[R] A comment about R:

François Pinard pinard at iro.umontreal.ca
Wed Jan 4 17:04:12 CET 2006

[David Forrest]

>[...] 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.

>Any volunteers?

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 

François Pinard   http://pinard.progiciels-bpi.ca

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