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How to reindex Pandas dataframe

Understanding DataFrames in Pandas

Before we dive into the process of reindexing a DataFrame in Pandas, let's first understand what a DataFrame is. Think of a DataFrame as a table, much like one you might create in a spreadsheet program such as Microsoft Excel. This table is composed of rows and columns, where each row represents a record and each column represents a particular attribute or feature of the record.

In Pandas, a DataFrame is a central data structure that allows you to store and manipulate data in a tabular format. It is built on top of the NumPy library, which is a package for scientific computing in Python. One of the many things you can do with a DataFrame is change the order of the rows, or even add and remove rows, which is where reindexing comes into play.

What is Reindexing?

Reindexing in Pandas is akin to rearranging or reorganizing the rows of your DataFrame. Imagine you have a bookshelf organized by the color of the book spines, but you decide that it would be more useful to organize it by author name instead. Reindexing your bookshelf would involve taking the books off and placing them back in the order that corresponds to the authors' names. Similarly, reindexing a DataFrame changes the order of the rows based on a new index that you provide.

Why Reindex a DataFrame?

There are several reasons why you might want to reindex a DataFrame:

  • To conform with another DataFrame: Sometimes, you may need to align two datasets that have the same columns but different row orders.
  • To fill in missing data: Reindexing allows you to insert missing rows in a DataFrame and fill them with NaN (Not a Number) or other values.
  • To shuffle your data: In data analysis, it's common to shuffle your data to ensure that the order of the rows does not affect the analysis.

The Basics of Reindexing

To reindex a DataFrame, you use the .reindex() method. This method takes a list of index labels and returns a new DataFrame that conforms to the new index. Let's look at a simple example:

import pandas as pd

# Create a DataFrame
df = pd.DataFrame({
    'A': [1, 2, 3],
    'B': [4, 5, 6]
}, index=['a', 'b', 'c'])

# Reindex the DataFrame
new_index = ['c', 'a', 'b']
df_reindexed = df.reindex(new_index)


In this example, we have a DataFrame df with three rows and an index of ['a', 'b', 'c']. We then create a new index ['c', 'a', 'b'] and pass it to the .reindex() method. The resulting df_reindexed DataFrame has the rows rearranged to match the new index.

Handling Missing Values

When you reindex a DataFrame, you may end up with index labels that do not match any existing row index. In such cases, Pandas fills in the missing rows with NaN values by default. However, you can specify how to handle missing values using the fill_value parameter:

# Reindex the DataFrame with a new index that includes a non-existing label
new_index = ['c', 'a', 'b', 'd']
df_reindexed = df.reindex(new_index, fill_value=0)


In the code above, the new index includes 'd', which does not exist in the original DataFrame. By setting fill_value=0, we tell Pandas to fill in the missing row with zeros instead of NaN.

Advanced Reindexing Techniques

Sometimes, you may want to perform more complex reindexing operations, such as forward-filling or backward-filling data. This is often used in time series data where you want to fill in missing time periods with the last known value (forward-fill) or the next known value (backward-fill).

# Create a DataFrame with a date range index
dates = pd.date_range('2023-01-01', periods=6, freq='D')
df = pd.DataFrame({
    'temperature': [30, 35, np.nan, np.nan, 40, 42],
}, index=dates)

# Reindex with a new date range that includes missing dates
new_dates = pd.date_range('2023-01-01', periods=8, freq='D')
df_reindexed = df.reindex(new_dates, method='ffill')


In this example, we have temperature readings for certain days, with some days missing. We create a new date range that includes all days and use the method='ffill' parameter to forward-fill the missing temperature readings.

Reindexing Columns

Just as you can reindex the rows of a DataFrame, you can also reindex its columns using the columns parameter:

# Create a DataFrame
df = pd.DataFrame({
    'A': [1, 2, 3],
    'B': [4, 5, 6],
    'C': [7, 8, 9]

# Reindex the columns
new_columns = ['B', 'C', 'A', 'D']
df_reindexed = df.reindex(columns=new_columns)


Here, we have a DataFrame with columns 'A', 'B', and 'C'. We create a new column order that includes a non-existing column 'D'. The resulting DataFrame has columns rearranged and the non-existing column filled with NaN.

Intuition and Analogies

To better understand reindexing, imagine you're organizing a music playlist. You have a list of songs in a particular order, but you decide to change the order based on mood or genre. Reindexing your playlist would involve rearranging the songs to fit the new criteria. In the case of a DataFrame, the songs are the rows, and the criteria are the index labels you provide.


Reindexing is a powerful tool in your Pandas arsenal that allows you to restructure your data to better suit your analysis needs. Whether you're aligning DataFrames, filling in missing data, or simply changing the order of your rows or columns, understanding how to reindex effectively can save you time and help you derive more insights from your data.

Remember that reindexing is like reorganizing a bookshelf or playlist: it's about putting things in the order that makes the most sense for your current purpose. With the examples and explanations provided, you should now have a solid grasp of how to reindex your Pandas DataFrames and why it can be such a useful operation in your data manipulation toolbox. Keep practicing with different datasets, and you'll soon be reindexing like a pro!