RStudio: a cut above

March 1, 2011
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As most followers of R-bloggers.com and the Twitter #rstats know by now, RStudio is a new open-source IDE for R that was beta-released yesterday. I have started putting it through its paces within my R workflow, and my impressions are more than favorable. I also tried it out on my home Linux server in server mode.

RStudio is obviously designed by people who actually use R and code in R for their data analyses. The basic components of the IDE are clean, switching panes is a breeze, and some features are really useful.

My current highlights are:

  • Easy installation on Mac and Linux, as well as on a Ubuntu server.
  • A “packages” pane by which you can checkbox the packages you want loaded
  • Easy installation of new packages (with auto-completion of package names)
  • An integrated help functionality using the web docs that keeps things in one window and compact
  • A quick, light feel to the IDE. I was specially impressed with how well the server version works, and how similar it remains to the desktop version.
  • Easy exporting of plots to PNG and PDF.
  • True to the spirit of community and quick responses in the R ecosystem, I have received very quick responses from RStudio on queries and feedback.

A wishlist would include:

  • Some more keyboard shortcuts, or a way to create customizable shortcuts. Given the source is on github, I’m sure someone will figure this one out. Specifically, a shortcut for Sweave compilation
  • A shortcut for “<-”. Gotten too used to that in both ESS and TextMate
  • Some debugging functionality. Once again I’m sure this is on the list

This is a well conceived beta release, and with  a few tweaks and suggestions from the R users, I think the final 1.0 release will be very successful. I now know what to suggest as a R IDE to my friends without any hesitation.

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