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With numeric values in a gt table, we can perform formatting so that the targeted values are rendered in engineering notation, where numbers are written in the form of a mantissa (m) and an exponent (n). When combined the construction is either of the form m x 10^n or mEn. The mantissa is a number between 1 and 1000 and the exponent is a multiple of 3. For example, the number 0.0000345 can be written in engineering notation as 34.50 x 10^-6. This notation helps to simplify calculations and make it easier to compare numbers that are on very different scales.

We have fine control over the formatting task, with the following options:

  • decimals: choice of the number of decimal places, option to drop trailing zeros, and a choice of the decimal symbol

  • scaling: we can choose to scale targeted values by a multiplier value

  • pattern: option to use a text pattern for decoration of the formatted values

  • locale-based formatting: providing a locale ID will result in formatting specific to the chosen locale


  columns = everything(),
  rows = everything(),
  decimals = 2,
  drop_trailing_zeros = FALSE,
  drop_trailing_dec_mark = TRUE,
  scale_by = 1,
  exp_style = "x10n",
  pattern = "{x}",
  sep_mark = ",",
  dec_mark = ".",
  force_sign_m = FALSE,
  force_sign_n = FALSE,
  locale = NULL



The gt table data object

obj:<gt_tbl> // required

This is the gt table object that is commonly created through use of the gt() function.


Columns to target

<column-targeting expression> // default: everything()

Can either be a series of column names provided in c(), a vector of column indices, or a select helper function (e.g. starts_with(), ends_with(), contains(), matches(), num_range() and everything()).


Rows to target

<row-targeting expression> // default: everything()

In conjunction with columns, we can specify which of their rows should undergo formatting. The default everything() results in all rows in columns being formatted. Alternatively, we can supply a vector of row captions within c(), a vector of row indices, or a select helper function (e.g. starts_with(), ends_with(), contains(), matches(), num_range(), and everything()). We can also use expressions to filter down to the rows we need (e.g., [colname_1] > 100 & [colname_2] < 50).


Number of decimal places

scalar<numeric|integer>(val>=0) // default: 2

This corresponds to the exact number of decimal places to use. A value such as 2.34 can, for example, be formatted with 0 decimal places and it would result in "2". With 4 decimal places, the formatted value becomes "2.3400".


Drop any trailing zeros

scalar<logical> // default: FALSE

A logical value that allows for removal of trailing zeros (those redundant zeros after the decimal mark).


Drop the trailing decimal mark

scalar<logical> // default: TRUE

A logical value that determines whether decimal marks should always appear even if there are no decimal digits to display after formatting (e.g., 23 becomes 23. if FALSE). By default trailing decimal marks are not shown.


Scale values by a fixed multiplier

scalar<numeric|integer> // default: 1

All numeric values will be multiplied by the scale_by value before undergoing formatting. Since the default value is 1, no values will be changed unless a different multiplier value is supplied.


Style declaration for exponent formatting

scalar<character> // default: "x10n"

Style of formatting to use for the scientific notation formatting. By default this is "x10n" but other options include using a single letter (e.g., "e", "E", etc.), a letter followed by a "1" to signal a minimum digit width of one, or "low-ten" for using a stylized "10" marker.


Specification of the formatting pattern

scalar<character> // default: "{x}"

A formatting pattern that allows for decoration of the formatted value. The formatted value is represented by the {x} (which can be used multiple times, if needed) and all other characters will be interpreted as string literals.


Separator mark for digit grouping

scalar<character> // default: ","

The string to use as a separator between groups of digits. For example, using sep_mark = "," with a value of 1000 would result in a formatted value of "1,000". This argument is ignored if a locale is supplied (i.e., is not NULL).


Decimal mark

scalar<character> // default: "."

The string to be used as the decimal mark. For example, using dec_mark = "," with the value 0.152 would result in a formatted value of "0,152"). This argument is ignored if a locale is supplied (i.e., is not NULL).

force_sign_m, force_sign_n

Forcing the display of a positive sign

scalar<logical> // default: FALSE

Should the plus sign be shown for positive values of the mantissa (first component, force_sign_m) or the exponent (force_sign_n)? This would effectively show a sign for all values except zero on either of those numeric components of the notation. If so, use TRUE for either one of these options. The default for both is FALSE, where only negative numbers will display a sign.


