formatR: farewell to ugly R code

April 13, 2010
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It is not uncommon to see messy R code which is almost not human-readable like this:

 # rotation of the word "Animation"
# in a loop; change the angle and color
# step by step
for (i in 1:360) {
 # redraw the plot again and again
plot(1,ann=FALSE,type="n",axes=FALSE)
# rotate; use rainbow() colors
text(1,1,"Animation",srt=i,col=rainbow(360)[i],cex=7*i/360)
# pause for a while
Sys.sleep(0.01)}

Apparently it is pain reading unformatted R code, but on the other hand, it is natural for us to be lazy. I don’t care about adding spaces or indent to my raw R code — I’ll concentrate on programming first and format my code later. The R package ‘formatR‘ is intended to help us format our messy R code. Two lines of R code will show you the graphical interface of formatR:

# formatR depends on RGtk+, will be installed automatically
# please use the latest version of R (>=2.10.1)
install.packages('formatR')
library(formatR)
# or formatR()

Then you can either paste your code into the text box or click the “Open” button to open an existing R code file. Click the “Convert” button and you are done!

formatR: unformatted R code

formatR: unformatted R code

formatR: tidy R code

formatR: tidy R code

There are several options in the “Preferences” panel, e.g. you can specify whether to keep comments or blank lines, or specify the width of the formatted R code.

No matter how messy your code looks like, formatR can make it tidy and structured as long as there are no syntax errors in your R code. If you prefer the command line interface, you may want to take a look at the function tidy.source() in the animation package.

Currently there are problems with the encoding of multi-byte characters, and I have not figured out how to deal with them.

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