[Rd] Re: [R-gui] Re: [R] The hidden costs of GPL software?

From: Duncan Murdoch <murdoch_at_stats.uwo.ca>
Date: Thu 18 Nov 2004 - 08:34:43 EST

I've moved this response to r-devel, as I think it's more appropriate there than in r-help or R-sig-GUI.

On Wed, 17 Nov 2004 15:55:11 -0500, "Mike Prager" <Mike.Prager@noaa.gov> wrote :

>This has been an interesting discussion. I make the following comment with
>hesitation, since I have neither the time nor the ability to implement it
>Using CLI software, an infrequent user has trouble remembering the known
>functions needed and trouble finding new ones (especially as that user gets
>older). What might help is an added help facility more oriented towards
>tasks, rather than structured around functions or packages.
>Such a help facility might have a tree structure.
>Want help? Are you looking for information on (1) data manipulation or (2)
>analysis? If (1), do you want to to (3) import or export data, (4)
>transform data, (5) reshape data, or (6) select data? If (2), do you want
>to (7) fit a model or (8) make a graph? And so on....

A difficulty is the "moving target" problem. A lot of the value of R lies in the contributed packages. A fixed help system wouldn't know about new features of packages.

Currently we have the so-called "keyword" categorization of help pages; those come somewhat close to what you're asking for. To see them, run "help.start()" to open up the HTML help, and click on "Search Engine and Keywords". One problem is that this requires both Java and Javascript to work properly in your browser; I think it's pretty common that one or the other is uncooperative. (For example, I can't get Java to work in Firefox or IE.)

Another problem with this scheme is that the keyword list is fixed and limited, and may not match the user's (or package writer's) expectations.

There are also ways to add searchable words to the help topics (using the \concept markup), but those are new and not widely used. A full text search might be nice, but it would be slow without some work in advance.

Duncan Murdoch

R-devel@stat.math.ethz.ch mailing list
https://stat.ethz.ch/mailman/listinfo/r-devel Received on Thu Nov 18 09:12:26 2004

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