Re: [Rd] using R as SHELL in gnu make

From: Cook, Malcolm <>
Date: Thu, 22 Sep 2011 08:29:19 -0500


I now have a working version of setting SHELL=R in a GNU make script, allowing make’s recipes to be written in R, that works out most of the complications.

I plan to clean it up a little more and blog about it soon here: - I’ll follow up here when I do.

The approach optionally allows evaluating the recipes using a running Rserve (, avoiding initialization time and allowing pre-loading of R libraries common to multiple recipes.

The approach however does NOT provide any special mechanism to preserve state between recipes, Rather, recipes may create the make rule’s target as a state dump by setting with `file=’$@’` in a call to `save` (or `save.image`, `dump`, as desired). Other make rules may then call `load('$<')` when the previously saved dump is a pre-requisite to the rule.

I’m still not sure if it is not more of an amusement and am interested in all thoughts on this, and welcome any suggestions for example applications that I might include when I go to blog it up...



-----Original Message-----
From: Paul Gilbert [] Sent: Tuesday, September 20, 2011 8:32 AM To: Cook, Malcolm; ''; '' Subject: RE: using R as SHELL in gnu make

Other than the RServe part, I do this all the time. It works well. Perhaps we can put together some notes off-line and then bring it back to the list.


> -----Original Message-----
> From: [mailto:r-devel-bounces_at_r-
>] On Behalf Of Cook, Malcolm
> Sent: September 19, 2011 6:35 PM
> To: ''; ''
> Subject: [Rd] using R as SHELL in gnu make
> I am intrigued by the possibility of using R as the SHELL in a (Gnu)
> makefile (instead of /bin/sh). (c.f.
> Well, rather, I would like the makefile's SHELL to be a command which
> communicated with an R process.
> The makefile targets/prerequistes would, as always, be OS files, which
> would be written/read using standard R file IO.
> The makefile's "recipe"s would be written in R (instead of the usual
> shell).
> The R process would be able to be initiated by `load`ing one or more R
> datasets, libraries or entire images.
> The R process would be able to accumulate state as the makefile
> progressed. The recipe's would be able to refer to that state,
> allowing conditional execution.
> The R process would optionally be saved as an image of on job
> termination/completion.
> The R process might be managed using the RServe package, and would need
> to be initiated once only, when the makefile was first invoked.
> I would appreciate learning if anyone had any success, informative
> failures, or other lore that may help in (or dissuade me from)
> embarking on attempt this.
> Thanks,
> Malcolm Cook
> Stowers Institute for Medical Research
> ______________________________________________
> mailing list

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