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Revision as of 08:02, 28 October 2013 by Gabx (talk | contribs) (.Renviron)
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R is a free software environment for statistical computing and graphics (http://www.r-project.org/).


Install the r package available in the official repositories

Some external packages may require to be compile in Fortran as well, so installing the gcc-fortran can be a good idea

Initial configuration

Please refer to Initialization at Start of an R Session to get a detailed understanding of startup process. The home directory of the R installation is usr/bin/R. Base packages are found in usr/bin/R/library/base and site configuration files in /etc/R/. Aspects of the Locale are accessed by the functions Sys.getlocale and Sys.localeconv within the R session. Locales will be the one defined in your system.

To start a R session, open your terminal and type this command:

$ R
  • Use Shift+u for the command (some terminals use the r letter to repeat the last entered command). Once in your R session, the prompt will change to >
  • site refers to system-wide in R Documentation

Run help(startup) to read the documentation about system file configuration, help() for the on-line help,help.start() for the HTML browser interface to help, demo() for some demos and q() to close the session and quit.

When closing the session, you will be prompted : Save workspace Image ?[y/n/c]. The workspace is your current working environment and include any user-defined objects, functions. The saved image is stored in .RData format and will be automatically reloaded the next time R is started. You can manually save the workspace at any time in the session with the save.image(image.RData) command, save as many images as you want (eg : image1.RData, image2.RData). You can load image with the load.iamge(image.RData) command at any time of your session.

  • Tired of R's verbose startup message ? Then start R with the --quiet command-line option.

$ R --quiet You can alias R ="R --quiet" in one of your Startup_files

  • Unless explicitly defined somewhere in your configuration files, R will start in your $HOME directory. If you want to start in a specific directory. first time you create the directory do this:
$ R
> setwd(path/to/your/directory)
> q()
Save workspace image? [y/n/c]: y

R will create a .RData image file of your current environment. Then, when double-clicking this file, R will automatically change its working directory to the file's directory.


R can be confusing when it comes to Environment Variables, as they are large and duplicated following the site or user sides. There are two sorts of files used in startup: environment files, defined by $R_ENVIRON and profile files, defined by $R_PROFILE.

Most important variables can be found on Environment Variables R Documentation].


At startup, R search at early stage for site and user .Renviron files to process for setting Environment_Variables. The site file is located in /etc/R, and generated by configure.

The name of the user file can be specified by the R_ENVIRON_USER Environment_Variables. If you don't specify any file, R will automatically read .Renviron in your home directory if there is one. In case you want to use another emplacement for this file, append this line export R_ENVIRON_USER ="path/to/.Renviron" in one of your Startup_files. This is the place to set all kind of environment variables using the R syntax.


Then R searches for the site-wilde Rprofile.site defined by the R_PROFILE Environment_Variables. This file does not exist after a fresh installation. Finally, R seraches for user R_PROFILE_USER. if unset, a file called .Rprofile is searched for in the current directory, returned by the R command > getwd() or in the user's home directory. This is the place to put all your custom R code.

Installing R packages

There are many add-on R packages, which can be browsed on The R Website.. They can be installed from within R using the install.packages(pkgname) command. R can install its packages locally as per user local settings or system wide.

Within your R session, run this command to check that your user library exists and is set correctly:

> Sys.getenv("R_LIBS_USER")
[1] "/path/to/directory/R/packages"

Installation within your R session is the safest way and won't conflict with the pacman package management, but there is another method to install packages. Run the following command in your terminal:

$ R CMD INSTALL -l $R_LIBS_USER pkg1 pkg2 ...

Upgrading R packages

> update.packages(ask=FALSE)

Or when you also need to rebuild packages which were built for an older version:

> update.packages(ask=FALSE,checkBuilt=TRUE)

Configuration files

The two user configuration files you want in your home folder are .Renviron and Rprofile.r. If you want to keep your $HOME directory as clean as possible, a good practice will be to make the ~/.config/r directory, put the Rprofile.r file at the root of the directory and append all your R code in this file.


Here is a very basic .Renviron you can start with:

"R_HOME_USER" = "/path/to/your/r/directory")
"R_PROFILE_USER" = "${HOME}/.config/r/Rprofile.r")
"R_LIBS_USER" = "/path/to/your/r/library")
"R_HISTFILE" = "/path/to/your/filename.Rhistory")   # Do not forget to append the .Rhistory


For convenient reasons, you can put a specific Rprofile.r in each of your usual working directories. One facility would be to dedicate one directory per project, with its specific profile. When R will change to the working directory, it will then read the Rprofile.r file inside it.

Here is a very short list of useful options and code:

options(prompt = paste(paste (Sys.info () [c ("user", "nodename")], collapse = "@"),"[R] "))  # customize your R prompt with username and hostname in this format: user@hostname [R]
options(digits = 4)                                                                           # number of digits to print
options(stringsAsFactors = FALSE)
options(show.signif.stars = FALSE)
error = quote(dump.frames("${R_HOME_USER}/testdump", TRUE))                                   # post-mortem debugiging facilities

You can add more global options to customize your R environment.

Adding a graphical frontend to R

The linux version of R does not include a graphical user interface. However, third-party user interfaces for R are available, such as R commander and RKWard.

R Commander frontend

R Commander is a popular user interface to R. There is no Arch linux package available to install R commander, but it is an R package so it can be installed easily from within R. R Commander requires Tk:

# pacman -S tk

To install R Commander, run 'R' from the command line. Then type:

> install.packages("Rcmdr", dependencies=TRUE)

This can take some time.

You can then start R Commander from within R using the library command:

> library("Rcmdr")

RKWard frontend

RKWard is an open-source frontend which allows for data import and browsing as well as running common statistical tests and plots. You can install rkwardAUR from AUR.

Rstudio IDE

RStudio an open-source R IDE. It includes many modern conveniences such as parentheses matching, tab-completion, tool-tip help popups, and a spreadsheet-like data viewer.

Install rstudio-desktop-binAUR (binary version from the Rstudio project website) or rstudio-desktop-gitAUR (development version) from AUR.

The R library path is often configured with the R_LIBS environment variable. RStudio ignores this, so the user must set R_LIBS_USER in ~/.Renviron, as documented above.