R - Quick Guide

R - Overview

R is a programming language and software environment for statistical analysis, graphics representation and reporting. R was created by Ross Ihaka and Robert Gentleman at the University of Auckland, New Zealand, and is currently developed by the R Development Core Team.

The core of R is an interpreted computer language which allows branching and looping as well as modular programming using functions. R allows integration with the procedures written in the C, C++, .Net, Python or FORTRAN languages for efficiency.

R is freely available under the GNU General Public License, and pre-compiled binary versions are provided for various operating systems like Linux, Windows and Mac.

R is free software distributed under a GNU-style copy left, and an official part of the GNU project called GNU S.

Evolution of R

R was initially written by Ross Ihaka and Robert Gentleman at the Department of Statistics of the University of Auckland in Auckland, New Zealand. R made its first appearance in 1993.

  • A large group of individuals has contributed to R by sending code and bug reports.
  • Since mid-1997 there has been a core group (the "R Core Team") who can modify the R source code archive.

Features of R

As stated earlier, R is a programming language and software environment for statistical analysis, graphics representation and reporting. The following are the important features of R −

  • R is a well-developed, simple and effective programming language which includes conditionals, loops, user defined recursive functions and input and output facilities.
  • R has an effective data handling and storage facility,
  • R provides a suite of operators for calculations on arrays, lists, vectors and matrices.
  • R provides a large, coherent and integrated collection of tools for data analysis.
  • R provides graphical facilities for data analysis and display either directly at the computer or printing at the papers.

As a conclusion, R is world’s most widely used statistics programming language. It's the # 1 choice of data scientists and supported by a vibrant and talented community of contributors. R is taught in universities and deployed in mission critical business applications. This tutorial will teach you R programming along with suitable examples in simple and easy steps.

R - Environment Setup

If you are still willing to set up your environment for R, you can follow the steps given below.

Windows Installation

You can download the Windows installer version of R from R-3.2.2 for Windows (32/64 bit) and save it in a local directory.


As it is a Windows installer (.exe) with a name "R-version-win.exe". You can just double click and run the installer accepting the default settings. If your Windows is 32-bit version, it installs the 32-bit version. But if your windows is 64-bit, then it installs both the 32-bit and 64-bit versions.

After installation you can locate the icon to run the Program in a directory structure "R\R3.2.2\bin\i386\Rgui.exe" under the Windows Program Files. Clicking this icon brings up the R-GUI which is the R console to do R Programming.

Linux Installation

R is available as a binary for many versions of Linux at the location R Binaries.

The instruction to install Linux varies from flavor to flavor. These steps are mentioned under each type of Linux version in the mentioned link. However, if you are in a hurry, then you can use yum command to install R as follows −

$ yum install R

Above command will install core functionality of R programming along with standard packages, still you need additional package, then you can launch R prompt as follows −

$ R
R version 3.2.0 (2015-04-16) -- "Full of  Ingredients"          
Copyright (C) 2015 The R Foundation for Statistical Computing
Platform: x86_64-redhat-linux-gnu (64-bit)

R is free software and comes with ABSOLUTELY NO WARRANTY.
You are welcome to redistribute it under certain conditions.
Type 'license()' or 'licence()' for distribution details.

R is a collaborative project with many  contributors.                    
Type 'contributors()' for more information and
'citation()' on how to cite R or R packages in publications.

Type 'demo()' for some demos, 'help()' for on-line help, or
'help.start()' for an HTML browser interface to help.
Type 'q()' to quit R.

Now you can use install command at R prompt to install the required package. For example, the following command will install plotrix package which is required for 3D charts.

> install.packages("plotrix")

R - Basic Syntax

As a convention, we will start learning R programming by writing a "Hello, World!" program. Depending on the needs, you can program either at R command prompt or you can use an R script file to write your program. Let's check both one by one.

R Command Prompt

Once you have R environment setup, then it’s easy to start your R command prompt by just typing the following command at your command prompt −

$ R

This will launch R interpreter and you will get a prompt > where you can start typing your program as follows −

> myString <- "Hello, World!"
> print ( myString)
[1] "Hello, World!"

Here first statement defines a string variable myString, where we assign a string "Hello, World!" and then next statement print() is being used to print the value stored in variable myString.

R Script File

Usually, you will do your programming by writing your programs in script files and then you execute those scripts at your command prompt with the help of R interpreter called Rscript. So let's start with writing following code in a text file called test.R as under −

# My first program in R Programming
myString <- "Hello, World!"

print ( myString)

Save the above code in a file test.R and execute it at Linux command prompt as given below. Even if you are using Windows or other system, syntax will remain same.

$ Rscript test.R

When we run the above program, it produces the following result.

