[ESS] Is html help configurable now?

Martin Maechler maechler at stat.math.ethz.ch
Mon Oct 5 09:18:27 CEST 2009

>>>>> "GM" == Georg Mainik <gmainik at stochastik.uni-freiburg.de>
>>>>>     on Fri, 02 Oct 2009 13:25:29 +0200 writes:

    GM> Hello, Looking for a workaround that activates html help
    GM> instead of the help in xemacs/ESS and I found this:

    GM> https://stat.ethz.ch/pipermail/ess-help/2003-December/001657.html

which is basically 

>> ------------------------------
>> ;; To run R from the *R* buffer and also use html help.
>> ;; rmh 2003 Dec 17
>> ;;
>> ;; Start R with M-x R, then from the *R* buffer, either
>> ;; a. load this file
>> ;; b. eval the next two lines with M-:
>> (setq inferior-ess-help-command   "help(\"%s\", htmlhelp=TRUE)\n")
>> (setq ess-help-kill-bogus-buffers t)
>> ------------------------------
>> At the moment, this file must be loaded each time after the *R* buffer
>> is started.  It can't be run from either the .emacs or site-start.el file.

    GM> Is the this setting still hard-wired?

Well, I think I would not have recommended that solution even
back in 2003, because the   inferior-ess-help-command 
variable has always been "customizable"
[Emacs: Menu "Options" --> (at botton) "Customize Emacs"]

*BUT* as I now find when I try it:
It does *not* work to customize the variable, as "later", in
essd-r.el,  we explicitly set its value to 
  help(*, htmlhelp=FALSE)
which completely counterfeys the whole customization...
.... aargh...

     {ESS-core should work on this; but I can't for the next few
      weeks ..}

    GM> If not, can it be configured in a host specific or user
    GM> specific way?

Yes, in theory:  The R developers have for a long time provided
this customization via R startup settings, since
till and including  R 2.9.2,  the   'htmlhelp' argument of help
has had the default   htmlhelp = getOption("htmlhelp")
and the user or site (or host) specific R startup options could
set   options(htmlhelp = TRUE)  e.g.
{(*) Note that from R 2.10.0 on,  htmlhelp=TRUE/FALSE is deprecated
 and  help_type = "html" (or "text" or ..)  should be used instead.}

As I said above, mostly for historical reasons I think
(when sites had htmlhelp=TRUE default, but the ESS aficionados wanted
 help buffers in ESS, i.e., htmlhelp=FALSE)
we've more or less hardwired   inferior-ess-help-command 
to  htmlhelp=FALSE.

And as said, I think we (ESS core) should change this ASAP,
not the least because the upcoming R version 2.10.0 comes with
it's own little https server and builds html pages on the fly...

Martin Maechler, ETH Zurich

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