R (language)

R is a computer language dedicated to statistics and data science . The best known implementation of the R language is the GNU R software.

The R language is derived from the S language developed by John Chambers and his colleagues at Bell Laboratories .

GNU R is free software distributed under the terms of the GNU GPL license and available under GNU / Linux , FreeBSD , NetBSD , OpenBSD , Mac OS X and Windows .


R in a Terminal under Linux.

Project R was born in 1993 as a research project by Ross Ihaka and Robert Gentleman at the University of Auckland ( New Zealand ) 2 , 3 .

Since 1997, about twenty developers form the development team of R ( R Development Core team ). The members of this team have the right to write on the source code 4 .

Version R 1.0.0, the first official version of the R language, was published on 29 February 2000 2 .

In 2003, the development team created the R Foundation for Statistical Computing to support the R project and become a reference point of reference for those who want to get in touch with the R 2 , 5 community . At this time, the language has more than 200 libraries developed by the scientific community that uses R 3 .

In 2015, several important economic players such as IBM, Microsoft or the company rstudio create the R Consortium to support R community and fund projects around the language 6 .


The best known distribution of the R language is the R Project and the Comprehensive R Archive Network (CRAN). There are other distributions like the distribution proposed by Microsoft 7 or that of the Oracle company , Oracle R Distribution 8 , 9 .


The best known implementation of the R language is the GNU R software provided by the R Project 10 .

There are experimental projects such as the Rho project to develop faster versions of the R 11 language .


R with RStudio integrated development environment .

RStudio is an integrated development environment that allows you to work in R, develop new libraries and work with notebooks .

Jupyter is a web application allowing to develop notebooks in Python , Julia or in R.


Community of contributors

R has a very large number of libraries developed by a community of contributors. For example, RDocumentation.org lists more than 12,000 libraries on the Comprehensive R Archive Network (CRAN), GitHub and Bioconductor  (in) in February 2017 12 .

The Bioconductor project alone includes more than 1,000 libraries enabling biostatistics researchers to analyze and decrypt the genome 3 .

User Community

A survey conducted by Rexer Analytics among 1,300 analysts finds that R is the most commonly used software when it comes to working in a company, in the academic world, in public bodies or NGOs, and among analysts working as consultants 13 .

On Twitter , the community gathers around the hashtag rstats 14 . On Stack Overflow , there is a large community around the R 15 tag . There is also an important blogosphere around the aggregator R-Bloggers.


The R Task Views page of the Comprehensive R Archive Network gives an idea of ​​the scope and functionality of the R 16 language .

Manipulation of data

R contains many data manipulation libraries . The developer Hadley Wickham has notably developed libraries Dplyr and Tidyr that define a grammar of data manipulation.

Visualization of data

R contains many data visualization libraries .

The Ggplot2 library developed by Hadley Wickham defines a graphical grammar and allows to combine different graphic layers.

The Leaflet library developed by the company RStudio allows to represent geographic data on interactive maps using the JavaScript Leaflet libraries .


The Sweave language combines LaTeX code sections and R-language code sections to produce scientific publications directly from R.

The language Rmarkdown combines sections of text formatted in markdown and R in code sections to complete reports in the format Microsoft Word or PDF , presentations format Beamer or HTML5 ( slidy.js or reveal.js ) Web pages, complete websites or even entire works.

Web applications

The Shiny framework developed by the company RStudio makes it possible to realize interactive web applications in R-language.

Awards and Honors

This section is empty, insufficiently detailed or incomplete. Your help is welcome!
  • 2015: Silver Medal in Data Visualization Tool category at Information is Beautiful Awards 17

Notes and references

  1. ↑ https://cran.r-project.org/doc/manuals/r-release/NEWS.html  [ archive ]
  2. a , b and c Over 16 years of R Project history [ archive ] on Revolution Analytics Blog (accessed 18 February 2017 )
  3. a , b and c Tippmann 2015
  4. ↑ ” Contributors [ archive ] , on R-project.org (accessed February 18, 2017 )
  5. ↑ ” The R Foundation [ archive ] , on R-project.org (accessed February 18, 2017 )
  6. ↑ https://www.r-consortium.org/about  [ archive ]
  7. ↑ Microsoft R Open  [ archive ]
  8. ↑ Oracle R Distribution  [ archive ]
  9. ↑ Oracle R Technologies  [ archive ]
  10. ↑ ( en ) Hadley Wickham , “Performance” , in Advanced R ( read online  [ archive ] )
  11. ↑ https://github.com/rho-devel/rho  [ archive ]
  12. ↑ ” RDocumentation [ archive ] , on RDocumentation.org (accessed February 17, 2017 )
  13. ↑ ( in ) David Smith , ” R users: Be ‘counted in Rexer’s 2013 Data Miner Survey ” , Revolution Analytics Blog , ( Read online  [ archive ] ).
  14. ↑ https://twitter.com/hashtag/rstats?lang=en  [ archive ]
  15. ↑ Tag R  [ archive ] on Stack Overflow, but also on the parent site dedicated to statistics, Cross Validated  [ archive ]
  16. ↑ https://cran.r-project.org/web/views/  [ archive ]
  17. ↑ ” R [ archive ] , on Information is Beautiful Awards (accessed February 26, 2017 )