RStudio and Rcpp

November 29, 2012

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

Earlier this month a new version of the Rcpp package by Dirk Eddelbuettel and Romain François  was released to CRAN and today we’re excited to announce a new version of RStudio that integrates tightly with Rcpp.

First though more about some exciting new features in Rcpp 0.10.1. This release includes Rcpp attributes, which are simple annotations that you add to C++ source files to streamline calling C++ from R.  This makes it possible to write C++ functions and simply source them into R just as you’d source an R script. Here’s an example:

#include <Rcpp.h>
using namespace Rcpp;

// [[Rcpp::export]]
NumericMatrix gibbs(int N, int thin) {

   NumericMatrix mat(N, 2);
   double x = 0, y = 0;

   RNGScope scope;
   for(int i = 0; i < N; i++) {
      for(int j = 0; j < thin; j++) {
         x = R::rgamma(3.0, 1.0 / (y * y + 4));
         y = R::rnorm(1.0 / (x + 1), 1.0 / sqrt(2 * x + 2));
      mat(i, 0) = x;
      mat(i, 1) = y;


By annotating the gibbs function with the Rcpp::export attribute, we indicate we’d like that function to be callable from R. As a result we can now call the function like this:

gibbs(100, 10)

Thanks to the abstractions provided by Rcpp, the code implementing gibbs in C++ is nearly identical to the code you’d write in R, but runs 20 times faster.

The sourceCpp function makes it much easier to use C++ within interactive R sessions. In the new version of RStudio we did a few things to support this workflow. Here’s a screenshot showing the RStudio C++ editing mode:

In RStudio you can now source a C++ file in the same way as an R script, using the source button on the toolbar or Cmd+Shift+Enter. If errors occur during compilation then RStudio parses the GCC error log and presents the errors as a navigable list.

When using sourceCpp it’s also possible to embed R code within a C++ source file using a special block comment. RStudio treats this code as an R code chunk (similar to Sweave or R Markdown code chunks):

RStudio also includes extensive support for package development with Rcpp. For more details see the Using Rcpp with RStudio document on our website.

Note that if you want to try out the new features be sure you are running RStudio v0.97.237 as well as the very latest version of Rcpp (0.10.1) .

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