[R] recommended combo of apps for new user?

Duncan Murdoch murdoch at stats.uwo.ca
Sun Aug 19 00:34:01 CEST 2007

Martin Brown wrote:
> [i sent this message earlier but apparently should have sent it plain
> text, as follows..]
> Hi there,
> I would like some advice, not so much about how to use R, but about
> software that I need to complement R.  I've rooted around in the FAQ's
> and done a few searches on this mailing list but haven't quite found
> the perspective I need.
> I am an experienced data analyst in my field (forest ecology and
> ecological monitoring) but new to R. I am a long time user of SPSS and
> have gotten pretty handy with it.  However, I am frustrated with SPSS
> for several reasons:  There's the cost (I'm a freelancer; I pay for my
> software myself);  the Windows dependence (I use Kubuntu as my usual
> OS now, and switching back and forth is a pain); the horrible
> inefficiency when I do certain types of file manipulations; and the
> inability to do the kind of publication-quality graphs I want... I've
> usually ended up using a commercial graphing program (another source
> of expense and limitation).
> I'd like to switch to using R on Kubuntu, for all those reasons.  In
> addition I think the mathematical formality that R encourages might be
> good for me.
> However, reviewing the FAQ's on the R project web site makes me
> realize that I've been using SPSS as three kinds of software really:
> a DBMS; a statistical analysis package; and a graphing package.  It
> looks like moving to R might involve learning three kinds of software,
> not just one.  I wonder:
> 1) What open-source DBMS works most seamlessly with R?  I have seen
> MySQL recommended but wonder if there are alternatives.  I sometimes
> need to handle big data files.  In fact a lot of my work involves
> exploratory and descriptive analyses of rather large and messy
> databases from ecological monitoring, rather than statistical tests
> per se.  In SPSS the data files I have been generating have dozens of
> columns and thousands of rows, often with value and variable labels
> helpful for documenting my work.

I think you won't find much difference in the R interface between MySQL, 
PostgreSQL, or SQLite.  The choice should be made based on the qualities 
of the database (and I don't know enough about the differences to give a 
> 2) For the purpose of creating publication-quality graphs, do R users
> typically need to go outside of the R system? If so, what open-source
> programs would you all recommend?
R is great for this, but you might need to go outside for some 
specialized stuff (e.g. medical imaging).

> 3) Any other software I need to learn that would make my work in R
> more productive? (for example, a code editor).

A lot of people are happy with ESS mode in Emacs.

Duncan Murdoch

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