readBin {base}R Documentation

Transfer Binary Data To and From Connections


Read binary data from a connection, or write binary data to a connection.


readBin(con, what, n = 1, size = NA, signed = TRUE,
        endian = .Platform$endian)
writeBin(object, con, size = NA, endian = .Platform$endian)

readChar(con, nchars)
writeChar(object, con, nchars = nchar(object, type="chars"), eos = "")


con A connection object or a character string.
what Either an object whose mode will give the mode of the vector to be read, or a character vector of length one describing the mode: one of "numeric", "double", "integer", "int", "logical", "complex", "character", "raw".
n integer. The (maximal) number of records to be read. You can use an over-estimate here, but not too large as storage is reserved for n items.
size integer. The number of bytes per element in the byte stream. The default, NA, uses the natural size. Size changing is not supported for raw and complex vectors.
signed logical. Only used for integers of sizes 1 and 2, when it determines if the quantity on file should be regarded as a signed or unsigned integer.
endian The endian-ness ("big" or "little" of the target system for the file. Using "swap" will force swapping endian-ness.
object An R object to be written to the connection.
nchars integer, giving the lengths in characters of (unterminated) character strings to be read or written.
eos character. The terminator to be written after each string, followed by an ASCII nul; use NULL for no terminator at all.


If the con is a character string, the functions call file to obtain an file connection which is opened for the duration of the function call.

If the connection is open it is read/written from its current position. If it is not open, it is opened for the duration of the call and then closed again.

If size is specified and not the natural size of the object, each element of the vector is coerced to an appropriate type before being written or as it is read. Possible sizes are 1, 2, 4 and possibly 8 for integer or logical vectors, and 4, 8 and possibly 12/16 for numeric vectors. (Note that coercion occurs as signed types except if signed = FALSE when reading integers of sizes 1 and 2.) Changing sizes is unlikely to preserve NAs, and the extended precision sizes are unlikely to be portable across platforms.

readBin and writeBin read and write C-style zero-terminated character strings. Input strings are limited to 10000 characters. readChar and writeChar allow more flexibility, and can also be used on text-mode connections.

Handling R's missing and special (Inf, -Inf and NaN) values is discussed in the R Data Import/Export manual.


For readBin, a vector of appropriate mode and length the number of items read (which might be less than n).
For readChar, a character vector of length the number of items read (which might be less than length(nchars)).
For writeBin and writeChar, none.


Integer read/writes of size 8 will be available if either C type long is of size 8 bytes or C type long long exists and is of size 8 bytes.

Real read/writes of size sizeof(long double) (usually 12 or 16 bytes) will be available only if that type is available and different from double.

As from R 2.0.0, character strings containing ASCII nul will be read correctly by readChar and appear as embedded nuls in the character vector returned. (In earlier versions of R they terminated the strings returned.)

If the character length requested for readChar is longer than the data available on the connection, what is available is returned. For writeChar if too many characters are requested the output is zero-padded, with a warning.

If readBin(what=character()) is used incorrectly on a file which does not contain C-style character strings, warnings (usually many) are given. The input will be broken into pieces of length 10000 with any final part being discarded.

See Also

The R Data Import/Export manual.

connections, readLines, writeLines.

.Machine for the sizes of long, long long and long double.


zz <- file("testbin", "wb")
writeBin(1:10, zz)
writeBin(pi, zz, endian="swap")
writeBin(pi, zz, size=4)
writeBin(pi^2, zz, size=4, endian="swap")
writeBin(pi+3i, zz)
writeBin("A test of a connection", zz)
z <- paste("A very long string", 1:100, collapse=" + ")
writeBin(z, zz)
if(.Machine$sizeof.long == 8 || .Machine$sizeof.longlong == 8)
    writeBin(as.integer(5^(1:10)), zz, size = 8)
if((s <-.Machine$sizeof.longdouble) > 8)
    writeBin((pi/3)^(1:10), zz, size = s)

zz <- file("testbin", "rb")
readBin(zz, integer(), 4)
readBin(zz, integer(), 6)
readBin(zz, numeric(), 1, endian="swap")
readBin(zz, numeric(), size=4)
readBin(zz, numeric(), size=4, endian="swap")
readBin(zz, complex(), 1)
readBin(zz, character(), 1)
z2 <- readBin(zz, character(), 1)
if(.Machine$sizeof.long == 8 || .Machine$sizeof.longlong == 8)
    readBin(zz, integer(), 10,  size = 8)
if((s <-.Machine$sizeof.longdouble) > 8)
    readBin(zz, numeric(), 10, size = s)
stopifnot(z2 == z)

## test fixed-length strings
zz <- file("testbin", "wb")
x <- c("a", "this will be truncated", "abc")
nc <- c(3, 10, 3)
writeChar(x, zz, nc, eos=NULL)
writeChar(x, zz, eos="\r\n")

zz <- file("testbin", "rb")
readChar(zz, nc)
readChar(zz, nchar(x)+3) # need to read the terminator explicitly

## signed vs unsigned ints
zz <- file("testbin", "wb")
x <- as.integer(seq(0, 255, 32))
writeBin(x, zz, size=1)
writeBin(x, zz, size=1)
x <- as.integer(seq(0, 60000, 10000))
writeBin(x, zz, size=2)
writeBin(x, zz, size=2)
zz <- file("testbin", "rb")
readBin(zz, integer(), 8, size=1)
readBin(zz, integer(), 8, size=1, signed=FALSE)
readBin(zz, integer(), 7, size=2)
readBin(zz, integer(), 7, size=2, signed=FALSE)

[Package base version 2.1.0 Index]