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How to use DataTables in a Shiny App

DataTables Screenshot

Basic Usage

The DataTables application demonstrates HTML tables using the jQuery library DataTables.

The basic usage is to create an output element in the UI using dataTableOutput(id = 'foo'), and render a table on the server side using output$foo <- renderDataTable({ data }). Normally renderDataTable() takes an expression that returns a rectangular data object with column names, such as a data frame or a matrix. Below is a minimal example:


  ui = basicPage(
    h2('The mtcars data'),
  server = function(input, output) {
    output$mytable = renderDataTable({

By default, the data is paginated, showing 25 rows per page. The number of rows to display can be changed through the drop down menu in the top-left. We can sort the columns by clicking on the column headers, and sort multiple columns by holding the Shift key while clicking (the sorting direction loops through ascending, descending, and none if we keep on clicking). We can search globally in the table using the text input box in the top-right, or search individual columns using the text boxes at the bottom. Currently the searching terms are treated as regular expressions in R. Since searching can be time-consuming in large datasets, there is a delay of 0.5 seconds (customizable) before searching is really processed; that means if we type fast enough in the search box, searching may be processed only once on the server side even if we have typed more than one character.

Customizing DataTables

There are a large number of options in DataTables that are customizable (see its website for details). In this example, we show a few possibilities. First, we create the UI to display three datasets diamonds, mtcars, and iris, with each dataset in its own tab:


library(ggplot2)  # for the diamonds dataset

  headerPanel('Examples of DataTables'),
                       'Columns in diamonds to show:', 
                       selected = names(diamonds)),
    helpText('For the diamonds data, we can select variables
             to show in the table; for the mtcars example, we
             use orderClasses = TRUE so that sorted columns 
             are colored since they have special CSS classes 
             attached; for the iris data, we customize the 
             length menu so we can display 5 rows per page.')

We also added a checkbox group to select the columns to show in the diamonds data.

Server Script

The options argument in renderDataTable() can take a list (literally an R list) of options, and pass them to DataTables when the table is initialized. For example, for the mtcars data, we pass orderClasses = TRUE to DataTables so that the sorted columns will have CSS classes attached on them (this is disabled by default); in this example, we can see the sorted columns are highlighted by darker colors. For the iris data, we pass the options lengthMenu and pageLength to customize the drop down menu, which has items [10, 25, 50, 100] by default; now the menu has three items [5, 30, 50], and 5 is selected as the default value.



shinyServer(function(input, output) {

  # a large table, reative to input$show_vars
  output$mytable1 = renderDataTable({
    diamonds[, input$show_vars, drop = FALSE]

  # sorted columns are colored now because CSS are attached to them
  output$mytable2 = renderDataTable({
  }, options = list(orderClasses = TRUE))

  # customize the length drop-down menu; display 5 rows per page by default
  output$mytable3 = renderDataTable({
  }, options = list(lengthMenu = c(5, 30, 50), pageLength = 5))


For more DataTable options, please refer to its full reference on its website.

Upgrading from DataTables v1.9 to v1.10

Shiny (>= v1.10.2) currently uses DataTables v1.10. If you have used DataTables in Shiny before (specifically, before Shiny v0.10.2), you may need to change some parameter names for your DataTables, because Shiny (<= v0.10.1) was using DataTables v1.9, and DataTables v1.10 has changed the parameter names.

A guide for upgrading parameter names from DataTables 1.9 to 1.10 is here: Shiny will try to automatically correct some of the old parameter names, but this automatic correction certainly will not work for all use cases, especially if you have deeply customized your DataTables using complicated JavaScript options. You can see this GIT commit for examples of converting DataTables 1.9 names to 1.10 names.

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