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R is a free software environment for statistical computing and graphics (http://www.r-project.org/).


Basic package

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

Optimized package

The numerical libraries that comes with the R (generic blas, LAPACK) do not have multithreading capabilities. If your processors are Intel, it is strongly advise to use the Intel math Kernel Library. The MKL, beyond the capabilities of multithreading, also has specific optimizations for Intel processors, with performance far superior to traditional libraries.

Please first Install the intel-mklAUR package available from AUR, then the r-mklAUR package.

Note: if you install the r-mklAUR with R already installed, you will be prompted to remove R. Once r-mkl is installed, please run on R console the following command :

> update.packages(checkBuilt=TRUE)

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.


Lines in Renviron file should be either comment lines starting with # or lines of the form name=value.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. See this post for more user configurations.

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.