[R] A comment about R:
pinard at iro.umontreal.ca
Wed Jan 4 17:04:12 CET 2006
>[...] A few end-to-end tutorials on some interesting analyses would be
I'm in the process of learning R. While tutorials are undoubtedly very
useful, and understanding that working and studying methods vary between
individuals, what I (for one) would like to have is a fairly complete
reference manual to the library.
Of course, we already have one, and that's marvellous already. Yet, it
is organised by library and, within each library, by function name: this
organisation means that the manual is mainly used as a reference, or
else, that it ought to be studied from cover to cover, dauntingly.
The very same material could be organised by topics. Chapters could be
named like "General Help", "Language features", "Data types", "Data
Handling", "Input/Output", "Graphics", "Statistics", and such. The
chapter "Language features", to take one example, could hold sections
like "Expressions", "Statements", "Functions", "Environments",
"Packages", "Execution" and "Debugging". Sections could then hold
current reference pages. References by library and/or by function name
could be stated either in appendices or as a general index at the end.
For those who happen to know it, I find the "Emacs Lisp Reference
Manual" to be a good example for organising, in a very usable way,
a comprehensive reference to a flurry of library functions. When one
needs string handling functions, they are likely grouped together in the
manual, and are likely all present. A tutorial, by comparison, usually
presents a subset, or even a tiny subset, of what is available.
Not me, or at least, not before quite a long while. The overall
organisation of a reference should not be handled by beginners. On the
contrary, it rather requires someone who has comprehensive knowledge of
all the material to be considered.
Just an idea. A good work plan would be to establish a new structure
for a reference manual, and once competent people (or this community as
a whole) agrees on a structure, to develop mechanical means for
generating a reference manual out of the current material. The
mechanism should likely allow for added glue text, about everywhere
reasonable, and for diagnosing any lone, unreachable page in the current
François Pinard http://pinard.progiciels-bpi.ca
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