Introduction to R (part 1)

Photo by Lukas Blazek on Unsplash

Things to know before learning R

Companies Using R


To Install R

  1. Click the “download R” link in the middle of the page under “Getting Started.”
  2. Select a CRAN location (a mirror site) and click the corresponding link.
  3. Click on the “Download R for (Mac) OS X” link at the top of the page.
  4. Click on the file containing the latest version of R under “Files.”
  5. Save the .pkg file, double-click it to open, and follow the installation instructions.
  6. Now that R is installed, you need to download and install RStudio.

To Install RStudio

  1. Go to and click on the “Download RStudio” button.
  2. Click on “Download RStudio Desktop.”
  3. Click on the version recommended for your system, or the latest Mac version, save the .dmg file on your computer, double-click it to open, and then drag and drop it to your applications folder.

If RStudio detects that R hasn’t been installed on your system, it will show you a warning.

If R has been installed, you’ll see the R Studio interface. In the beginning, you can only see the R console where you can write one line statements in R and execute them.

However, even for trivial work, you will need to perform a sequence of steps and it is better to create an R script.

Go to File > New File > R Script as shown in the screenshot below to create a new R script.

You can now see the R Script Editor where you can type and save R programs that span multiple lines. RStudio isn’t just a text editor but an IDE that helps you run and debug R scripts with ease.

The R Studio GUI is divided into 4 major sections as shown in the screenshot below:

Running R code

> 24 + 7 + 11

R responds immediately to your command, calculates and displays the total in the console:

> 24 + 7 + 11 
[1] 42

The answer is 42. R gives you one other piece of information: The [1] preceding 42 indicates that the value 42 is the first element in your answer.

One of the clever things about R is that it can deal with calculating many values at the same time, which is called vector operations.

Programming books typically start with a very simple program. Often, this first program creates the message “Hello world!”. In R, hello world program consists of one line of code. Start a new R session, type the following in your console, and press:

> print(“Hello world!”) 

R responds immediately with this output:

[1] “Hello world!”

Doing Simple Math

  • Addition: +
  • Subtraction: -
  • Multiplication: *
  • Division: /
  • Exponentiation: ^
  • Modulus: %%
# An addition
5 + 5
[1] 10
# A subtraction
[2] 0
# A multiplication
3 * 5
[3] 15
# A division
(5 + 5) / 2
[4] 5
# Exponentiation
[5] 32
# Modulo
[6] 4

Storing and calculating values

Using R as a calculator is very interesting but perhaps not all that useful. A much more useful capability is storing values and then doing calculations on these stored values. In R, the assignment operator is <-, which you type in the console by using two keystrokes: the less‐than symbol (<) followed by a hyphen (‐). The combination of these two symbols represents assignment. It’s good practice to always surround the <‐ with spaces. This makes your code much easier to read and understand.

# Assign the value 42 to x
x <- 42
# Print out the value of the variable x
[1] 42

In addition to retrieving the value of a variable, you can do calculations on that value.

# Assign a value to the variables my_apples and my_oranges
my_apples <- 5
# Add these two variables together
my_oranges <- 6
# Create the variable my_fruit
my_fruit <- my_apples + my_oranges
# Print out the value of the variable my_fruit
[1] 11

Variables also can take on text values. You can assign the value “Hello” to a variable called h, for example, by presenting the text to R inside quotation marks, like this:

 h <-  “Hello”h [1] “Hello”

You can write R scripts that have some interaction with a user. To ask the user questions, you can use the readline()function. In the following code snippet, you read a value from the keyboard and assign it to the variable yourname:

> h <- “Hello”> yourname <- readline(“What is your name? “)What is your name? Lilian> paste(h, yourname)[1] “Hello Lilian”

Getting help in R

> help(Syntax)
> ?Syntax

We also have the function to do a search engine type of search. We could use the ?? operator for this.

> ??"histograms"