It has been more than a year since I decided to give RStudio yet another try (yes, there were previous attempts) and … I can’t live without it today! Nowadays I use it almost 100% of the time when working on R code, but the reason is not just a preference over my favorite editor/environment (vim). In fact, I still like vim much better for editing code. This alone should tell you a lot.
The reason I use RStudio daily is because of all the things it allowed me to do in an easy and helpful way. Here is a brief list.
Working with Packages
In RStudio this is simply trivial. For starters, it’s a few clicks to pull in the latest version of any package from R-Forge. RStudio doesn’t facilitate only the code writing and debugging process, it also provides support for the package documentation. All this has made me more willing to investigate problems and contribute fixes and features to existing packages.
RStudio also enabled me to start extensively use packages in my personal work, something which has resulted in a great productivity boost. This has had been for the longest time on my TODO list, but I never found the willingness to kick it off until I tried it with RStudio.
Integrating C++ Code
As a C++ programmer, I always had the itch to speed up slow routines (loops for instance) by using C++. In RStudio, adding Rcpp support is a single click for a new package and it doesn’t take much additional efforts to start integrating C++ code.
The folks working on this project seems to have captured the most essential needs when working with R projects. Things that I especially like, in no particular order, are:
- The history window with all previous commands and its interface to execute a previous command.
- Integrated source control support: Subversion and Git.
- The graphic device, file manager and help integration.
Yes, you heard it right! It’s a relatively new feature, but I can claim that it already has saved me tons of time. The step by step debugger is as useful as for any other language. Most of the time, however, I end up finding the problems in my code by just looking at the traceback, which RStudio provides when it hits an error.
There is, of course, more but I will stop here. In summary: for me RStudio has been a game changer and I strongly recommend it to anyone serious about R development.
… and NO, I am not affiliated in any way with the RStudio development (except a couple of bug/feature reports) …