[R] Newbie question: what are the advantages?

John Aitchison jaitchis at lisp.com.au
Tue Feb 27 06:01:49 CET 2001

On 27 Feb 2001, at 11:03, hzi wrote:

> Hi -
>     I´m a medical graduate student. I´m totally new to R, although I had
>     heard of S before. I read it was GNU free software, and since I also
>     use Linux, I decide to check it out. But I have some doubts regarding
>     R: how does using R differ from using software packages, like SPSS

R is a language for doing data analysis (and other things) .. SPSS, last 
time I used it, was a collection of procedures. 

>     (which is the one I´m used to)? What are the advantages of using R when
>     compared? Is flexibility an issue?

?for R .. no, you can do anything you want .. I guess there are limits, 
but nothing obvious. 

 What about the learning curve? Is it
>     something that is awfully hard to learn?

it takes a bit of time, but there are plenty of examples. Just find the 
documentation on some procedure that you are interested in and run the 
examples .. you will learn a lot

 And the documentation seems to
>     be rather sparse, 

no, I would say the documentation is extensive. All functions are fully 
documented, there is extensive on line help accessible just by typing ?,
help files are searchable, come in a variety of formats, there is a 
reasonably extensive FAQ..

Apart from the manuals and on line help there is 'contributed 
documentation' at


and the mailing lists are archived and searchable.

unless you´re willling to buy a book (no, I´m not
>     some "cheap" person, I´m a student from Brazil - things are not so
>     cheap for me...which is one of the reasons free software is attractive
>     to me). Thank you, Best regards to all.

The 'book' you refer to is probably 'Modern Applied Statistics' which you 
may need if you need knowledge of the area .. have a look at
http://www.stats.ox.ac.uk/pub/MASS3/ .. don't be put off by the fact that 
it appears to be about S .. R being a better S

But if your statistical knowledge is adequate, you may not need to buy the 
book .. certainly you can do simple things simply in R (and complex things 

I'd encourage you to download R, and spend some time with it. You will 
like it.

John Aitchison
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