The Epic Search for the Perfect R Text Editor

May 8, 2012

(This article was first published on Frank Davenport's Blog on R, Statistics, and all Things Spatial - R, and kindly contributed to R-bloggers)


I can never seem to get exactly what I want from an R text editor. Let me correct that, I can never seem to get exactly what I want from an R text editor on a MAC. I used to use Tinn-R  which met most  my needs:

  • Free,lightweight with an easy install and a slim UI
  • Good commenting and code folding tools
  • Customizable short cuts
  • Support for multiple monitors
  • An R console that was separate from the editor
  • A flexible, simple, and powerful Find and Replace Interface
  •  Good SWeave support with some built in LaTeX tools


When I made the switch to Mac I went with StatET  on Eclipse   StatET has more or less all those things, but it is not simple or straightforward (or maybe just Eclipse is too complex for me). It also has somewhat lousy graphics support and does not allow for fuzzy help searches (??’help’). However, it worked so I’ve been using it. But I just upgraded to R 2.15 and the built in graphics driver (and a few other options) no longer work.  I was never that attached to StatET anyway because the Eclipse environment is just too complex for my needs.


I really like R Studio  but it’s missing some very key features:

  • The ability to Find and Replace on a selection, rather than the whole document, plus general ‘fancy’ text editing find and replace tools
  • Multiple monitor support (I’d like to be able to detach one of the panes and move them to another monitor)
  • Customizable shortcuts
  • The ability to restart the R console without restarting the editor (this I can live without, but it’s nice to have)


So what else is out there? Maybe it’s time to try TextMate? In general I prefer free and cross platform, but I can make exceptions.

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