The new R environment RStudio looks really great, especially for users new to R. In teaching, these are often people new to programming anything, much less statistical models. The R GUIs were different on each platform, with (sometimes modal) windows appearing and disappearing and no unified design. RStudio fixes that and has already found a happy home on my desktop.
I’ve been using it for the past couple of days. For me, it replaces the niche that R.app held: looking at help, quickly doing something I don’t want to pollute a project workspace with; sometimes data munging, merging, and transforming; and prototyping plots. RStudio is better than R.app at all of these things. For actual development and papers, though, I remain wedded to emacs+ess (good old C-x M-c M-Butterfly).
Favorite features in no particular order
- plots seamlessly made in new graphics devices. This is huge— instead of one active plot window named something like quartz(1) the RStudio plot window holds a whole stack of them, and you can click through to previous ones that would be overwritten and ‘lost’ in R.app.
- help viewer. Honestly I use this more than anything else in R.app and the RStudio one is prettier (mostly by being not set in Times), and you can easily get contextual help from the source doc or console pane (hit tab for completions, then F1 on what you want).
- workspace viewer with types and dimensions of objects. Another reason I sometimes used R.app instead of emacs. This one doesn’t seem much different from the R.app one, but its integration into the environment is better than floaty thing that R.app does.
- ‘Import Dataset’ menu item and button in the workspace pane. For new R users, the answer to “How do I get data into this thing?” has always been “Use one of the textbook package’s included datasets until you learn to read.csv()”. This is a much better answer.
It would be nice if…
- indents worked like emacs. I think my code looks nice largely because of emacs+ess. The default indent of two spaces is nice (see the Google style guide) but where newlines line up by default is pretty helpful in avoiding silly typing errors (omitted commas, unclosed parentheses
- you could edit data.frames, which I’ll guess they are working on. It must be hard, since the R.app one and the X one that comes up in emacs are so abysmal (the R.app one is the least bad). RStudio currently says “ Editing of matrix and data.frame objects is not currently supported in RStudio.” :-(
Overall, really great stuff!