[Rd] dependencies on system packages

Jeroen Ooms jeroenooms at gmail.com
Fri Feb 4 03:31:30 CET 2011

Many R packages depend on some unix libraries that are not part of most
default installations. I often spend a significant amount of time figuring
out where to get the appropriate libraries for compiling these packages,
after they give some vague error of something missing. I was wondering why
there is no formal system of specifying non-R dependencies in the
DESCRIPTION file. If this would be the case, then during the installation of
an R package, the user could be prompted to install required system packages
(if they have appropriate privileges).

So for example:

Package: XML
Version: 3.2-0
Depends: R (>= 1.2.0), methods, utils
Depends-debian: libxml2-dev
Depends-ubuntu: libxml2-dev
Depends-redhat: libxml2-devel
Depends-suse: libxml2-devel

This might make life for many people just a little easier. If they are root
and the package is in their system repositories, than it will install
automatically. If not, at least they know for which package to look, or
request their sys admin to install.
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