Introduction into Pandas

Playing Pandas

The pandas we are writing about in this chapter have nothing to do with the cute panda bears. Endearing bears are not what our visitors expect in a Python tutorial. Pandas is the name for a Python module, which is rounding up the capabilities of Numpy, Scipy and Matplotlab. The word pandas is an acronym which is derived from "Python and data analysis" and "panel data".

There is often some confusion about whether Pandas is an alternative to Numpy, SciPy and Matplotlib. The truth is that it is built on top of Numpy. This means that Numpy is required by pandas. Scipy and Matplotlib on the other hand are not required by pandas but they are extremely useful. That's why the Pandas project lists them as "optional dependency".

Pandas is a software library written for the Python programming language. It is used for data manipulation and analysis. It provides special data structures and operations for the manipulation of numerical tables and time series. Pandas is free software released under the three-clause BSD license.

Data Structures

We will start with the following two important data structures of Pandas:


A Series is a one-dimensional labelled array-like object. It is capable of holding any data type, e.g. integers, floats, strings, Python objects, and so on. It can be seen as a data structure with two arrays: one functioning as the index, i.e. the labels, and the other one contains the actual data.

We define a simple Series object in the following example by instantiating a Pandas Series object with a list. We will later see that we can use other data objects for example Numpy arrays and dictionaries as well to instantiate a Series object.

import pandas as pd
S = pd.Series([11, 28, 72, 3, 5, 8])
The above code returned the following output:
0    11
1    28
2    72
3     3
4     5
5     8
dtype: int64

We haven't defined an index in our example, but we see two columns in our output: The right column contains our data, whereas the left column contains the index. Pandas created a default index starting with 0 going to 5, which is the length of the data minus 1.

We can directly access the index and the values of our Series S:

RangeIndex(start=0, stop=6, step=1)
[11 28 72  3  5  8]

If we compare this to creating an array in numpy, we will find lots of similarities:

import numpy as np
X = np.array([11, 28, 72, 3, 5, 8])
# both are the same type:
print(type(S.values), type(X))
[11 28 72  3  5  8]
[11 28 72  3  5  8]
<class 'numpy.ndarray'> <class 'numpy.ndarray'>

So far our Series have not been very different to ndarrays of Numpy. This changes, as soon as we start defining Series objects with individual indices:

fruits = ['apples', 'oranges', 'cherries', 'pears']
quantities = [20, 33, 52, 10]
S = pd.Series(quantities, index=fruits)
The previous code returned the following:
apples      20
oranges     33
cherries    52
pears       10
dtype: int64

A big advantage to NumPy arrays is obvious from the previous example: We can use arbitrary indices.

If we add two series with the same indices, we get a new series with the same index and the correponding values will be added:

fruits = ['apples', 'oranges', 'cherries', 'pears']

S = pd.Series([20, 33, 52, 10], index=fruits)
S2 = pd.Series([17, 13, 31, 32], index=fruits)
print(S + S2)
print("sum of S: ", sum(S))
apples      37
oranges     46
cherries    83
pears       42
dtype: int64
sum of S:  115

The indices do not have to be the same for the Series addition. The index will be the "union" of both indices. If an index doesn't occur in both Series, the value for this Series will be NaN:

fruits = ['peaches', 'oranges', 'cherries', 'pears']
fruits2 = ['raspberries', 'oranges', 'cherries', 'pears']

S = pd.Series([20, 33, 52, 10], index=fruits)
S2 = pd.Series([17, 13, 31, 32], index=fruits2)
print(S + S2)
cherries       83.0
oranges        46.0
peaches         NaN
pears          42.0
raspberries     NaN
dtype: float64

In principle, the indices can be completely different, as in the following example. We have two indices. One is the Turkish translation of the English fruit names:

fruits = ['apples', 'oranges', 'cherries', 'pears']

fruits_tr = ['elma', 'portakal', 'kiraz', 'armut']

S = pd.Series([20, 33, 52, 10], index=fruits)
S2 = pd.Series([17, 13, 31, 32], index=fruits_tr)
print(S + S2)
apples     NaN
armut      NaN
cherries   NaN
elma       NaN
kiraz      NaN
oranges    NaN
pears      NaN
portakal   NaN
dtype: float64


It's possible to access single values of a Series.


This lookes like accessing the values of dictionaries through keys.

However, Series objects can also be accessed by multiple indexes at the same time. This can be done by packing the indexes into a list. This type of access returns a Pandas Series again:

print(S[['apples', 'oranges', 'cherries']])
apples      20
oranges     33
cherries    52
dtype: int64

Similar to Numpy we can use scalar operations or mathematical functions on a series:

import numpy as np
print((S + 3) * 4)
apples       92
oranges     144
cherries    220
pears        52
dtype: int64
apples      0.912945
oranges     0.999912
cherries    0.986628
pears      -0.544021
dtype: float64


Series.apply(func, convert_dtype=True, args=(), **kwds)

The function "func" will be applied to the Series and it returns either a Series or a DataFrame, depending on "func".

Parameter Meaning
func a function, which can be a NumPy function that will be applied to the entire Series or a Python function that will be applied to every single value of the series
convert_dtype A boolean value. If it is set to True (default), apply will try to find better dtype for elementwise function results. If False, leave as dtype=object
args Positional arguments which will be passed to the function "func" additionally to the values from the series.
**kwds Additional keyword arguments will be passed as keywords to the function


After having executed the Python code above we received the following output:
apples      2.995732
oranges     3.496508
cherries    3.951244
pears       2.302585
dtype: float64

We can also use Python lambda functions. Let's assume, we have the following task. The test the amount of fruit for every kind. If there are less than 50 available, we will augment the stock by 10:

S.apply(lambda x: x if x > 50 else x+10 )
After having executed the Python code above we received the following:
apples      30
oranges     43
cherries    52
pears       20
dtype: int64

Filtering with a Boolean array

Similar to numpy arrays, we can filter Pandas Series with a Boolean array:

The previous Python code returned the following:
oranges     33
cherries    52
dtype: int64

A series can be seen as an ordered Python dictionary with a fixed length.

