FDTool: a Python application to mine for functional dependencies and candidate keys in tabular data – F1000Research

Functional dependencies (FDs) and candidate keys are essential for table decomposition, database normalization, and data cleansing. In this paper, we present FDTool, a command line Python application to discover minimal FDs in tabular datasets and infer equivalent attribute sets and candidate keys from them. The runtime and memory costs associated with seven published FD discovery algorithms are given with an overview of their theoretical foundations. We conclude that FD_Mine is the most efficient FD discovery algorithm when applied to datasets with many rows (> 100,000 rows) and few columns (< 14 columns). This puts it in a special position to rule mine clinical and demographic datasets, which often consist of long and narrow sets of participant records. The structure of FD Mine is described and supplemented with a formal proof of the equivalence pruning method used. FDTool is a re-implementation of FD Mine with additional features added to improve performance and automate typical processes in database architecture. The experimental results of applying FDTool to 12 datasets of different dimensions are summarized in terms of the number of FDs checked, the number of FDs found, and the time it takes for the code to terminate. We find that the number of attributes in a dataset has a much greater effect on the runtime and memory costs of FDTool than does row count. The last section explains in detail how the FDTool application can be accessed, executed, and further developed.