using R + ess-remote with screen in emacs

July 11, 2010

(This article was first published on Super Nerdy Cool » R, and kindly contributed to R-bloggers)

Dear list,

I brought up this issue before but a good solution never arised: being able to use screen on a remote server (so if something goes wrong on my side I can always resume that R session) inside of emacs in order to utilize ESS. The closest thing I found to a good work flow was to use ansi-term or multi-term and copying and pasting code in Emacs (ESS only worked nicely with shell-mode; reason at the end). Some would advise to use screen and open emacs inside of that screen, and voila, you have the luxuries of screen (attaching the session anywhere) and emacs+ESS (keybindings, etc). However, I prefer to use one main emacs session on my laptop/netbook (all my configurations are there), where I can have multiple projects and multiple R jobs opened at once.

I would like to share what I have working (for the time being), with the help of Michael Zeller in case others are interested.

  1. Place the following in .emacs:
;; used to send screen keybindings to shell in emacs
(define-key shell-mode-map (kbd "C-l") (lambda (seq) (interactive "k") (process-send-string nil seq)))
(define-key inferior-ess-mode-map (kbd "C-l") (lambda (seq) (interactive "k") (process-send-string nil seq)))
  1. In xterm (or the likes), ssh to the remote server and start screen. Detach it. (Need to do this first as starting the initial screen in emacs shell-mode becomes very ugly with the printing; resuming the same screen session also becomes messy in xterm)

  2. In emacs, M-x shell. Set:

$ TERM=xterm ## give clearing capabilities to shell-mode
  1. ssh to remote server. screen -r to resume the screen session. start R. M-x ess-remote.

  2. Send R code from R source files like before!

  3. To detach or do anything screen related, precede EACH keybinding with C-l. For example, C-a C-d to detach will now be C-l C-a C-l C-d. Yes this is cumbersome, but I don’t imagine screen keybinding to be used much at this stage since we are developing and debugging R code for say a simulation study =].

I would also like to note (for archival reasons) that ess-remote does not work with ansi-term and multi-term because of the inferior-ess-mode command, which stems from comint-mode and inferior-ess-send-input. If you remove this command in ess-remote, you don’t get an error but u can only send one line of code at a time from the R file.

Hope this helps someone out there.

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