is {methods}R Documentation

Is an Object from a Class


is: With two arguments, tests whether object can be treated as from class2.

With one argument, returns all the super-classes of this object's class.

extends: Does the first class extend the second class? Returns maybe if the extension includes a test.

setIs: Defines class1 to be an extension of class2.


is(object, class2)

extends(class1, class2, maybe=TRUE, fullInfo = FALSE)

setIs(class1, class2, test=NULL, coerce=NULL, replace=NULL,
      by = character(), where = topenv(parent.frame()), classDef =,
      extensionObject = NULL, doComplete = TRUE)


object any R object.
class1, class2 the names of the classes between which is relations are to be defined.
maybe, fullInfo In a call to extends, maybe is a flag to include/exclude conditional relations, and fullInfo is a flag, which if TRUE causes object(s) of class classExtension to be returned, rather than just the names of the classes or a logical value. See the details below.
extensionObject alternative to the test, coerce, replace, by arguments; an object from class SClassExtension describing the relation. (Used in internal calls.)
doComplete when TRUE, the class definitions will be augmented with indirect relations as well. (Used in internal calls.)
test, coerce, replace In a call to setIs, functions optionally supplied to test whether the relation is defined, to coerce the object to class2, and to alter the object so that is(object, class2) is identical to value.
by In a call to setIs, the name of an intermediary class. Coercion will proceed by first coercing to this class and from there to the target class. (The intermediate coercions have to be valid.)
where In a call to setIs, where to store the metadata defining the relationship. Default is the global environment.
classDef Optional class definition for class , required internally when setIs is called during the initial definition of the class by a call to setClass. Don't use this argument, unless you really know why you're doing so.



Given two class names, extends by default says whether the first class extends the second; that is, it does for class names what is does for an object and a class. Given one class name, it returns all the classes that class extends (the “superclasses” of that class), including the class itself. If the flag fullInfo is TRUE, the result is a list, each element of which is an object describing the relationship; otherwise, and by default, the value returned is only the names of the classes.


This function establishes an inheritance relation between two classes, by some means other than having one class contain the other. It should not be used for ordinary relationships: either include the second class in the contains= argument to setClass if the class is contained in the usual way, or consider setClassUnion to define a virtual class that is extended by several ordinary classes. A call to setIs makes sense, for example, if one class ought to be automatically convertible into a second class, but they have different representations, so that the conversion must be done by an explicit computation, not just be inheriting slots, for example. In this case, you will typically need to provide both a coerce= and replace= argument to setIs.

The coerce, replace, and by arguments behave as described for the setAs function. It's unlikely you would use the by argument directly, but it is used in defining cached information about classes. The value returned (invisibly) by setIs is the extension information, as a list.

The coerce argument is a function that turns a class1 object into a class2 object. The replace argument is a function of two arguments that modifies a class1 object (the first argument) to replace the part of it that corresponds to class2 (supplied as value, the second argument). It then returns the modified object as the value of the call. In other words, it acts as a replacement method to implement the expression as(object, class2) <- value.

The easiest way to think of the coerce and replace functions is by thinking of the case that class1 contains class2 in the usual sense, by including the slots of the second class. (To repeat, in this situation you would not call setIs, but the analogy shows what happens when you do.)

The coerce function in this case would just make a class2 object by extracting the corresponding slots from the class1 object. The replace function would replace in the class1 object the slots corresponding to class2, and return the modified object as its value.

The relationship can also be conditional, if a function is supplied as the test argument. This should be a function of one argument that returns TRUE or FALSE according to whether the object supplied satisfies the relation is(object, class2). If you worry about such things, conditional relations between classes are slightly deprecated because they cannot be implemented as efficiently as ordinary relations and because they sometimes can lead to confusion (in thinking about what methods are dispatched for a particular function, for example). But they can correspond to useful distinctions, such as when two classes have the same representation, but only one of them obeys certain additional constraints.

Because only global environment information is saved, it rarely makes sense to give a value other than the default for argument where. One exception is where=0, which modifies the cached (i.e., session-scope) information about the class. Class completion computations use this version, but don't use it yourself unless you are quite sure you know what you're doing.


The R package methods implements, with a few exceptions, the programming interface for classes and methods in the book Programming with Data (John M. Chambers, Springer, 1998), in particular sections 1.6, 2.7, 2.8, and chapters 7 and 8.

While the programming interface for the methods package follows the reference, the R software is an original implementation, so details in the reference that reflect the S4 implementation may appear differently in R. Also, there are extensions to the programming interface developed more recently than the reference. For a discussion of details see ?Methods and the links from that documentation.


## a class definition (see setClass for the example)
         representation("track", smooth = "numeric"))
## A class similar to "trackCurve", but with different structure
## allowing matrices for the "y" and "smooth" slots
         representation(x="numeric", y="matrix", smooth="matrix"),
         prototype = structure(list(), x=numeric(), y=matrix(0,0,0),

                               smooth= matrix(0,0,0)))
## Automatically convert an object from class "trackCurve" into
## "trackMultiCurve", by making the y, smooth slots into 1-column matrices
      coerce = function(obj) {
            x = obj@x,
            y = as.matrix(obj@y),
            curve = as.matrix(obj@smooth))
      replace = function(obj, value) {
        obj@y <- as.matrix(value@y)
        obj@x <- value@x
        obj@smooth <- as.matrix(value@smooth)

## Automatically convert the other way, but ONLY
## if the y data is one variable.
      test = function(obj) {ncol(obj@y) == 1},
      coerce = function(obj) {
            x = slot(obj, "x"),
            y = as.numeric(obj@y),
            smooth = as.numeric(obj@smooth))
      replace = function(obj, value) {
        obj@y <- matrix(value@y, ncol=1)
        obj@x <- value@x
        obj@smooth <- value@smooth

[Package methods version 2.5.0 Index]