Fix Python – Difference between map, applymap and apply methods in Pandas

Question

Asked By – marillion

Can you tell me when to use these vectorization methods with basic examples?

I see that map is a Series method whereas the rest are DataFrame methods. I got confused about apply and applymap methods though. Why do we have two methods for applying a function to a DataFrame? Again, simple examples which illustrate the usage would be great!

Now we will see solution for issue: Difference between map, applymap and apply methods in Pandas


Answer

Comparing map, applymap and apply: Context Matters

First major difference: DEFINITION

  • map is defined on Series ONLY
  • applymap is defined on DataFrames ONLY
  • apply is defined on BOTH

Second major difference: INPUT ARGUMENT

  • map accepts dicts, Series, or callable
  • applymap and apply accept callables only

Third major difference: BEHAVIOR

  • map is elementwise for Series
  • applymap is elementwise for DataFrames
  • apply also works elementwise but is suited to more complex operations and aggregation. The behaviour and return value depends on the function.

Fourth major difference (the most important one): USE CASE

  • map is meant for mapping values from one domain to another, so is optimised for performance (e.g., df['A'].map({1:'a', 2:'b', 3:'c'}))
  • applymap is good for elementwise transformations across multiple rows/columns (e.g., df[['A', 'B', 'C']].applymap(str.strip))
  • apply is for applying any function that cannot be vectorised (e.g., df['sentences'].apply(nltk.sent_tokenize)).

Also see When should I (not) want to use pandas apply() in my code? for a writeup I made a while back on the most appropriate scenarios for using apply (note that there aren’t many, but there are a few— apply is generally slow).


Summarising

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Footnotes

  1. map when passed a dictionary/Series will map elements based on the keys in that dictionary/Series. Missing values will be recorded as
    NaN in the output.

  2. applymap in more recent versions has been optimised for some operations. You will find applymap slightly faster than apply in
    some cases. My suggestion is to test them both and use whatever works
    better.

  3. map is optimised for elementwise mappings and transformation. Operations that involve dictionaries or Series will enable pandas to
    use faster code paths for better performance.

  4. Series.apply returns a scalar for aggregating operations, Series otherwise. Similarly for DataFrame.apply. Note that apply also has
    fastpaths when called with certain NumPy functions such as mean,
    sum, etc.

This question is answered By – cs95

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