"apples" in S
The previous code returned the following result:

Creating Series Objects from Dictionaries

We can even use a dictionary to create a Series object. The resulting Series contains the dict's keys as the indices and the values as the values.

cities = {"London":    8615246, 
          "Berlin":    3562166, 
          "Madrid":    3165235, 
          "Rome":      2874038, 
          "Paris":     2273305, 
          "Vienna":    1805681, 
          "Bucharest": 1803425, 
          "Hamburg":   1760433,
          "Budapest":  1754000,
          "Warsaw":    1740119,
          "Barcelona": 1602386,
          "Munich":    1493900,
          "Milan":     1350680}

city_series = pd.Series(cities)
London       8615246
Berlin       3562166
Madrid       3165235
Rome         2874038
Paris        2273305
Vienna       1805681
Bucharest    1803425
Hamburg      1760433
Budapest     1754000
Warsaw       1740119
Barcelona    1602386
Munich       1493900
Milan        1350680
dtype: int64

NaN - Missing Data

Playing Pandas

One problem in dealing with data analysis tasks consists in missing data. Pandas makes it as easy as possible to work with missing data.

If we look once more at our previous example, we can see that the index of our series is the same as the keys of the dictionary we used to create the cities_series. Now, we want to use an index which is not overlapping with the dictionary keys. We have already seen that we can pass a list or a tuple to the keyword argument 'index' to define the index. In our next example, the list (or tuple) passed to the keyword parameter 'index' will not be equal to the keys. This means that some cities from the dictionary will be missing and two cities ("Zurich" and "Stuttgart") don't occur in the dictionary.

my_cities = ["London", "Paris", "Zurich", "Berlin", 
             "Stuttgart", "Hamburg"]

my_city_series = pd.Series(cities, 
The previous code returned the following result:
London       8615246.0
Paris        2273305.0
Zurich             NaN
Berlin       3562166.0
Stuttgart          NaN
Hamburg      1760433.0
dtype: float64

Due to the Nan values the population values for the other cities are turned into floats. There is no missing data in the following examples, so the values are int:

my_cities = ["London", "Paris", "Berlin", "Hamburg"]

my_city_series = pd.Series(cities, 
After having executed the Python code above we received the following result:
London     8615246
Paris      2273305
Berlin     3562166
Hamburg    1760433
dtype: int64

The Methods isnull() and notnull()

We can see, that the cities, which are not included in the dictionary, get the value NaN assigned. NaN stands for "not a number". It can also be seen as meaning "missing" in our example.

We can check for missing values with the methods isnull and notnull:

my_cities = ["London", "Paris", "Zurich", "Berlin", 
             "Stuttgart", "Hamburg"]

my_city_series = pd.Series(cities, 
London       False
Paris        False
Zurich        True
Berlin       False
Stuttgart     True
Hamburg      False
dtype: bool
London        True
Paris         True
Zurich       False
Berlin        True
Stuttgart    False
Hamburg       True
dtype: bool

Connection between NaN and None

We get also a NaN, if a value in the dictionary has a None:

d = {"a":23, "b":45, "c":None, "d":0}
S = pd.Series(d)
a    23.0
b    45.0
c     NaN
d     0.0
dtype: float64
The code above returned the following:
a    False
b    False
c     True
d    False
dtype: bool
The above code returned the following result:
a     True
b     True
c    False
d     True
dtype: bool

Filtering out Missing Data

It's possible to filter out missing data with the Series method dropna. It returns a Series which consists only of non-null data:

London     8615246.0
Paris      2273305.0
Berlin     3562166.0
Hamburg    1760433.0
dtype: float64

Filling in Missing Data

In many cases you don't want to filter out missing data, but you want to fill in appropriate data for the empty gaps. A suitable method in many situations will be fillna:

London       8615246.0
Paris        2273305.0
Zurich             0.0
Berlin       3562166.0
Stuttgart          0.0
Hamburg      1760433.0
dtype: float64

Okay, that's not what we call "fill in appropriate data for the empty gaps". If we call fillna with a dict, we can provide the appropriate data, i.e. the population of Zurich and Stuttgart:

missing_cities = {"Stuttgart":597939, "Zurich":378884}
The previous code returned the following output:
London       8615246.0
Paris        2273305.0
Zurich        378884.0
Berlin       3562166.0
Stuttgart     597939.0
Hamburg      1760433.0
dtype: float64

We still have the problem that integer values - which means values which should be integers like number of people - are converted to float as soon as we have NaN values. We can solve this problem now with the method 'fillna':

cities = {"London":   8615246, 
          "Berlin":   3562166, 
          "Madrid":   3165235, 
          "Rome":     2874038, 
          "Paris":    2273305, 
          "Vienna":   1805681, 
          "Hamburg":  1760433,
          "Budapest": 1754000,
          "Warsaw":   1740119,
          "Munich":   1493900,
          "Milan":    1350680}

my_cities = ["London", "Paris", "Zurich", "Berlin", 
             "Stuttgart", "Hamburg"]

my_city_series = pd.Series(cities, 
my_city_series = my_city_series.fillna(0).astype(int)
London       8615246
Paris        2273305
Zurich             0
Berlin       3562166
Stuttgart          0
Hamburg      1760433
dtype: int64