Re: R-alpha: R for W95 for teaching

Peter Dalgaard BSA (
27 Feb 1997 10:18:41 +0100

Subject: Re: R-alpha: R for W95 for teaching
From: Peter Dalgaard BSA <>
Date: 27 Feb 1997 10:18:41 +0100
In-Reply-To: Daniel Kaplan's message of Wed, 26 Feb 1997 10:59:09 -0600
Message-Id: <>

Daniel Kaplan <> writes:

> I'm using R for teaching an introductory statistics course.
> Can anyone direct me to an on-line or inexpensively reproducible
> set of introductory documentation that I can provide to my
> students?

When we discussed this a few weeks back I also mentioned the
Venables&Smith notes. I got the following letter from Bill Venables,
which he apparently intended for the list, but for some reason it
never got here. I'm forwarding it with his permission.

------------ Forwarded letter: -----------

Peter Dalgaard writes:
 > Peter Parzer <> writes:
 > > 
 > > Hi,
 > > I am starting to use R, but I have never used S. Since the documentation
 > > on R is still uncomplete, can someone recommend me some good books on S?
 > For an introduction, try Venables'  available by
 > anonymous FTP from It's a very nice compact (82 pp.)
 > compendium style work. It dates from July '92, but I don't offhand see
 > anything that is really outdated in it. 

Goodness.  I had quite forgotten about these.  It seems like
about a thousand centuries ago...  If anyone would like a
slightly later version (but it really is quite old now, despite
Peter's kind words) there is one in

The directory looks like the following:

  -rw-r--r--   55218 May  7  1994		# main doc in 3 small bits
  -rw-r--r--   58590 May  7  1994		# ditto
  -rw-r--r--   40611 May  7  1994		# ditto
  -rw-r--r--   23185 Aug  4  1992 SplusData.shar.gz	# data files, shar form
  -rw-r--r--   71876 Apr 25  1993 SplusData.tar.gz	# binary data (Sun format)
  -rw-r--r--   36454 Aug  4  1992 SplusDump.s.gz	# data in dump format
  -rw-r--r--    7918 Aug  4  1992 SplusHelp.shar.gz	# help files
  -rw-r--r--  207436 Sep  6  1992	# main doc in 1 big bit
  -rw-r--r--  219788 Sep  6  1992 SplusNotes2.2.tar.gz	# main doc, all materials
  -rw-r--r--  126090 Feb  4  1995	# cut down student version
  -rw-r--r--   73140 Aug 17  1993	# ditto
  -rw-r--r--  165889 Mar  4  1994 data.tar.gz		# (dunno)
  -rw-r--r--   21978 Mar  4  1994 helpfiles.shar.gz	# (dunno)
  -rw-r--r--   61730 Mar  4  1994 restore.q.gz		# data in data.restore form

Notice that the full latex materials are available, so if anyone
wants to take the whole thing and produce an updated, R-oriented
edition, please feel free.  I would ask that you keep some
acknowledgement of where you started from, and check with Ross or
Ron that the project is not already under way.  (There was a plan
to do this some time ago, but it seems to have receded with time
and other more pressing issues.)  A further note - the LaTeX is
quite, well, amateur.  I was just learning then, but I did come
from a pretty strong plain TeX background.

 > We also have "A handbook of statistical analyses using S-Plus"
 > by Brian S. Everitt (Chapman+Hall) in our library.  That one
 > is a walk-though style book, i.e. "Input this, then the output
 > is this, and it means this".

This one should be used with discretion.  For one thing, the
typesetting is quite poor.  The publishers make the fundamental
error of not using a fixed width font for keyboard input, with the
result that "<-" always looks like "< -", so sometimes it should
read x <- 3 and other times x < -3, but they look the same.  Some
lines are broken at points that would result in a syntax error.

The main problem with the book, though, is the programming style.
Loops are used where they are completely unnecessary and many
things are done in a very awkward and opaque way.  The author
acknowledges as much in his preface and suggests that cleaning up
the code might make an excellent exercise, but my personal view is
that teaching by poor example is not a good pedagogic style.

 > There are also books by Spector (we have it but someone borrowed it
 > from the library), Venables+Ripley, ...
 > See also

The best books on *programming* in S/R are those of Phil Spector
(English) and Benno S\"uselbeck (German).

William Venables, Department of Statistics, Tel.: +61 8 8303 3026
The University of Adelaide,                 Fax.: +61 8 8303 3696
South AUSTRALIA.     5005.   Email:

   O__  ---- Peter Dalgaard             Blegdamsvej 3  
  c/ /'_ --- Dept. of Biostatistics     2200 Cph. N   
 (*) \(*) -- University of Copenhagen   Denmark      Ph: (+45) 35327918
~~~~~~~~~~ - (             FAX: (+45) 35327907
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