Getting started with R

About R

R is a statistical analysis and graphics environment and also a programming language. It is command driven and very similar to the commercially-produced S-Plus® software. R is known for its professional looking graphics, which allow complete customisation.

R is open source software and free to install under the GNU general public license. It is written and maintained by a group of volunteers known as the R core team.

The base software is supplemented by over three thousand add-on packages developed by R users all over the world, many of whom belong to the academic community. These packages cover a broad range of statistical techniques including some of the most recently developed and niche purpose. Anyone can contribute add-on packages, which are checked for quality before they are added to the collection.

At the time of writing, the current version of R is 2.15.

Downloading and installing R

The R software is freely available from the R website. Windows® and Mac® users should follow the instructions below to download the installation file:

    1. Go to the R project website at
    2. Follow the link to ‘CRAN’ (on the left-hand side).
    3. You will be taken to a list of sites that host the R installation files (mirror sites). Select a site close to your location.
    4. Select your operating system. There are installation files available for the Windows, Mac and Linux® operating systems.
    5. If downloading R for Windows, you will be asked to select from the ‘base’ or ‘contrib’ distributions. Select the ‘base’ distribution.
    6. Follow the link to download the R installation file and save the file to a suitable location on your machine.

To install R for the Windows and Mac OS environments, open the installation file and follow the instructions given by the set-up wizard as you would for any other piece of Windows-based software. You will be given the option of customising the installation, but if you are new to R I recommend that you use the standard installation settings. If you are installing R on a networked computer, you may need to contact your system administrator to obtain permission before performing the installation.

For Linux users, the simplest way to install R is via the package manager. You can find R by searching for r-base-core. Detailed installation instructions are available in the same location as the installation files.

If you have the required technical knowledge then you can also compile the software from the source code. An in-depth guide can be found at:

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