reproducible documents/analytics in R: the knitr package

June 26, 2012

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

When I am working in new institutions and I am asking: “Do you have a document management system?” I often get the answer:”Yap, we are using folders” … OKAY. Making analysis, developing applications and keeping an eye on code, data and applications make this even harder as it has to be.
Of course not many institutions are using R and Latex but there is a nice little package called knitr which tries to make this a little bit easier. It combines your analysis and documentation in one single document aka PDF.
I would like to show you a little example:


this will install knitr in R. So lets go straight ahead with an easy example. What you will write is a so called *.Rnw file. This will have the same structure as a tex-file but it will contain R code as well. But prior document creation keep an eye on your settings: In Rstudio you will find an easy dialogue which will control the knitr behaviour:

Rstudio preferences for knitr/Sweave

Rstudio preferences for knitr/Sweave (click to enlarge)

And if you use something like a default working directory check your default working directory in Rstudio as well as it differs from the one you had set using setwd(“path”):

default path setting in Rstudio

default path setting in Rstudio (click to enlarge)

So lets come to the *.Rnw file:

\title{minimal knitr example in R}
\author{R. Klinger}
this is our workflow:
x = 1 + rnorm(200,3,2)
the first two elements of x are \Sexpr{x[1:2]}

plot(x, main="daily returns of asset X", ylab="returns", xlab="days")
abline(lm(x ~ seq(1,200,1)))

Between the “<<>>=” and the “@” you can put your R code. referencing in line using data from R works in our example with \Sexpr{x[1:2]} which will type the first two elements of x in your document directly into one line. If you don’t want code to appear on your PDF you can adjust the “echo” option.
So how to get a document out of it? Store the above code as an *.Rnw file in your working directory, load it into RStudio and press “Compile PDF” or just watch this video:

Isn’t this a cool way to document your work???

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