[R-gui] [Rd] R GUI considerations (was: R, Wine, and multi-threadedness)

Gabor Grothendieck ggrothendieck at gmail.com
Sat Oct 15 15:49:04 CEST 2005

The preferred solutions in the post all seem to involve another language:

- tcl to use tk
- Python to use wxWidgets

and other solutions mentioned also seem to involve other languages:

- Visual Basic
- Java (Swing?)

Is there some key missing feature in R with regards to GUIs
that requires interposing another language?

On 10/15/05, Philippe Grosjean <phgrosjean at sciviews.org> wrote:
> Hello,
> Following a discussion initiated on r-devel, that mentions SciViews-R
> and other GUIs issues for R, I would like to make comments (and would be
> happy if these comments would initiate interesting initiatives).
> A big, big problem with SciViews-R is that a part of it is written in
> Visual Basic 6, a M$$$$ language, not supported any more, buggy, non
> transposable to other platforms, etc, etc. Last year, I started to
> rewrite SciViews-R, using much more native R code, which will ultimately
> give what I call a "R GUI API", currently partly implemented in the
> SciViews bundle available on CRAN. That "R GUI API" is a lot of work:
> thousands of lines of code for the full API, and as I said, only a part
> of it is currently implemented. That API is developed with reusability
> in mind: platform-independent, better basis to rewrite SciViews-R in a
> different language, and freely available for use by other GUIs. However,
> nobody seems to be interested by this API (may be because it is not
> documented enough?). Even simple functions like progress() in the svMisc
> package are ignored, although they could be useful to some people. Well,
> I regret this situation, but I don't care much more than that: after
> all, the main goal is to make it the basis of the future
> platform-independent implementation of SciViews-R.
> Now, regarding the rewritting of SciViews-R itself in a
> platform-independent environment (i.e., language + graphical widget),
> this is not undertaken currently for the reason I am not satisfied
> enough with all curerently existing solutions for various reasons. I
> give just a few explanations here:
> 1) R + Tcl + Tk. The tcltk R package is widely available and largely
> debugged. However, there are still problems to make a 100% Tcl console
> for R (look at Peter Dalgaard's attempt in the package, not complete,
> not 100% operational, currently). Another problem: the Tk widgets are a
> little bit old-fashion, and I miss a lot of features provided by more
> advanded graphical widgets like wxWidgets, for instance. However, it
> seems to be the best bet, currently. So, I explore various kinds of
> additions that could make Tcl + Tk a better and more modern GUI
> implementation. Look at http://www.sciviews.org/SciViews-R... the
> "tcltk2" package. In that package, I add "Tile", a series of themable
> and more modern widgets, the famous "tkTable", a tooltip widget, a text
> widget with synthax colouring, a tree widget, etc. + some Windows
> specific stuff that help regarding problems like focusing on a Tk
> window, and communicating with other apps. However, I face the problem
> of installing all these additional widgets seemlessly under all
> paltforms supported by R. For the pure Tcl widgets, no problems. But for
> widgets with compiled code, like Tile or tkTable, this is much more
> difficult... And since I mainly work on Windows...
> 2) wxWidgets. This is a really great, very capable and
> platform-independent solution. I like very much James Wettenhal attemps
> of using wxPython (wxWidgets + Python) through RSPython and the
> experimental wxPython R package. However, it is still alpha, there are
> problems to finalize it, and his author is not continuing its
> development for reasons that are personal to him. So, I am not sure we
> will have a usable version available soon to integrate wxWidgets with R
> and use it for a R GUI.
> 3) JAVA. There is a good R GUI written in JAVA: JGR. Moreover, something
> like the Eclipse platform is a very promizing environment for a
> rich-featured R IDE. JAVA specialists in my University say such a GUI,
> written in JAVA will be relatively slow compared to other solutions.
> However, JGR is a good actual counter-example.
> 4) GTK2. Great widgets... but forgets Windows. I installed and used Gimp
> under Windows. This is certainly the best demonstration on what can be
> done with GTK2 under Windows. I must admit I am very disappointed as a
> Windows user: look&feel is very different, and irritating in several
> aspects.
> So, a long mail to conclude that, if I still haven't started to
> implement the platform-independent version of SciViews-R, it is because
> I am not convinced that any of the currently available R + rich-featured
> and platform-independent widgets solutions available is the one that
> will make it possible to reimplement SciViews-R in a streamless and
> relatively bug-free manner. To summarize, the currently best candidate
> is R + tcltk + tcltk2. I am convinced that R + Python + wxWidgets is by
> far a much better solution, but it is still in alpha development.
> Eclipse + JGR looks promising, and GTK2 is there too, but not enough
> integrated under Windows for me to start using such a solution, as a
> Windows user.
> I don't have much time to dedicate to SciViews-R and to the Sciviews R
> GUI API for the moment, and I will certainly focus on four hot topics:
> (1) developing the actual SciViews-R as a better teaching aid (I use and
> need it for my own courses!), (2) contributing to the development of
> Tinn-R, (3) further integrating R Commander with SciViews-R, and (4)
> integrating Rpad with SciViews-R. However, I will have various contracts
> in 2006-2007 where the development of SciViews-R is a part of the job.
> So, I will have the opportunity to hire one or two developers, and this
> will hopefully speed up SciViews-R development in a directly that will
> satisfy more users.
> Otherwise, I am open to any suggestion, and more importantly, to any
> idea of collaboration with other R GUI developers, as it is currently
> the case with John Fox (R Commander integration with SciViews-R),
> Jose-Claudio Faria (Tinn-R developement and Tinn-R compatibility with
> SciViews-R), and Tom Short (Rpad developments and compatibility with
> SciViews-R). I think it is important to insist on this, in a world
> populated with a myriad of slowly developed, half finished, half
> featured R GUIs, made by people that look too individualist in my view
> to be able of working all together and to write a single R GUI that has
> any chance to be full-featured, well-documented, reasonnably bug-free,
> truly platform-independent, in a near future.
> Best,
> Philippe Grosjean
> ..............................................<°}))><........
>  ) ) ) ) )
> ( ( ( ( (    Prof. Philippe Grosjean
>  ) ) ) ) )
> ( ( ( ( (    Numerical Ecology of Aquatic Systems
>  ) ) ) ) )   Mons-Hainaut University, Pentagone (3D08)
> ( ( ( ( (    Academie Universitaire Wallonie-Bruxelles
>  ) ) ) ) )   8, av du Champ de Mars, 7000 Mons, Belgium
> ( ( ( ( (
>  ) ) ) ) )   phone: +, fax: +
> ( ( ( ( (    email: Philippe.Grosjean at umh.ac.be
>  ) ) ) ) )
> ( ( ( ( (    web:   http://www.umh.ac.be/~econum
>  ) ) ) ) )          http://www.sciviews.org
> ( ( ( ( (
> ..............................................................
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