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How to use sink() function in R

Published on August 3, 2022
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By Prajwal CN
Developer and author at DigitalOcean.
How to use sink() function in R

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You can use sink() function in R to drive the data to the external connections.

Hello folks, today we will be looking into the applications of the sink() function in R. We are going to try to make connections in multiple formats such as text and csv file types.

Using the sink() function, you can either print the data or you can export the data or the R output to text or CSV file types.

Let’s see how it works!

The syntax of sink() function in R

Sink(): The sink function is used to drive the output obtained in R to the external connection.

sink(file = NULL, type = c("output", "message"),split = FALSE)


  • File = The editable connection or the file type.
  • Append = The logical function used to append the data to file to avoid overwrite.
  • Split = Output will be diverted to a new connection or link.

1. Setting up the working directory

With the help of sink() function, you can easily print the output to the text file as a connection. We can start this process by setting up the working directory.

To check the current working directory:

#returns the current working directory

Fine. We got the working directory now. And you can also change the working directory using,

#sets the new working directory 
setwd("The directory path here")

Paste the path in the setwd() function to set the new working directory. After that dont forget to confirm the changes using the ‘getwd()’ command as shown above.

2. Printing the data into the text file

I hope you are ready with your working path now. Now we are going to create a file connection and print some data into it.

Let’s see how it works.

#sinks the data into connection as text file

#prints numbers from 1 to 20
for (i in 1:20)

Sink In R

Now you can see how neatly our R data is printed into the text file. Awesome right?

3. Exporting the data into text file

In the previous section, we have printed the data or the output to the text file. In this section, we are going to export the entire data set which is available in R by default.

Let’s see how it works.

#exports the data as text file

Sink Function In R

You can see that the data of air quality data set is driven to the text file as a external connection.

This is how you can easily drive the data in R to connections. You can also export as a csv file as shown below.

4. Exporting the data frame into CSV file

In this section, we are going to drive or export the data into a CSV file using the sink() function in R.

Let’s see how it works.

#export the data as csv file

Sink To Csv

Well, this a CSV file that includes the exported data from the R console. sink() function in R offers the easiest way to drive the data to external connections such as a file.

Exporting the summary of the data to connection

So far, So good. Now, lets try to apply what we have learnt or understood by the above sections all together.

The problem statement is simple.

=> Read a data set of your choice and get a summary of the data using the function summary(). Upon doing that, drive the result into the text file as connection.

Let’s rock!!!

1. Let’s read the data

#reads the data

Sink 1

The first step in the problem statement is here. You can see the air quality dataset in the above image.

2. The summary() of the data

The summary of the data using the function summary() can be seen below.

#returns the key insights of data
  Ozone           Solar.R           Wind             Temp           Month      
 Min.   :  1.00   Min.   :  7.0   Min.   : 1.700   Min.   :56.00   Min.   :5.000  
 1st Qu.: 18.00   1st Qu.:115.8   1st Qu.: 7.400   1st Qu.:72.00   1st Qu.:6.000  
 Median : 31.50   Median :205.0   Median : 9.700   Median :79.00   Median :7.000  
 Mean   : 42.13   Mean   :185.9   Mean   : 9.958   Mean   :77.88   Mean   :6.993  
 3rd Qu.: 63.25   3rd Qu.:258.8   3rd Qu.:11.500   3rd Qu.:85.00   3rd Qu.:8.000  
 Max.   :168.00   Max.   :334.0   Max.   :20.700   Max.   :97.00   Max.   :9.000  
 NA's   :37       NA's   :7                                                       
 Min.   : 1.0  
 1st Qu.: 8.0  
 Median :16.0  
 Mean   :15.8  
 3rd Qu.:23.0  
 Max.   :31.0  

This is the summary of the data which shows the minimum and maximum values, quartiles, median, mean and more insights.

3. Driving the output to the connection

Now, all you need to do is to export it into text file and make it as a external connection.

#drive the output data to txt file

Sink 3

4. End the connection

You have got all the steps right and successfully driven the data into text file as a external connection.

Now its time to end the connection.

#terminates the connection 

The above command will delete the file connection.

To sum up all the steps,

  • Read the data in the R console.
  • Apply the summary() function to the data.
  • Get key insights on data.
  • Drive the findings to the text file using the sink() function in R.

Wrapping Up

The sink() function in R drives the R output to the external connection. You can export the data in multiple forms such as text and CSV files. You can either print the data into the connection or directly export the entire data to it.

After the data transfer, you can unlink the connection to terminate the file.

The sink() function in R is useful in many ways as it offers temporary connections to work with data.

More read: R documentation

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