Locale identifier

scalar<character> // default: NULL (optional)

An optional locale identifier that can be used for formatting values according the locale's rules. Examples include "en" for English (United States) and "fr" for French (France). We can call info_locales() for a useful reference for all of the locales that are supported. A locale ID can be also set in the initial gt() function call (where it would be used automatically by any function with a locale argument) but a locale value provided here will override that global locale.


An object of class gt_tbl.

Compatibility of formatting function with data values

fmt_engineering() is compatible with body cells that are of the "numeric" or "integer" types. Any other types of body cells are ignored during formatting. This is to say that cells of incompatible data types may be targeted, but there will be no attempt to format them.

Compatibility of arguments with the from_column() helper function

from_column() can be used with certain arguments of fmt_engineering() to obtain varying parameter values from a specified column within the table. This means that each row could be formatted a little bit differently. These arguments provide support for from_column():

  • decimals

  • drop_trailing_zeros

  • drop_trailing_dec_mark

  • scale_by

  • exp_style

  • pattern

  • sep_mark

  • dec_mark

  • force_sign_m

  • force_sign_n

  • locale

Please note that for all of the aforementioned arguments, a from_column() call needs to reference a column that has data of the correct type (this is different for each argument). Additional columns for parameter values can be generated with cols_add() (if not already present). Columns that contain parameter data can also be hidden from final display with cols_hide(). Finally, there is no limitation to how many arguments the from_column() helper is applied so long as the arguments belong to this closed set.

Adapting output to a specific locale

This formatting function can adapt outputs according to a provided locale value. Examples include "en" for English (United States) and "fr" for French (France). The use of a valid locale ID here means separator and decimal marks will be correct for the given locale. Should any values be provided in sep_mark or dec_mark, they will be overridden by the locale's preferred values.

Note that a locale value provided here will override any global locale setting performed in gt()'s own locale argument (it is settable there as a value received by all other functions that have a locale argument). As a useful reference on which locales are supported, we can call info_locales() to view an info table.


Let's define a data frame that contains two columns of values (one small and one large). After creating a simple gt table from small_large_tbl we'll call fmt_engineering() on both columns.

small_large_tbl <-
    small = 10^(-12:-1),
    large = 10^(1:12)

small_large_tbl |>
  gt() |>

This image of a table was generated from the first code example in the `fmt_engineering()` help file.

Notice that within the form of m x 10^n, the n values move in steps of 3 (away from 0), and m values can have 1-3 digits before the decimal. Further to this, any values where n is 0 results in a display of only m (the first two values in the large column demonstrates this).

Engineering notation expresses values so that they are align to certain SI prefixes. Here is a table that compares select SI prefixes and their symbols to decimal and engineering-notation representations of the key numbers.

prefixes_tbl <-
    name = c(
      "peta", "tera", "giga", "mega", "kilo",
      "milli", "micro", "nano", "pico", "femto"
    symbol = c(
      "P", "T", "G", "M", "k",
      "m", ":micro:", "n", "p", "f"
    decimal = c(10^(seq(15, -15, -3))),
    engineering = decimal

prefixes_tbl |>
  gt() |>
  fmt_number(columns = decimal, n_sigfig = 1) |>
  fmt_engineering(columns = engineering) |>
  fmt_units(columns = symbol) |>

This image of a table was generated from the second code example in the `fmt_engineering()` help file.

The default method of styling the notation uses the 'm x 10^n' construction but this can be changed to a 'mEn' style via the exp_style argument. We can supply any single letter here and optionally affix a "1" to indicate there should not be any zero-padding of the n value. Two calls of fmt_engineering() are used here to show different options for styling in engineering notation.

small_large_tbl |>
  gt() |>
    columns = small,
    exp_style = "E"
  ) |>
    columns = large,
    exp_style = "e1",
    force_sign_n = TRUE

This image of a table was generated from the third code example in the `fmt_engineering()` help file.

Function ID


Function Introduced

v0.3.1 (August 9, 2021)