[Rd] Re: [R-gui] Re: [R] The hidden costs of GPL software?

Duncan Murdoch murdoch at stats.uwo.ca
Wed Nov 17 22:34:43 CET 2004

I've moved this response to r-devel, as I think it's more appropriate
there than in r-help or R-sig-GUI.

On Wed, 17 Nov 2004 15:55:11 -0500, "Mike Prager"
<Mike.Prager at noaa.gov> wrote :

>This has been an interesting discussion. I make the following comment with 
>hesitation, since I have neither the time nor the ability to implement it 
>Using CLI software, an infrequent user has trouble remembering the known 
>functions needed and trouble finding new ones (especially as that user gets 
>older).  What might help is an added help facility more oriented towards 
>tasks, rather than structured around functions or packages.
>Such a help facility might have a tree structure.
>Want help?  Are you looking for information on (1) data manipulation or (2) 
>analysis?  If (1), do you want to to (3) import or export data, (4) 
>transform data, (5) reshape data, or (6) select data?  If (2), do you want 
>to (7) fit a model or (8) make a graph?  And so on....

A difficulty is the "moving target" problem.  A lot of the value of R
lies in the contributed packages.  A fixed help system wouldn't know
about new features of packages.

Currently we have the so-called "keyword" categorization of help
pages; those come somewhat close to what you're asking for.  To see
them, run "help.start()" to open up the HTML help, and click on
"Search Engine and Keywords".  One problem is that this requires both
Java and Javascript to work properly in your browser; I think it's
pretty common that one or the other is uncooperative.  (For example, I
can't get Java to work in Firefox or IE.)

Another problem with this scheme is that the keyword list is fixed and
limited, and may not match the user's (or package writer's)

There are also ways to add searchable words to the help topics (using
the \concept markup), but those are new and not widely used.  A full
text search might be nice, but it would be slow without some work in

Duncan Murdoch

More information about the R-devel mailing list