Tutorial: Load and transform data using Apache Spark DataFrames

This tutorial shows you how to load and transform data using the Apache Spark Python (PySpark) DataFrame API, the Apache Spark Scala DataFrame API, and the SparkR SparkDataFrame API in Azure Databricks.

By the end of this tutorial, you will understand what a DataFrame is and be familiar with the following tasks:

Python

See also Apache Spark PySpark API reference.

Scala

See also Apache Spark Scala API reference.

R

See also Apache SparkR API reference.

What is a DataFrame?

A DataFrame is a two-dimensional labeled data structure with columns of potentially different types. You can think of a DataFrame like a spreadsheet, a SQL table, or a dictionary of series objects. Apache Spark DataFrames provide a rich set of functions (select columns, filter, join, aggregate) that allow you to solve common data analysis problems efficiently.

Apache Spark DataFrames are an abstraction built on top of Resilient Distributed Datasets (RDDs). Spark DataFrames and Spark SQL use a unified planning and optimization engine, allowing you to get nearly identical performance across all supported languages on Azure Databricks (Python, SQL, Scala, and R).

Requirements

To complete the following tutorial, you must meet the following requirements:

  • To use the examples in this tutorial, your workspace must have Unity Catalog enabled.

  • The examples in this tutorial use a Unity Catalog volume to store sample data. To use these examples, create a volume and use that volume‚Äôs catalog, schema, and volume names to set the volume path used by the examples.

  • You must have the following permissions in Unity Catalog:

    • READ VOLUME and WRITE VOLUME, or ALL PRIVILEGES for the volume used for this tutorial.
    • USE SCHEMA or ALL PRIVILEGES for the schema used for this tutorial.
    • USE CATALOG or ALL PRIVILEGES for the catalog used for this tutorial.

    To set these permissions, see your Databricks administrator or Unity Catalog privileges and securable objects.

Tip

For a completed notebook for this article, see DataFrame tutorial notebooks.

Step 1: Define variables and load CSV file

This step defines variables for use in this tutorial and then loads a CSV file containing baby name data from health.data.ny.gov into your Unity Catalog volume.

  1. Open a new notebook by clicking the New Icon icon. To learn how to navigate Azure Databricks notebooks, see Databricks notebook interface and controls.

  2. Copy and paste the following code into the new empty notebook cell. Replace <catalog-name>, <schema-name>, and <volume-name> with the catalog, schema, and volume names for a Unity Catalog volume. Replace <table_name> with a table name of your choice. You will load baby name data into this table later in this tutorial.

    Python

    catalog = "<catalog_name>"
    schema = "<schema_name>"
    volume = "<volume_name>"
    download_url = "https://health.data.ny.gov/api/views/jxy9-yhdk/rows.csv"
    file_name = "rows.csv"
    table_name = "<table_name>"
    path_volume = "/Volumes/" + catalog + "/" + schema + "/" + volume
    path_table = catalog + "." + schema
    print(path_table) # Show the complete path
    print(path_volume) # Show the complete path
    

    Scala

    val catalog = "<catalog_name>"
    val schema = "<schema_name>"
    val volume = "<volume_name>"
    val downloadUrl = "https://health.data.ny.gov/api/views/jxy9-yhdk/rows.csv"
    val fileName = "rows.csv"
    val tableName = "<table_name>"
    val pathVolume = s"/Volumes/$catalog/$schema/$volume"
    val pathTable = s"$catalog.$schema"
    print(pathVolume) // Show the complete path
    print(pathTable) // Show the complete path
    

    R

    catalog <- "<catalog_name>"
    schema <- "<schema_name>"
    volume <- "<volume_name>"
    download_url <- "https://health.data.ny.gov/api/views/jxy9-yhdk/rows.csv"
    file_name <- "rows.csv"
    table_name <- "<table_name>"
    path_volume <- paste("/Volumes/", catalog, "/", schema, "/", volume, sep = "")
    path_table <- paste(catalog, ".", schema, sep = "")
    print(path_volume) # Show the complete path
    print(path_table) # Show the complete path
    
  3. Press Shift+Enter to run the cell and create a new blank cell.

  4. Copy and paste the following code into the new empty notebook cell. This code copies the rows.csv file from health.data.ny.gov into your Unity Catalog volume using the Databricks dbutuils command.

