Machine learning made easy

If you use R, you may want RStudio

RStudio is an IDE for R. It gives the language a bit of a slickness factor it so badly needs. The nice thing about the software, beside good looks, is that it integrates console, help pages, plots and editor (if you want it) in one place.

For example, instead of switching for help to a web browser, you have it right next to the console. The same thing with plots: in place of the usual overlapping windows, all plots go to one pane where you can navigate back and forth between them with arrows. You can save a plot as an image or as a PDF. While saving as image you are presented with a preview and you get to choose the image format and size. That’s the kind of detail that shows how RStudio makes working with R better.

You can have up to four panes on the screen:

  • console
  • source / data
  • plots / help / files
  • history and workspace

RStudio screenshot

Arrange them in any way you like.

The source pane has a run button, so you can execute the current line of code in the console, or select a few lines and execute the whole region. They use this feature in Statistical Learning class by Hastie and Tibshirani. There’s a R script for each unit and Trevor walks you through it in a video. Instead of typing each command (which has its advantages) or copy-and-pasting, you just click once.

The workspace shows data, variable values and functions. You can view data in an Excel-like table. The history pane is somewhat underpowered - for example one can’t select a few lines (or even just one) and copy them to clipboard. One can send them to the console and to the source pane, though.

RStudio also has a few nice color schemes, particularly with dark backgrounds. One shortcoming is that the dark ones don’t mix that well with white background for history, help and plots.

The software is available for Linux, Mac and Windows.