githubinstall: New R Package for Easy to Install R Packages on GitHub

June 14, 2016

(This article was first published on HOXO-M - anonymous data analyst group in Japan - , and kindly contributed to R-bloggers)

1. Overview

A growing number of R packages are created by various people in the world. A part of the cause of it is the devtools package that makes it easy to develop R packages [1]. The devtools package not only facilitates the process to develop R packages but also provides an another way to distribute R packages.

When developers publish R packages, the CRAN [2] is commonly used. You can install the packages that are available on CRAN using install.package(). For example, you can install dplyr package as follows:


The devtools package provides install_github() that enables installing packages from GitHub.


Therefore, developers can distribute R packages that is developing on GitHub. Moreover, there are some developers that they have no intention to submit to CRAN. For instance, Twitter, Inc. provides AnomalyDetection package on GitHub but it will not be available on CRAN [3]. You can install such packages easily using devtools.


There is a difference between install.packages() and install_github() in the required argument. install.packages() takes package names, while install_github() needs repository names. It means that when you want to install a package on GitHub you must remember its repository name correctly.

The trouble is that the usernames of GitHub are often hard to remember. Developers consider the package names so that users can understand the functionalities intuitively. However, they often decide username incautiously. For instance, ggfortify is a great package on GitHub, but who created it? What is the username? The answer is sinhrks [4]. It seems to be difficult to remember it.

The githubinstall package provides a way to install packages on GitHub by only the package names just like install.packages().

- twitter/AnomalyDetection
Do you install the package?

1: Yes (Install)
2: No (Cancel)

githubinstall() suggests the GitHub repository from package names, and asks whether you want to execute the installation.

Furthermore, you may succeed in installing packages from a faint memory because our package automatically correct its spelling by fuzzy string search.


2. Installation

You can install the githubinstall package from CRAN.


The source code for githubinstall package is available on GitHub at

3. Details

The githubinstall package provides several useful functions.

  • githubinstall() or gh_install_packages()
  • gh_suggest()
  • gh_suggest_username()
  • gh_list_packages()
  • gh_search_packages()
  • gh_show_source()
  • gh_update_package_list()

The functions have common prefix gh. githubinstall() is an alias of gh_install_packages().

To use these functions, first, you should load the package as follows.


3.1. Install Packages from GitHub

githubinstall() enables to install packages on GitHub by only package names.

- twitter/AnomalyDetection
Do you install the package?

1: Yes (Install)
2: No (Cancel)


The function suggests GitHub repositories. If you type ‘1’ and ‘enter’, then installation of the package will begin. The suggestion is made of looking for the list of R packages on GitHub. The list is provided by Gepuro Task Views.

If multiple candidates are found, you can select one of them.

Select one repository or, hit 0 to cancel. 

1: amurali2/cats cats
2: danielwilhelm/cats No description or website provided.
3: hilaryparker/cats An R package for cat-related functions #rcatladies
4: lolibear/cats No description or website provided.
5: rafalszota/cats No description or website provided.
6: tahir275/cats ff


githubinstall() is an alias of gh_install_packages().


3.2. Suggest Repositories

githubinstall() prompts you to install the suggested packages. But you may just want to know what will be suggestions.

gh_suggest() returns the suggested repository names as a vector.

## [1] "twitter/AnomalyDetection"
## [1] "amurali2/cats"       "danielwilhelm/cats"  "davidluizrusso/cats"
## [4] "hilaryparker/cats" "lolibear/cats" "rafalszota/cats"
## [7] "tahir275/cats"

In addition, gh_suggest_username() is useful if you want to know usernames from a faint memory.

## [1] "hadley"
## [1] "yihui"

3.3. List the Packages

gh_list_packages() returns the list of R package repositories on GitHub as data.frame.

For example, if you want to get the repositories that have been created by hadley, run the following.

hadleyverse <- gh_list_packages(username = "hadley")
##   username package_name                                              title
## 1 hadley assertthat User friendly assertions for R
## 2 hadley babynames An R package contain all baby names data from the
## 3 hadley bigrquery An interface to Google's bigquery from R.
## 4 hadley bookdown Watch
## 5 hadley clusterfly An R package for visualising high-dimensional clus
## 6 hadley decumar An alternative to sweave

By using the result, you can install all packages created by hadley.

repos <- with(hadleyverse, paste(username, package_name, sep="/"))
githubinstall(repos) # I have not tried it

3.4. Search Packages by a Keyword

gh_search_packages() returns the list of R package repositories on GitHub that the titles contains a given keyword.

For example, if you want to search packages that are relevant to lasso, run the following.

##           username     package_name                                  title
## 1 ChingChuan-Chen milr multiple-instance logistic regressi..
## 2 YaohuiZeng biglasso Big Lasso: Extending Lasso Model Fi..
## 3 huayingfang CCLasso CCLasso: Correlation Inference for ..
## 4 mlampros FeatureSelection Feature Selection in R using glmnet..
## 5 pnnl glmnetLRC Lasso and Elastic-Net Logistic Regr..
## 6 statsmaths genlasso Path algorithm for generalized lass..
## 7 vincent-dk logitsgl Fit Logistic Regression with Multi-..
## 8 vincent-dk lsgl Linear Multiple Output Using Sparse..
## 9 vincent-dk msgl High Dimensional Multiclass Classif..
## 10 vstanislas GGEE R Package for the Group Lasso Gene-..
## 11 zdk123 BatchStARS R package for Stability Approach to..
## 12 zdk123 pulsar R package for Stability Approach to..

3.5. Show the Source Code of Functions on GitHub

gh_show_source() looks for the source code of a given function on GitHub, and tries to open the place on Web browser.

gh_show_source("mutate", "dplyr")

If you have loaded the package that the function belongs to, you can input the function directly.


This function may do not work well with Safari.

3.6. Update the List of R Packages

The githubinstall package uses Gepuro Task Views for getting the list of R packages on GitHub. Gepuro Task Views is crawling the GitHub and updates information every day. The package downloads the list of R packages from Gepuro Task Views each time it was loaded. Thus, you can always use the newest list of packages on a new R session.

However, you may use an R session for a long time. In such case, gh_update_package_list() is useful.

gh_update_package_list() updates the downloaded list of the R packages explicitly.


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