[Rd] R vs. C

Dirk Eddelbuettel edd at debian.org
Mon Jan 17 19:13:36 CET 2011

On 17 January 2011 at 09:13, Patrick Leyshock wrote:
| A question, please about development of R packages:
| Are there any guidelines or best practices for deciding when and why to
| implement an operation in R, vs. implementing it in C?  The "Writing R
| Extensions" recommends "working in interpreted R code . . . this is normally
| the best option."  But we do write C-functions and access them in R - the
| question is, when/why is this justified, and when/why is it NOT justified?
| While I have identified helpful documents on R coding standards, I have not
| seen notes/discussions on when/why to implement in R, vs. when to implement
| in C.

The (still fairly recent) book 'Software for Data Analysis: Programming with
R' by John Chambers (Springer, 2008) has a lot to say about this.  John also
gave a talk in November which stressed 'multilanguage' approaches; see e.g.

In short, it all depends, and it is unlikely that you will get a coherent
answer that is valid for all circumstances.  We all love R for how expressive
and powerful it is, yet there are times when something else is called for.
Exactly when that time is depends on a great many things and you have not
mentioned a single metric in your question.  So I'd start with John's book.

Hope this helps, Dirk

Dirk Eddelbuettel | edd at debian.org | http://dirk.eddelbuettel.com

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