9  R coding standards

R is meant to run on a wide variety of platforms, including Linux and most variants of Unix as well as Windows and macOS. Therefore, when extending R by either adding to the R base distribution or by providing an add-on package, one should not rely on features specific to only a few supported platforms, if this can be avoided. In particular, although most R developers use GNU tools, they should not employ the GNU extensions to standard tools. Whereas some other software packages explicitly rely on e.g. GNU make or the GNU C++ compiler, R does not. Nevertheless, R is a GNU project, and the spirit of the GNU Coding Standards should be followed if possible.

The following tools can “safely be assumed” for R extensions.

Under Windows, most users will not have these tools installed, and you should not require their presence for the operation of your package. However, users who install your package from source will have them, as they can be assumed to have followed the instructions in “the Windows toolset” appendix of the “R Installation and Administration” manual to obtain them. Redirection cannot be assumed to be available via system as this does not use a standard shell (let alone a Bourne shell).

In addition, the following tools are needed for certain tasks.

It is also important that code is written in a way that allows others to understand it. This is particularly helpful for fixing problems, and includes using self-descriptive variable names, commenting the code, and also formatting it properly. The R Core Team recommends to use a basic indentation of 4 for R and C (and most likely also Perl) code, and 2 for documentation in Rd format. Emacs (21 or later) users can implement this indentation style by putting the following in one of their startup files, and using customization to set the c-default-style to "bsd" and c-basic-offset to 4.)

;;; ESS
(add-hook 'ess-mode-hook
          (lambda ()
            (ess-set-style 'C++ 'quiet)
            ;; Because
            ;;                                 DEF GNU BSD K&R C++
            ;; ess-indent-level                  2   2   8   5   4
            ;; ess-continued-statement-offset    2   2   8   5   4
            ;; ess-brace-offset                  0   0  -8  -5  -4
            ;; ess-arg-function-offset           2   4   0   0   0
            ;; ess-expression-offset             4   2   8   5   4
            ;; ess-else-offset                   0   0   0   0   0
            ;; ess-close-brace-offset            0   0   0   0   0
            (add-hook 'local-write-file-hooks
                      (lambda ()
(setq ess-nuke-trailing-whitespace-p 'ask)
;; or even
;; (setq ess-nuke-trailing-whitespace-p t)
;;; Perl
(add-hook 'perl-mode-hook
          (lambda () (setq perl-indent-level 4)))

(The ‘GNU’ styles for Emacs’ C and R modes use a basic indentation of 2, which has been determined not to display the structure clearly enough when using narrow fonts.)