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A Schema is an Arrow object containing Fields, which map names to Arrow data types. Create a Schema when you want to convert an R data.frame to Arrow but don't want to rely on the default mapping of R types to Arrow types, such as when you want to choose a specific numeric precision, or when creating a Dataset and you want to ensure a specific schema rather than inferring it from the various files.

Many Arrow objects, including Table and Dataset, have a $schema method (active binding) that lets you access their schema.


  • $ToString(): convert to a string

  • $field(i): returns the field at index i (0-based)

  • $GetFieldByName(x): returns the field with name x

  • $WithMetadata(metadata): returns a new Schema with the key-value metadata set. Note that all list elements in metadata will be coerced to character.

  • $code(namespace): returns the R code needed to generate this schema. Use namespace=TRUE to call with arrow::.

Active bindings

  • $names: returns the field names (called in names(Schema))

  • $num_fields: returns the number of fields (called in length(Schema))

  • $fields: returns the list of Fields in the Schema, suitable for iterating over

  • $HasMetadata: logical: does this Schema have extra metadata?

  • $metadata: returns the key-value metadata as a named list. Modify or replace by assigning in (sch$metadata <- new_metadata). All list elements are coerced to string.

R Metadata

When converting a data.frame to an Arrow Table or RecordBatch, attributes from the data.frame are saved alongside tables so that the object can be reconstructed faithfully in R (e.g. with This metadata can be both at the top-level of the data.frame (e.g. attributes(df)) or at the column (e.g. attributes(df$col_a)) or for list columns only: element level (e.g. attributes(df[1, "col_a"])). For example, this allows for storing haven columns in a table and being able to faithfully re-create them when pulled back into R. This metadata is separate from the schema (column names and types) which is compatible with other Arrow clients. The R metadata is only read by R and is ignored by other clients (e.g. Pandas has its own custom metadata). This metadata is stored in $metadata$r.

Since Schema metadata keys and values must be strings, this metadata is saved by serializing R's attribute list structure to a string. If the serialized metadata exceeds 100Kb in size, by default it is compressed starting in version 3.0.0. To disable this compression (e.g. for tables that are compatible with Arrow versions before 3.0.0 and include large amounts of metadata), set the option arrow.compress_metadata to FALSE. Files with compressed metadata are readable by older versions of arrow, but the metadata is dropped.