What is R Language?

What is R Language?

R is a programming language and software environment for statistical analysis, graphics representation, and reporting. R was created by Ross Ihaka and Robert Gentleman at the University of Auckland currently developed by the R Development Core Team.

This programming language was named R, based on the first letter of the first name of the two R authors (Robert Gentleman and Ross Ihaka. R can be considered as a different implementation of S. There are some important differences, but much code written for S runs unaltered under R.

R is freely available under the GNU General Public License, and pre-compiled binary versions are provided for various operating systems like Linux, Windows, and Mac.

R provides a wide variety of statistical and graphical techniques and is highly extensible. The S language is often the vehicle of choice for research in statistical methodology, and R provides an Open Source route to participation in that activity.

One of the R’s strengths is the ease with which well-designed publication-quality plots can be produced, including mathematical symbols and formulae where needed. Great care has been taken over the defaults for the minor design choices in graphics, but the user retains full control.

The R Language environment

R is an integrated suite of software facilities for data manipulation, calculation, and graphical display. It includes

  • an effective data handling and storage facility,
  • a suite of operators for calculations on arrays, in particular, matrices,
  • a large, coherent, integrated collection of intermediate tools for data analysis,
  • graphical facilities for data analysis and display either on-screen or on hardcopy, and
  • a well-developed, simple and effective programming language which includes conditionals, loops, user-defined recursive functions and input and output facilities.

R, like S, is designed around a true computer language, and it allows users to add additional functionality by defining new functions. Much of the system is itself written in the R dialect of S, which makes it easy for users to follow the algorithmic choices made. For computationally-intensive tasks, C, C++ and Fortran code can be linked and called at run time. Advanced users can write C code to manipulate R objects directly.

Many users think of R as a statistics system. We prefer to think of it of an environment within which statistical techniques are implemented. R can be extended (easily) via packages. There are about eight packages supplied with the R distribution and much more are available through the CRAN family of Internet sites covering a very wide range of modern statistics.

R has its own LaTeX-like documentation format, which is used to supply comprehensive documentation, both on-line in a number of formats and in hard copy.


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