[R] A comment about R:

François Pinard pinard at iro.umontreal.ca
Wed Jan 4 22:54:58 CET 2006

[Jonathan Baron]

>> [the current reference manual] 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.

>I think that many search facilities are helpful here: [...]
>help.search() [...] >2. RSiteSearch() [...]

Sure they are!  Yet, we do not all learn or work the same way.  Given
full choice, I prefer reading a reference than go fish for information,
as this tends to build stronger information nets within my brain :-).

>I doubt that the sort of manual you describe is possible given the very
>rapid growth of CRAN, and it would be really inadequate if it did not
>include those packages.

The current reference manual does not cover CRAN, and even if it does 
not, I would not be tempted to qualify it as inadequate (at least for 
the novice I am).  There seems to be a lot to know about R, initially 
"as a language", and then, for learning to shuffle and organise data in 
preparation for later processing.  I would guess every new R user has to 
learn his way in there.  The current reference says a lot, but is big to 
grasp as it stands, its organisation is not as helpful as it could for 
learning and retaining.

The kind of manual I described seems possible to me, because it could be
mechanically derived out of a plan, and the derivation mechanics could
diagnose what is being forgotten (this could even yield some "Unsorted
functions" chapter or appendix).  The mechanic could be made general
enough to accept glue text at appropriate places.  [Not completely
dissimilar to, for those who happen to remember it, the way C code was
mechanically derived out of Pascal, initially, for Knuth's TeX.]

>Many of [CRAN packages] are designed for people in particular fields
>and turn out to be extremely useful.

Undoubtedly!  I envy you all, who know already! :-)

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

More information about the R-help mailing list