Simple Features for R

I’m probably late to the game, but since I’ve been working a lot with R lately, I finally got around to give the Simple Features for R package a proper shot. And boy should I have done that earlier. If you use R with spatial data and haven’t checked it out yet, please do. Here’s a brief list of my favorite features (pun intended):

  • Much faster reading and writing data
  • No more clumsy working with attribute data – instead of mylayer@data$attribute, just go straight to mylayer$attribute
  • If you work with PostGIS a lot, you’ll feel right at home with the spatial operators (and they automatically use spatial indexes!)
  • Mapping with ggplot2 is much more intuitive than before, using the geom_sf function.
  • The automatic faceted plots by attribute when you use the plain plot function are also pretty cool.
  • If you need to run functions that don’t work on simple feature collections, it is super easy to just convert them to a data frame (my_df <-, run the function, and convert them back (my_sf <- st_as_sf(my_df)) – geometries, CRS, etc. are picked up correctly automatically.

I'm sure I'm missing more great stuff, but this is just a first impression after a day of work with sf. Overall, working with spatial data in R feels much more natural with sf, with less extra code and special cases than before. Kudos to Edzer and the other contributors for this one!

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