[1] "Hello, World!"


Comments are like helping text in your R program and they are ignored by the interpreter while executing your actual program. Single comment is written using # in the beginning of the statement as follows −

# My first program in R Programming

R does not support multi-line comments but you can perform a trick which is something as follows −

if(FALSE) {
   "This is a demo for multi-line comments and it should be put inside either a 
      single OR double quote"

myString <- "Hello, World!"
print ( myString)
[1] "Hello, World!"

Though above comments will be executed by R interpreter, they will not interfere with your actual program. You should put such comments inside, either single or double quote.

R - Data Types

Generally, while doing programming in any programming language, you need to use various variables to store various information. Variables are nothing but reserved memory locations to store values. This means that, when you create a variable you reserve some space in memory.

You may like to store information of various data types like character, wide character, integer, floating point, double floating point, Boolean etc. Based on the data type of a variable, the operating system allocates memory and decides what can be stored in the reserved memory.

In contrast to other programming languages like C and java in R, the variables are not declared as some data type. The variables are assigned with R-Objects and the data type of the R-object becomes the data type of the variable. There are many types of R-objects. The frequently used ones are −

  • Vectors
  • Lists
  • Matrices
  • Arrays
  • Factors
  • Data Frames

The simplest of these objects is the vector object and there are six data types of these atomic vectors, also termed as six classes of vectors. The other R-Objects are built upon the atomic vectors.

Data Type Example
Numeric 12.3, 5, 999
Integer 2L, 34L, 0L
Complex 3 + 2i
Character 'a' , '"good", "TRUE", '23.4'
Raw "Hello" is stored as 48 65 6c 6c 6f

In R programming, the very basic data types are the R-objects called vectors which hold elements of different classes as shown above. Please note in R the number of classes is not confined to only the above six types. For example, we can use many atomic vectors and create an array whose class will become array.


When you want to create vector with more than one element, you should use c() function which means to combine the elements into a vector.

# Create a vector.
apple <- c('red','green',"yellow")

# Get the class of the vector.

When we execute the above code, it produces the following result −

[1] "red"    "green"  "yellow"
[1] "character"


A list is an R-object which can contain many different types of elements inside it like vectors, functions and even another list inside it.

# Create a list.
list1 <- list(c(2,5,3),21.3,sin)

# Print the list.

When we execute the above code, it produces the following result −

[1] 2 5 3

[1] 21.3

function (x)  .Primitive("sin")


A matrix is a two-dimensional rectangular data set. It can be created using a vector input to the matrix function.

# Create a matrix.
M = matrix( c('a','a','b','c','b','a'), nrow = 2, ncol = 3, byrow = TRUE)

When we execute the above code, it produces the following result −

     [,1] [,2] [,3]
[1,] "a"  "a"  "b" 
[2,] "c"  "b"  "a"


While matrices are confined to two dimensions, arrays can be of any number of dimensions. The array function takes a dim attribute which creates the required number of dimension. In the below example we create an array with two elements which are 3x3 matrices each.

# Create an array.
a <- array(c('green','yellow'),dim = c(3,3,2))

When we execute the above code, it produces the following result −

, , 1

     [,1]     [,2]     [,3]    
[1,] "green"  "yellow" "green" 
[2,] "yellow" "green"  "yellow"
[3,] "green"  "yellow" "green" 

, , 2

     [,1]     [,2]     [,3]    
[1,] "yellow" "green"  "yellow"
[2,] "green"  "yellow" "green" 
[3,] "yellow" "green"  "yellow"


Factors are the r-objects which are created using a vector. It stores the vector along with the distinct values of the elements in the vector as labels. The labels are always character irrespective of whether it is numeric or character or Boolean etc. in the input vector. They are useful in statistical modeling.

Factors are created using the factor() function. The nlevels functions gives the count of levels.

# Create a vector.
apple_colors <- c('green','green','yellow','red','red','red','green')

# Create a factor object.
factor_apple <- factor(apple_colors)

# Print the factor.

When we execute the above code, it produces the following result −

[1] green  green  yellow red    red    red    green 
Levels: green red yellow
[1] 3

Data Frames

Data frames are tabular data objects. Unlike a matrix in data frame each column can contain different modes of data. The first column can be numeric while the second column can be character and third column can be logical. It is a list of vectors of equal length.

Data Frames are created using the data.frame() function.

# Create the data frame.
BMI <- 	data.frame(
   gender = c("Male", "Male","Female"), 
   height = c(152, 171.5, 165), 
   weight = c(81,93, 78),
   Age = c(42,38,26)

R Quick Quide Reference : https://www.tutorialspoint.com/r/r_quick_guide.htm