How to Install R Kernel for Jupyter on Mac OS X

[This article was first published on Data Science Riot!, and kindly contributed to R-bloggers]. (You can report issue about the content on this page here)
Want to share your content on R-bloggers? click here if you have a blog, or here if you don't.

IPython is a great tool for developers, particularly for R programmers who are accustomed to the luxury of running blocks of code during development. The ability to add an R kernel to the IPython environment gives one the ability to run Python and R side-by-side in the same programming environment.

Update: This install method is less involved

Get zmq dependencies. Note: Make sure you’ve got Xcode installed.

If you use Homebrew:

xcode-select --install 
brew install zmq

Or, if you use MacPorts

sudo port install zmq
export CPATH=/opt/local/include 
export LIBRARY_PATH=/opt/local/lib

Next, fire up R, install from source and start your kernel.

                 repos = c('', getOption('repos')), type = 'source')
IRkernel::installspec(user = FALSE)

That should work. If not, the instructions below show you how to clone the IRkernel GitHub repo and install from source on your local machine.

My original method: If the above method doesn’t work, you may have more luck here.

If you use Homebrew:

brew install libzmq3
brew install czmq zmq

Assuming that those libraries brewed without any errors, start R in your terminal by typing “R” or fire up R-Studio. Install these three packages. Note, it may be a good idea to install them one at a time. Note, since the rzmq package includes dependencies, we’ll be cloning the GitHub repo and installing it locally.

git clone --recursive

Make sure to place the file in your R working directory. Then in R:






At this point the R kernel should work (in theory) by executing the installspec() function from your new IRkernel package but…

In my case, installspec() wouldn’t fire up, so I did a little detective work. Run the following command in R to find the path IRkernel is hitting.

print(system.file("kernelspec", package = "IRkernel"))

Chances are the package is sending the R kernel to somewhere like “/Library/Frameworks/R.framework/Versions/3.1/Resources/library/IRkernel/kernelspec”.

If that is the case, then you’ve quickly found the problem that took me hours of detective work to track down.

In that case, there is a simple work-around. In your terminal type:

ipython kernelspec install --replace --name ir --user /Library/Frameworks/R.framework/Versions/3.1/Resources/library/IRkernel/kernelspec

After you run that in terminal, go back into R and run:



At this point you should be set to go. Fire up your terminal one more time, throw the IPython command and keep your fingers crossed!

ipython notebook

My environment = OS X 10.10, R 3.1, Python 3, your results may vary!

To leave a comment for the author, please follow the link and comment on their blog: Data Science Riot!. offers daily e-mail updates about R news and tutorials about learning R and many other topics. Click here if you're looking to post or find an R/data-science job.
Want to share your content on R-bloggers? click here if you have a blog, or here if you don't.

Never miss an update!
Subscribe to R-bloggers to receive
e-mails with the latest R posts.
(You will not see this message again.)

Click here to close (This popup will not appear again)