[R] Re: The hidden costs of GPL software?

Arne.Muller@aventis.com Arne.Muller at aventis.com
Thu Nov 18 18:50:38 CET 2004

> I am a biologist coming to R via Bioconductor. I have no computer 
> background in computer sciences and only basic undergraduate training 
> level in statistics.
> I have used R with great pleasure and great pains. The most difficult 
> thing is to know what functions to use - sometimes I know that one 
> function is most likely available, but there's really no easy way to 
> get it (yes, even going to the archives and reading the help files). 
> I feel that more examples in the help files would definitely be a 
> good way to fully understand the potencial of the functions. I know 
> how difficult this is to do and how much of a time sink it must be.

Yes, I' often have the same problem when it comes to programming in R (data manipulation, formatting etc ...). When thinking about a solution, I often come up with something slow and complicated. A positng to this list usually reveals a very simple solution thanks to a function that I didn't find when exploring help, help.search and the archives (and thanks to those who give me the hint ;-). However, I don't know how to improve this, i.e. how to implement a more sophisticated help.search. Maybe the keywords in the help files or some kind of free text mining would help - well, maybe this is a bit over the top.

On the other hand, when it comes to the statistics (I'm a not a statistician) and it's minimal formatting of data etc , I think that developing an understanding of the stats itself is the main probelm and a GUI doesn't help very much in for this. Once the basic understanding is there (which one needs anyway, even with a GUI), the rest is not too difficult. In addition I usually need to script the calculations for many different datasets, and again most GUIs are bad in repeating tasks systematically.

I've spent quite some time with learing R (and I haven't stoped yet ;-), but it's devinitely worth it. As a scientists I appreciate it, and since it is a tool that use often, I would not exchange the command-line for any GUI.

This list and the many books and manuals (mentioned in the other postings here) do a pretty good job in teaching R!

	kind regards,



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