Compared to many other languages of equal popularity, there are realtively few development environments for R. In fact, the total number of production ready R IDEs could probably be counted on one hand. That deficiency is a small price to pay to use R and if you’re not already accustomed to using IDEs for other languages, you probably haven’t missed it too much. But RStudio goes a long way toward providing a full-featured R development platform, that, once you’ve used it, quickly becomes hard to give up again.
RStudio has some nice graphical features and the layout is clean and logical for the most part. Functionally, some of the best features are:
- Plot caching (allows you to flip back through previous graphs without rerunning them, making it much easier to review your graphical output)
- Function, object and parameter completion that works even with user-defined functions (see below)
- Shortcuts for quickly drilling down into functions
RStudio also provides version control integration (Git, SVN) which could prove to be very helpful, but I haven’t yet tested it. I can’t speak to how well it works, just that it is available.
In addition to these positives, RStudio has an active support system with developer participation via the RStudio support site.
Overall, I’ve been very impressed with RStudio over the past few weeks. If you haven’t yet tested it, I suggest you give it a try. Given the growth of R over recent years, I think it’s time we expected development tools to mature to the level that they have for other programming languages with similar levels of adoption. The only way that will produce sustainable, mature products is if there is a constant demand in the market.
Already using something else? Feel free to mention your favorite R IDE in the comments.