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vec_proxy_compare() and vec_proxy_order() return proxy objects, i.e. an atomic vector or data frame of atomic vectors.

For vctrs_vctr objects:


vec_proxy_compare(x, ...)

vec_proxy_order(x, ...)



A vector x.


These dots are for future extensions and must be empty.


A 1d atomic vector or a data frame.


The default method of vec_proxy_compare() assumes that all classes built on top of atomic vectors or records are comparable. Internally the default calls vec_proxy_equal(). If your class is not comparable, you will need to provide a vec_proxy_compare() method that throws an error.

The behavior of vec_proxy_order() is identical to vec_proxy_compare(), with the exception of lists. Lists are not comparable, as comparing elements of different types is undefined. However, to allow ordering of data frames containing list-columns, the ordering proxy of a list is generated as an integer vector that can be used to order list elements by first appearance.

If a class implements a vec_proxy_compare() method, it usually doesn't need to provide a vec_proxy_order() method, because the latter is implemented by forwarding to vec_proxy_compare() by default. Classes inheriting from list are an exception: due to the default vec_proxy_order() implementation, vec_proxy_compare() and vec_proxy_order() should be provided for such classes (with identical implementations) to avoid mismatches between comparison and sorting.


  • vec_proxy_equal() called by default in vec_proxy_compare()

  • vec_proxy_compare() called by default in vec_proxy_order()

Data frames

If the proxy for x is a data frame, the proxy function is automatically recursively applied on all columns as well. After applying the proxy recursively, if there are any data frame columns present in the proxy, then they are unpacked. Finally, if the resulting data frame only has a single column, then it is unwrapped and a vector is returned as the proxy.


# Lists are not comparable
x <- list(1:2, 1, 1:2, 3)
try(vec_compare(x, x))
#> Error in vec_proxy_compare(x = x) : 
#>   `vec_proxy_compare.list()` not supported.

# But lists are orderable by first appearance to allow for
# ordering data frames with list-cols
df <- new_data_frame(list(x = x))
#>      x
#> 1 1, 2
#> 2 1, 2
#> 3    1
#> 4    3