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I stumbled on to RStudio (an open source IDE ) 2 years ago and felt there was a need for a lot of improvement before I could make a switch from eclipse IDE. As I check out the features of it, I see that there has been a ton of improvement in the features. I went through this book to get a basic overview of all features at once. The RStudio site has a set of documentation pages that looks equally good. The only advantage in reading this book is that all the things about RStudio are organized and presented in a systematic manner.

The features that are appealing in RStudio are :

  • I had come across ipython notebook and loved it as it gave the flexibility of incremental programming. I was happy to see that a similar notebook option has now been introduced in RStudio. You can bunch all your code and the output in one single HTML page. Also there is a site RPubs where you can share your notebook with others.
  • Sweave is tightly integrated and is far more pleasant to use than in other IDEs. With very minimal configuration, you can write Sweave documents and convert in to PDF
  • Came across 2 other modes for creating reproducible research: Markdown language, HTML. The former reminds me of “restructured Text” in Python world. Markdown language is very similar to ReST. So if you know ReST, there is hardly any learning curve for using Markdown language. I think the HTML option of reporting is just a nice to have feature. Frankly I don’t think anyone would really use the option given that there are three other options – Sweave, Notebook and Markdown.
  • For LaTeX/Sweave, one can always use native Sweave driver but weaving with “knitr” gives far more flexibility. In fact this is the part that is most useful to me. While using native Sweave, I had to figure out all many options by reading Sweave manual, but with knitr, they are all readily available. I am going to switch to weaving via knitr.
  • The chunk specific functionality is also very useful if one is creating a huge report.
  • Sync PDF view : Another very useful feature is the toggle feature between Sweave and PDF. I think the first time I came across this kind of feature was in TeXworks. You highlight a chunk and press toggle, you are automatically taken to the relevant part of the PDF. Very useful feature
  • Roxygen2 support for package documentation
  • devtools support and github support

This book is useful in the sense that all features of IDE are written in a systematic fashion. If you plan to use RStudio, it might be better to go over this book as there is a high likelihood of stumbling on to features you might want to use. Reading online hyperlinked documentation has a benefit in terms of massive content but it also has a downside- it is easy to get lost and miss out the essential features. This book helps you get an overview of all the features with minimal distraction.

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