[R-SIG-Mac] Clear Workspace and .Rprofile

Ben Haller rsigmac at sticksoftware.com
Sun Sep 26 22:53:21 CEST 2010

On 2010-09-26, at 9:21 AM, Prof Brian Ripley wrote:

> On Sun, 26 Sep 2010, Ben Haller wrote:
>> Hi all.  I recently made myself a .Rprofile file, and I have just discovered two oddities with this in the R GUI.  On the one hand, when I do "Clear Workspace" (from the Workspace menu) it doesn't clear out the .First function that my .Rprofile defined, which is surprising.  On the other hand, it also doesn't re-run my .Rprofile, which I would have expected, since to me the point of "Clear Workspace" is to give a fresh workspace identical to the one I get when I quit and re-launch the R GUI app.
>> I don't know enough about the internals of R to assert that these are bugs; but I can say that it's annoying to me that Clear Workspace gives me a workspace in which my .Rprofile stuff is not defined.  What's the recommended way to deal with this?
> I'd say not clearing .First is a bug: the menu item executes
>                [[REngine mainEngine] executeString: @"rm(list=ls())"];
> and that should be rm(list=ls(all=TRUE)).

  Fair enough.

> However, if you ask the workspace to be cleared, it should be clear. The unanswered question is why you are using .Rprofile to create objects in the workspace -- sounds as if you want to put them in an attached environment (e.g. via a package) -- and people normally work hard to ensure that .Rprofile leaves no objects there.
> Beyond that, one could question the need for a 'Clear Workspace' menu item.  It does not start a new session and there are some many stateful variables (e.g. the search() path) not part of the workspace that starting a new session is much more common.

  Well, making a package for what amounts to a couple of aliases and utility functions seems like overkill, and in any case I haven't the faintest idea how to make a package.  I just want a couple of small custom things to always be available for me in R.  I got this idea from a website that showed somebody's .Rprofile file, which defined loads upon loads of custom functions; maybe that other person led me in a bad direction, but it's not immediately obvious to me why doing this is a Bad Idea, and other example .Rprofiles on the web often seem to do the same.  Isn't the whole point of the .Rprofile file to customize your default R environment to fit your needs?

  Starting a new session sounds more useful than clearing the workspace, I agree.  I'd be happy if the "Clear Workspace" menu command morphed into a "Reset Session" menu command, or some such, defined as "give me a session/workspace/etc. identical to what I would get if I quit and relaunched R GUI."  I would actually just quit and relaunch the app, except 1) that's slow, and 2) that closes all my open source file windows, which is a hassle.

Ben Haller
McGill University

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