    Python

    dbutils.fs.cp(f"{download_url}", f"{path_volume}/{file_name}")
    

    Scala

    dbutils.fs.cp(downloadUrl, s"$pathVolume/$fileName")
    

    R

    dbutils.fs.cp(download_url, paste(path_volume, "/", file_name, sep = ""))
    
  5. Press Shift+Enter to run the cell and then move to the next cell.

Step 2: Create a DataFrame

This step creates a DataFrame named df1 with test data and then displays its contents.

  1. Copy and paste the following code into the new empty notebook cell. This code creates the DataFrame with test data, and then displays the contents and the schema of the DataFrame.

    Python

    data = [[2021, "test", "Albany", "M", 42]]
    columns = ["Year", "First_Name", "County", "Sex", "Count"]
    
    df1 = spark.createDataFrame(data, schema="Year int, First_Name STRING, County STRING, Sex STRING, Count int")
    display(df1) # The display() method is specific to Databricks notebooks and provides a richer visualization.
    # df1.show() The show() method is a part of the Apache Spark DataFrame API and provides basic visualization.
    

    Scala

    val data = Seq((2021, "test", "Albany", "M", 42))
    val columns = Seq("Year", "First_Name", "County", "Sex", "Count")
    
    val df1 = data.toDF(columns: _*)
    display(df1) // The display() method is specific to Databricks notebooks and provides a richer visualization.
    // df1.show() The show() method is a part of the Apache Spark DataFrame API and provides basic visualization.
    

    R

    # Load the SparkR package that is already preinstalled on the cluster.
    library(SparkR)
    
    data <- data.frame(
      Year = as.integer(c(2021)),
      First_Name = c("test"),
      County = c("Albany"),
      Sex = c("M"),
      Count = as.integer(c(42))
    )
    
    df1 <- createDataFrame(data)
    display(df1) # The display() method is specific to Databricks notebooks and provides a richer visualization.
    # head(df1) The head() method is a part of the Apache SparkR DataFrame API and provides basic visualization.
    
  2. Press Shift+Enter to run the cell and then move to the next cell.

Step 3: Load data into a DataFrame from CSV file

This step creates a DataFrame named df_csv from the CSV file that you previously loaded into your Unity Catalog volume. See spark.read.csv.

  1. Copy and paste the following code into the new empty notebook cell. This code loads baby name data into DataFrame df_csv from the CSV file and then displays the contents of the DataFrame.

    Python

    df_csv = spark.read.csv(f"{path_volume}/{file_name}",
        header=True,
        inferSchema=True,
        sep=",")
    display(df_csv)
    

    Scala

    val dfCsv = spark.read
        .option("header", "true")
        .option("inferSchema", "true")
        .option("delimiter", ",")
        .csv(s"$pathVolume/$fileName")
    
    display(dfCsv)
    

    R

    df_csv <- read.df(paste(path_volume, "/", file_name, sep=""),
        source="csv",
        header = TRUE,
        inferSchema = TRUE,
        delimiter = ",")
    
    display(df_csv)
    
  2. Press Shift+Enter to run the cell and then move to the next cell.

You can load data from many supported file formats.

Step 4: View and interact with your DataFrame

View and interact with your baby names DataFrames using the following methods.

Learn how to display the schema of an Apache Spark DataFrame. Apache Spark uses the term schema to refer to the names and data types of the columns in the DataFrame.

Note

Azure Databricks also uses the term schema to describe a collection of tables registered to a catalog.

  1. Copy and paste the following code into an empty notebook cell. This code shows the schema of your DataFrames with the .printSchema() method to view the schemas of the two DataFrames - to prepare to union the two DataFrames.

    Python

    df_csv.printSchema()
    df1.printSchema()
    

    Scala

    dfCsv.printSchema()
    df1.printSchema()
    

    R

    printSchema(df_csv)
    printSchema(df1)
    
  2. Press Shift+Enter to run the cell and then move to the next cell.

Rename column in the DataFrame

Learn how to rename a column in a DataFrame.

  1. Copy and paste the following code into an empty notebook cell. This code renames a column in the df1_csv DataFrame to match the respective column in the df1 DataFrame. This code uses the Apache Spark withColumnRenamed() method.

    Python

    df_csv = df_csv.withColumnRenamed("First Name", "First_Name")
    df_csv.printSchema
    

    Scala

    val dfCsvRenamed = dfCsv.withColumnRenamed("First Name", "First_Name")
    // when modifying a DataFrame in Scala, you must assign it to a new variable
    dfCsvRenamed.printSchema()
    

    R

    df_csv <- withColumnRenamed(df_csv, "First Name", "First_Name")
    printSchema(df_csv)
    
  2. Press Shift+Enter to run the cell and then move to the next cell.

Combine DataFrames

Learn how to create a new DataFrame that adds the rows of one DataFrame to another.

