Workflow with ESS, Knitr and R

With literate programming we can now embed R code into our working LaTeX documents. Literate programming or reproducible research is often attributed to Donald Knuth, more information of which can be found on the literate programming website. This means that minor updates in code no longer require hours of copying and pasting output into our working document.

Of course Yi Hui’s knitr site gives you basically everything you need to get started. To setup knitr in R, install and load it as you would any other R package install.packages("knitr") and library("knitr").

To setup Emacs so that knitr can be used with ESS, follow the fine instructions provided by Simon Potter and the blog constantMindMapping.

The only real tip that I have to add is how to compile the *.Rnw file in Emacs. This can be done as shown on Simon Potter’s site by using the command M-n r followed by the command, as shown on Yi Hui’s github discussion, “knitr support in other editors (Emacs/ESS/Vim/Eclipse…),” M-n P. Note that this is a capital ‘P’.

The following documents were updated and compiled within seconds of each other! Given a more complicated set of statistical analyses this kind of work could have taken hours and resulted severe eyestrain or headache.



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