RE^2: [Rd] New generic functions in "R base" {was `truncate'}

Paul Gilbert
Fri, 25 May 2001 12:05:26 -0400

PG> Some search/browse capability sure would be nice and I think this
PG> problem is going to get worse with the elimination of function.html in R
PG> 1.3.0.  Perhaps there is a possibility of putting a giant index of all
PG> functions in all packages on CRAN?

BDR>Not only is it nice, but we do already have it, twice, in fact!
BDR>There are two search/browse facilities for all current libraries (and I
BDR>mean that, not packages), namely and the Java-based HTML
BDR>search.  Try them some time!


Yes, I have tried these and they are very useful, but I believe they only work for
installed packages. If I am wrong about that then something else is broken since your
example gives this for me:

>"confidence interval")
No help files found with alias or title matching `confidence interval'

What I had in mind was an ability to search available packages not just installed
ones. It is often difficult to find something unless you already know to install the
package that includes it, but often people don't know what package to look in. If
something does not exist in any package then one can never be sure without installing
all packages. (If this search facility is available on CRAN then I have missed it.)

Also, neither of these search facilities provide browsing. (The keyword by topic
gives some browsing capability but it is more like looking at a table of contents
than an index.)  I realize the list of functions would be extremely long, but
sometimes even matching the full text of the help description would not be enough
without some "fuzzy" matching (and I think we are a ways from this).  The problem may
be more severe for programming features than for statistics terms. Someone converting
from Matlab, Gauss, or APL will often know a term that describes exactly what they
want, but they don't know the R term to search for. Despite modern technology I still
often resort to browsing through the index of manuals.


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