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Try this code in Mathematica 10:

Dataset@Table[Association[ToString[#] -> # & /@ Range[4]], {2}]

I got a nicely formatted table:

enter image description here

But when I do the same thing for 5 columns, it won't get formatted at all:

Dataset@Table[Association[ToString[#] -> # & /@ Range[5]], {2}]


enter image description here

Is that what supposed to be? Don't you think 4 column is a pretty stingy limitation?

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What you see is similar to the output of the model fit functions and TimeSeries for instance. You get a summary object that symbolizes the data structure but is not meant to fully represent it visually. For formatting tables we have things like Grid or TableForm. –  Sjoerd C. de Vries Jul 12 at 1:12
Is there a method similar to FullForm or options for Dataset that attempts to display more of the structure? It also crops rows if there are many. –  alancalvitti Jul 12 at 2:17

2 Answers 2

up vote 15 down vote accepted

Theoretically, Dataset supports any number of columns.

The behavior you are seeing is actually because the type deduction that Dataset is doing behind the scenes isn't perfect (and indeed in some sense cannot be perfect). Your synthetic example is such that your second list of associations is "most consistent" with a particular type that doesn't typeset as a table.

You can see what type Dataset deduced in a given case by using Dataset`GetType. First get TypeSystem onto your context path, so that the types aren't fully qualified and are easier to read:


Then use GetType:

In[2]:= Dataset`GetType @ Dataset @ Table[Association[ToString[#] -> # & /@ Range[4]], {2}]
Out[2]= Vector[Struct[{"1", "2", "3", "4"}, 
 {Atom[Integer], Atom[Integer], Atom[Integer], Atom[Integer]}], 2]

Notice that the type of your data has been deduced to be a Vector (homogenous list) of Structss (heterogenous associations), or in other words a row-oriented table.

But now do:

In[3]:= Dataset`GetType @ Dataset @ Table[Association[ToString[#] -> # & /@ Range[5]], {2}]
Out[3]= Vector[Assoc[Atom[String], Atom[Integer], 5], 2]

Here, your data has been deduced as a Vector of Assocs (homogenous associations). Assocs are a type that doesn't care what keys are present, just that they all have the same type, and also that the values have the same type.

That happened because according to the internal heuristics, an Assoc is considered to be a more parsimonious type as soon as we cross the threshold of 4 fields. But this would not be true if we looked at an association whose values were different types, instead of all being integers:

In[2]:= DeduceType @ Table[<|"A" -> 1, "B" -> 2, "C" -> 3, "D" -> 4, "E" -> "bar"|>, {5}]
Out[2]= Vector[Struct[{"A", "B", "C", "D", "E"}, 
  {Atom[Integer], Atom[Integer], Atom[Integer], Atom[Integer], Atom[String]}], 5]

The only consistent type here is a Vector of Structs (notice I'm using DeduceType directly, which is what Dataset uses upon construction). And indeed, this more complex Dataset typesets as a table, owing to the inner Struct type:


Although it isn't documented and is therefore of course subject to change, you can force a specific type to be used by supplying a second argument to Dataset:

  Table[Association[ToString[#] -> # & /@ Range[5]], {5}], 
  Vector[Struct[{"1", "2", "3", "4", "5"}, 
    {Atom[Integer], Atom[Integer], Atom[Integer], Atom[Integer], Atom[Integer]}]]]

This will typeset as a table, as you desire:


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Re "Assoc is considered to be a more parsimonious type as soon as we cross the threshold of 4 fields" - where did 4 come from? This book says 42: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Hitchhiker%27s_Guide_to_the_Galaxy –  alancalvitti Jul 14 at 20:19
Does the internal Dataset structure only affect its Format or other operations as well? –  alancalvitti Jul 15 at 17:52
@alancalvitti 4 is really just a codification of my prior belief in the likelihood of different forms of data. The Dataset type ('schema' might be a better word) is used for formatting, and also validation. If you try an invalid query it'll stop you shooting yourself in the foot, with a (hopefully) helpful error message telling you why. In the future it'll also be used for autocomplete prediction and NLP queries against data. –  Taliesin Beynon Jul 15 at 19:33
I think we all appreciate the new functionality. However, working w real datasets, I resort to // Normal and subsequent operations. The built in format is too limiting. At least make it interactive so users can choose thresholds in Level and other dimensions. –  alancalvitti Jul 15 at 19:36
@alancalvitti formatting of Dataset will get better (and more interactive) over time –  Taliesin Beynon Jul 17 at 13:40

If you look at InputForms of produced Datasets you will see significant difference:

Dataset@Table[Association[ToString[#] -> # & /@ Range[4]], {2}] // InputForm
Dataset[{<|"1" -> 1, "2" -> 2, "3" -> 3, "4" -> 4|>, 
         <|"1" -> 1, "2" -> 2, "3" -> 3, "4" -> 4|>}, 
 TypeSystem`Vector[TypeSystem`Struct[{"1", "2", "3", "4"}, 
   {TypeSystem`Atom[Integer], TypeSystem`Atom[Integer], TypeSystem`Atom[Integer], 
    TypeSystem`Atom[Integer]}], 2], <|"ID" -> 34613158063874|>]
Dataset@Table[Association[ToString[#] -> # & /@ Range[5]], {2}] // InputForm
Dataset[{<|"1" -> 1, "2" -> 2, "3" -> 3, "4" -> 4, "5" -> 5|>, 
         <|"1" -> 1, "2" -> 2, "3" -> 3, "4" -> 4, "5" -> 5|>}, 
   TypeSystem`Atom[Integer], 5], 2], <|"ID" -> 93437030149901|>]

Let us try to reproduce the first structure with 5 columns:

Dataset[Table[Association[ToString[#] -> # & /@ Range[5]], {2}], 
  TypeSystem`Struct[ToString /@ Range[5], 
   Table[TypeSystem`Atom[Integer], {5}]], 2]]


Voilà! I have checked this method with 200 columns and it works!

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Is there a way to override the built in Format for Dataset? Anything is better than this, eg // Normal // TableForm –  alancalvitti Jul 14 at 20:21
AFAIK currently there is no simple way to change the style of Dataset in StandardForm other than re-implementing Format[Dataset]. Such questions of course should be asked to the developer, Taliesin Beynon, not me. –  Alexey Popkov Jul 15 at 6:54
@alancalvitti I don't see why we shouldn't let you set a customer formatter. I'll add it to my list. –  Taliesin Beynon Jul 15 at 19:34

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