I love RStudio

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Typically if I am working with R I will have a lot of different windows open all at once. I’ll have the R Console (for Mac) of course and a text editor (Xcode or TextEdit), plus there will usually be some help windows to examine particular functions or a vignette in a PDF window, then there will be the plots I am working with and often a browser (Safari) pointing at the Bioconductor mailing lists or ggplot2 website for examples. It can be worse still if I’m using Adobe to edit graphics or interfacing R with another programming language…… Euuuurgggh. So though I have a wide Mac screen I still use Spaces to tile the windows across two or three desktops screens and spend a lot of time switching between screens copying and pasting from place to place.

The best thing that the new RStudio beta program does is rationalise many of these applications into a single Integrated Development Environment (IDE) so that your work is just a lot simpler and tidier. The RStudio window is split into 4 sectors with a text editor at the top-left and the basic R-Console bottom left. The top-right sector however is a tabbed window with both a descriptive workspace showing data, functions or values and their description(size, type, function options). Similarly the bottom right contains 4 tabs for File and Directory management, Plots, Package management, and a Help browser with navigation buttons. For this alone I’m sold on it [You had me at “hello”].

Yet it has a lot of other great features….which I shall now enumerate!

  1. It just downloads and installs as easy as click click click– and of course it automatically uses your already in use version of R.
  2. It’s a simple thing but it is nice to just hit a button in the text editor to execute code in the R-console rather than copy, paste, return, all day long.
  3. The text editor has a tab function completion tool that also shows mini function descriptions- though this is dependent of course on the packages loaded.
  4. The text editor has a proper colour scheme and highlights matching brackets with a blinking cursor- again simple and what you expect from any IDE but oh so useful and so long missing from R.
  5. My favourite feature is the resizable plot export window which show you the size resolution and appearance of the png you are exporting before you export it. R Plot options on size, resolution and plot type have always been a mystery to me so this is really welcome.  Bliss was it in that dawn to be alive!

There are a few minor niggles – but I mean minor (Bioconductor repository is not in the Package repository list, quotation marks in R-Console don’t automatically double up). In short everything about RStudio is elegantly designed- and I’m amazed that this is free software as it is at least as polished as many expensive IDE. I think this is because they are already able to build on many excellent features within R (i.e. the Help pages, Package menus, File and Directory movement) and just wrap them with a better interface. In any case great work…JJ Allaire, Joe Cheng, Josh Paulson and Paul DiCristina




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