[Rd] R as shell script

Jeffrey Horner jeff.horner at vanderbilt.edu
Fri Jul 14 19:31:13 CEST 2006

Juha Vierinen wrote:
> Hi,
> I am considering if I should invest in learning R. Based on the
> language definition and introductory documents, it seems nice. But now
> I am faced with a problem: I want to be able to run R programs easily
> from the unix shell, and write scripts that can automatically select R
> as the interpreter:
> #!/usr/bin/R
> cat("Hello world.\n")
> This of course doesn't work, because /usr/bin/R is a shell script.
> I have been able to create a binary wrapper that calls R with the
> correct arguments, which is documented here:
> http://kavaro.fi/mediawiki/index.php/Using_R_from_the_shell
> This still lacks eg. standard input (but I have no idea how I can
> implement it in R) and full command line argument passing (can be
> done), but am I on the right track, or is there already something that
> does what I need?

If you search the mailing list archives:


you can find entries like the following (searching on "bang"):


which implements similar functionality. But I thought this would be a 
fun little (distracting) project, so I created an R wiki page:


with source code describing how to solve this problem by embedding R 
within your C program. Here's the main function:

/* rinterp: shebang support for R
  * Usage:
  * From the command line:
  * $ rinterp filename
  * In a file:
  * --------------------
  * #!/path/to/rinterp
  * cat("hello world\n");
  * --------------------
int main(int argc, char **argv){

     /* R embedded arguments */
     char *R_argv[] = {"RINTERP", "--gui=none", "--slave", "--silent", 
     int R_argc = sizeof(R_argv)/sizeof(R_argv[0]);

     struct stat sbuf;

     /* Setenv R_HOME: insert or replace into environment.
      * The RHOME macro is defined during configure
     if (setenv("R_HOME",RHOME,1) != 0){
         perror("ERROR: couldn't set/replace R_HOME");

     /* Assume last argument is the file we want to source.
      * Ignore other args for now.
     if (argc > 1) {/* don't try and source rinterp binary */
         if (stat(argv[argc-1],&sbuf) != 0){
     } else {
         fprintf(stderr,"Usage: rinterp filename\n");

     /* Initialize R interpreter */
     Rf_initEmbeddedR(R_argc, R_argv);

     /* Now call R function source(filename) */


Feel free to logon to the R wiki and contribute to the page. I think it 
would be interesting to solve this once and for all.

Jeffrey Horner       Computer Systems Analyst         School of Medicine
615-322-8606         Department of Biostatistics   Vanderbilt University

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