  1. Copy and paste the following code into an empty notebook cell. This code uses the Apache Spark union() method to combine the contents of your first DataFrame df with DataFrame df_csv containing the baby names data loaded from the CSV file.

    Python

    df = df1.union(df_csv)
    display(df)
    

    Scala

    val df = df1.union(dfCsvRenamed)
    display(df)
    

    R

    display(df <- union(df1, df_csv))
    
  2. Press Shift+Enter to run the cell and then move to the next cell.

Filter rows in a DataFrame

Discover the most popular baby names in your data set by filtering rows, using the Apache Spark .filter() or .where() methods. Use filtering to select a subset of rows to return or modify in a DataFrame. There is no difference in performance or syntax, as seen in the following examples.

Using .filter() method

  1. Copy and paste the following code into an empty notebook cell. This code uses the the Apache Spark .filter() method to display those rows in the DataFrame with a count of more than 50.

    Python
    display(df.filter(df["Count"] > 50))
    
    Scala
    display(df.filter(df("Count") > 50))
    
    R
    display(filteredDF <- filter(df, df$Count > 50))
    
  2. Press Shift+Enter to run the cell and then move to the next cell.

Using .where() method

  1. Copy and paste the following code into an empty notebook cell. This code uses the the Apache Spark .where() method to display those rows in the DataFrame with a count of more than 50.

    Python
    display(df.where(df["Count"] > 50))
    
    Scala
    display(df.where(df("Count") > 50))
    
    R
    display(filtered_df <- where(df, df$Count > 50))
    
  2. Press Shift+Enter to run the cell and then move to the next cell.

Select columns from a DataFrame and order by frequency

Learn about which baby name frequency with the select() method to specify the columns from the DataFrame to return. Use the Apache Spark orderby and desc functions to order the results.

The pyspark.sql module for Apache Spark provides support for SQL functions. Among these functions that we use in this tutorial are the the Apache Spark orderBy(), desc(), and expr() functions. You enable the use of these functions by importing them into your session as needed.

  1. Copy and paste the following code into an empty notebook cell. This code imports the desc() function and then uses the Apache Spark select() method and Apache Spark orderBy() and desc() functions to display the most common names and their counts in descending order.

    Python

    from pyspark.sql.functions import desc
    display(df.select("First_Name", "Count").orderBy(desc("Count")))
    

    Scala

    import org.apache.spark.sql.functions.desc
    display(df.select("First_Name", "Count").orderBy(desc("Count")))
    

    R

    display(arrange(select(df, df$First_Name, df$Count), desc(df$Count)))
    
  2. Press Shift+Enter to run the cell and then move to the next cell.

Create a subset DataFrame

Learn how to create a subset DataFrame from an existing DataFrame.

  1. Copy and paste the following code into an empty notebook cell. This code uses the Apache Spark filter method to create a new DataFrame restricting the data by year, count, and sex. It uses the Apache Spark select() method to limit the columns. It also uses the Apache Spark orderBy() and desc() functions to sort the new DataFrame by count.

    Python

    subsetDF = df.filter((df["Year"] == 2009) & (df["Count"] > 100) & (df["Sex"] == "F")).select("First_Name", "County", "Count").orderBy(desc("Count"))
    display(subsetDF)
    

    Scala

    val subsetDF = df.filter((df("Year") === 2009) && (df("Count") > 100) && (df("Sex") === "F")).select("First_Name", "County", "Count").orderBy(desc("Count"))
    
    display(subsetDF)
    

    R

    subsetDF <- select(filter(df, (df$Count > 100) & (df$year == 2009) & df["Sex"] == "F")), "First_Name", "County", "Count")
    display(subsetDF)
    
  2. Press Shift+Enter to run the cell and then move to the next cell.

Step 5: Save the DataFrame

Learn how to save a DataFrame,. You can either save your DataFrame to a table or write the DataFrame to a file or multiple files.

Save the DataFrame to a table

Azure Databricks uses the Delta Lake format for all tables by default. To save your DataFrame, you must have CREATE table privileges on the catalog and schema.

  1. Copy and paste the following code into an empty notebook cell. This code saves the contents of the DataFrame to a table using the variable you defined at the start of this tutorial.

