[R] A possible way to reduce basic questions

Jim Lemon bitwrit at ozemail.com.au
Fri Dec 3 10:48:15 CET 2004

I have been thinking about how to reduce the number of basic questions that 
elicit the ...ahem... robust debate that has occurred about how to answer 

One theme of such questions is "I want to do this, is there a function to do 
it?" These usually receive the:


reply if the respondent is in a good mood. I hypothesize that if those 
seeking a function had a searchable list of all the functions available, they 
would be more likely to discover the answer for themselves. I sincerely hope 
that this would help both the questioners and the answerers and the list 

To this end, I have written a small C program that compiles and runs on my 
Linux system. Given the R library directory as an argument, it builds a list 
of all the INDEX files, then writes an HTML page with a table for each 
package present. As all HTML browsers with which I am familiar can search a 
page for arbitrary strings, this will allow the questioner to search for the 
presence of the term they seek in the INDEX file of any package.

I think this program or something similar could produce a regularly updated 
list of functions available on CRAN, and that list would be easy enough to 
search to encourage anyone who was looking for a function to try it.

It's a bit rough at the moment, as INDEX files vary in format, but I am 
willing to refine the program if those responsible for the CRAN sites would 
be willing to use it.


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