R⁶ — RStudio Server Client? Make An App For That!

April 7, 2017

(This article was first published on R – rud.is, and kindly contributed to R-bloggers)

RStudio is a great way to work through analyses tasks, and I suspect most folks use the “desktop” version of the product on their local workstations.

The fine folks at RStudio also make a server version (the codebase for RStudio is able to generate server or desktop and they are generally in 100% feature parity when it comes to interactive use). You only need to set it up on a compatible server and then access it via any modern web browser to get virtually the same experience you have on the desktop.

I use RStudio Server as well as RStudio Desktop and have never been comfortable mixing web browsing tasks and analysis tasks in the same browser (it’s one of the many reasons I dislike jupyter notebooks). I also keep many apps open and inevitably would try to cmd-tab (I’m on macOS) between apps to find the RStudio server one only to realize I shld have been keyboard tabbing through Chrome tabs.

Now, it’s not too hard to fire up a separate Chrome or Safari instance to get a separate server but it’d be great if there was a way to make it “feel” more like an app — just like RStudio Desktop. Well, it turns out there is a way using nativefier.

If you use the Slack standalone desktop client, the Atom text editor or a few other “modern” apps, they are pretty much just web pages wrapped in a browser shell using something like Electron. Jia Hao came up with the idea of being able to do the same thing for any web page.

To create a standalone RStudio Server client for a particular RStudio Server instance, just do the following after installing nativefier:

nativefier "https://rstudio.example.com:8787/" --name "RStudio @ Example"

Replace the URL with the one you currently use in-browser (and, please consider using SSL/TLS when connecting over the public internet) and use any name that will be identifiable to you. You get a safe, standalone application and will never have to worry about browser crashes impacting your workflow.

There are many customizations you can make to the app shell and you can even use your own icons to represent servers differently. It’s all super-simple to setup and get working.

Note that for macOS folks there has been a way pre-nativefier to do this same thing with a tool called Fluid but it uses the Apple WebKit/Safari shell vs the Chrome shell and I prefer the Chrome shell and cross-platform app-making ability.

Hopefully this quick R⁶ tip will help you corral your RStudio Server connections. And, don’t forget to join in on the R⁶ bandwagon and share your own quick tips, snippets and hints to help the broader R community level-up their #rstats work.

To leave a comment for the author, please follow the link and comment on their blog: R – rud.is.

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