R is many things: a programming language, a statistical processing environment, a way to solve problems, and a collection of helpful tools to make your life easier. The one thing that R is not is an application, which means that you have the freedom of selecting your own editing tools to interact with R.
If you use the Microsoft Windows operating system, R includes a basic editor called RGui (short for R graphical user interface).
RStudio offers a richer editing environment than RGui and makes some common tasks easier and more fun. Also, RStudio runs on Windows, Mac OS and Unix. For this reason, we recommend RStudio as a very good option to get started with R.
Among the many freedoms that R offers you is the freedom to choose your own code editor and development environment, so you don’t have to use the standard R editors or RStudio. Here are a few other options:
- Eclipse StatET: Eclipse, another powerful integrated development environment, has a R add-in called StatET. If you’ve done software development on large projects, you may find this add-on for Eclipse useful. Note that Eclipse requires you to install Java on your computer.
- Emacs Speaks Statistics: Emacs, a powerful text and code editor, is widely used in the Linux world and also is available for Windows. It has a statistics add-in called Emacs Speaks Statistics (ESS), which is famous for having keyboard shortcuts for just about everything you could possibly do and for its very loyal fan base. If you’re a programmer coming from the Linux world, this editor may be a good choice for you.
- Tinn-R: This editor, developed specifically for working with R, is available only for Windows. It has some nice features for setting up collections of R scripts in projects. Tinn-R is easy to install and use, but no longer seems under active development. You may find RStudio a better choice.