some tests, I can confirm that tableone works great, while table1 isn’t that different from the Hmisc version (except that it is limited to the “reverse” option, of course).

There are some weird choices in the design of the tableone package, like for example the fact that we need to indicate which numeric variables should be treated as categorical ones (e.g., binary variables encoded as integers) in factorVars = although they must be listed with all other variables in vars =. However it does the job pretty well, and it correctly identify binary variables such that only one line is printed for the % (n) values. In most cases it is enough, but I like the option in Hmisc to print both values (i.e., when the variable value equals 0 or 1) because in some settings it matters a lot. Above all that, the fact that the table is stored in a simple matrix structure makes it relatively easy to export it right into a CSV file, and then into Excel for hand edit. Yeah, I told you it still happens to me.

Overall, I would say that no package will ever beats Hmisc, but for those interested in quick fix, tableone is probably a good option.

  1. I’m pretty sure I wrote a blog post about this stuff, but I cannot find it at the time of this writing. ↩︎


See Also

» Statistical software evaluation » Routed Gothic » R 4.0 » On comparing trees » NGS from the bottom up