R version 3 scheduled for April

January 2, 2013

(This article was first published on Revolutions, and kindly contributed to R-bloggers)

Ringing in the New Year, Peter Dalgaard announced yesterday on behalf of the entire R Core Team that the R language will graduate to Version 3 around April 1. This is only the third time that R has incremented its primary version number. Version 1.0.0 (released on February 29, 2000) was the first version deemed stable for production use. R moved to version 2.0.0 on October 4, 2004 once some major language features (the S4 object system) and platforms (MacOS) were established. Version 3.0.0 is scheduled for April 1 this year, and reflects not a major departure from the current 2.15 version, but instead recognizes the establishment of major functionality introduced during the 2.x series. From the announcement:

Major R releases have not previously marked great landslides in terms of new features. Rather, they represent that the codebase has developed to a new level of maturity. This is not going to be an exception to the rule.

Version 1.0.0 was released at a point in time when we felt that we had reached a level of completeness and stability high enough to characterize a full statistical system, which could be put to production use.

Version 2.0.0 came out after strong enhancements of the memory management subsystem as well as several major features, including Sweave.

Version 3.0.0, as of this writing, contains only really major new feature: The inclusion of long vectors (containing more than 2^31-1 elements!). More changes are likely to make it into the final release, but the main reason for having it as a new major release is that R over the last 8.5 years has reached a new level: we now have 64 bit support on all platforms, support for parallel processing, the Matrix package, and much more.

Although many people won't notice the difference, the introduction of long vectors to R is in fact a significant upgrade, and required a lot of work behind-the-scenes to implement in the core R engine. It will allow data frames to exceed their current 2 billion row limit, and in general allow R to make better use of memory in systems with large amounts of RAM. Many thanks go to the R core team for making this improvement.

Also announced was the final release of the 2.15 series: R 2.15.3 is scheduled for release sometime in March. You can read the complete announcement from the R Core Team at the link below.

R-announce mailing list: R version 3.0.0

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