    Python

    df.write.mode("overwrite").saveAsTable(f"{path_table}.{table_name}")
    

    Scala

    df.write.mode("overwrite").saveAsTable(s"$pathTable" + "." + s"$tableName")
    

    R

    saveAsTable(df, paste(path_table, ".", table_name), mode = "overwrite")
    
  2. Press Shift+Enter to run the cell and then move to the next cell.

Most Apache Spark applications work on large data sets and in a distributed fashion. Apache Spark writes out a directory of files rather than a single file. Delta Lake splits the Parquet folders and files. Many data systems can read these directories of files. Azure Databricks recommends using tables over file paths for most applications.

Save the DataFrame to JSON files

  1. Copy and paste the following code into an empty notebook cell. This code saves the DataFrame to a directory of JSON files.

    Python

    df.write.format("json").mode("overwrite").save("/tmp/json_data")
    

    Scala

    df.write.format("json").mode("overwrite").save("/tmp/json_data")
    

    R

    write.df(df, path = "/tmp/json_data", source = "json", mode = "overwrite")
    
  2. Press Shift+Enter to run the cell and then move to the next cell.

Read the DataFrame from a JSON file

Learn how to use the Apache Spark spark.read.format() method to read JSON data from a directory into a DataFrame.

  1. Copy and paste the following code into an empty notebook cell. This code displays the JSON files you saved in the previous example.

    Python

    display(spark.read.format("json").json("/tmp/json_data"))
    

    Scala

    display(spark.read.format("json").json("/tmp/json_data"))
    

    R

    display(read.json("/tmp/json_data"))
    
  2. Press Shift+Enter to run the cell and then move to the next cell.

Additional tasks: Run SQL queries in PySpark, Scala, and R

Apache Spark DataFrames provide the following options to combine SQL with PySpark, Scala, and R. You can run the following code in the same notebook that you created for this tutorial.

Specify a column as a SQL query

Learn how to use the Apache Spark selectExpr() method. This is a variant of the select() method that accepts SQL expressions and return an updated DataFrame. This method allows you to use a SQL expression, such as upper.

  1. Copy and paste the following code into an empty notebook cell. This code uses the Apache Spark selectExpr() method and the SQL upper expression to convert a string column to upper case (and rename the column).

    Python

    display(df.selectExpr("Count", "upper(County) as big_name"))
    

    Scala

    display(df.selectExpr("Count", "upper(County) as big_name"))
    

    R

    display(df_selected <- selectExpr(df, "Count", "upper(County) as big_name"))
    
  2. Press Shift+Enter to run the cell and then move to the next cell.

Use expr() to use SQL syntax for a column

Learn how to import and use the Apache Spark expr() function to use SQL syntax anywhere a column would be specified.

  1. Copy and paste the following code into an empty notebook cell. This code imports the expr() function and then uses the Apache Spark expr() function and the SQL lower expression to convert a string column to lower case (and rename the column).

    Python

    from pyspark.sql.functions import expr
    display(df.select("Count", expr("lower(County) as little_name")))
    

    Scala

    import org.apache.spark.sql.functions.{col, expr}
    // Scala requires us to import the col() function as well as the expr() function
    
    display(df.select(col("Count"), expr("lower(County) as little_name")))
    

    R

    display(df_selected <- selectExpr(df, "Count", "lower(County) as little_name"))
    # expr() function is not supported in R, selectExpr in SparkR replicates this functionality
    
  2. Press Shift+Enter to run the cell and then move to the next cell.

Run an arbitrary SQL query using spark.sql() function

Learn how to use the Apache Spark spark.sql() function to run arbitrary SQL queries.

  1. Copy and paste the following code into an empty notebook cell. This code uses the Apache Spark spark.sql() function to query a SQL table using SQL syntax.

    Python

    display(spark.sql(f"SELECT * FROM {path_table}.{table_name}"))
    

    Scala

    display(spark.sql(s"SELECT * FROM $pathTable.$tableName"))
    

    R

    display(sql(paste("SELECT * FROM", path_table, ".", table_name)))
    
  2. Press Shift+Enter to run the cell and then move to the next cell.

DataFrame tutorial notebooks

The following notebooks include the examples queries from this tutorial.

Python

DataFrames tutorial using Python

Get notebook

Scala

DataFrames tutorial using Scala

Get notebook

R

DataFrames tutorial using R

Get notebook

Additional resources