R-beta: R and S: Differences to a person who has used neither

Brent Hutto BHutto at IBM.Net
Mon Jun 30 23:31:25 CEST 1997

I've read the FAQ section labeled "R and S", but the differences 
discussed are a bit esoteric to a person who has used neither 
(such as myself, for instance). FWIW, I've also read the article on 
lexical scoping - a bit over my head, frankly.

I would like a modern statistical programming tool to allow me to 
move beyond my limited exposure to SAS and similar packages. After a 
few hours of playing around with R and xlispstat, I've picked R as a 
likely candidate (just can't get used to prefix notation, I guess).

Can someone outline the differences between R and, say, S-plus that 
would be obvious to a person just starting out programming? If I 
stick to R will I be missing out on some "once you see it you've just 
gotta have it" features? Any guidance available is much appreciated.

BTW, I don't really consider "telephone support" or "documentation" a 
la commercial software to be a feature per se. I'm talking about the 
basic capabilities of  the software itself. I don't mind paying for 
what I need, but the pricing structure of S-plus would probably mean 
waiting until I have an "earn a living" type of task to do rather 
than just a desire for learning. Plus it's still old Windows software 
with 8.3 file names and memory limitations (last time I looked, 
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