[Rd] Suggestion: help(<package name>)

Kurt Hornik Kurt.Hornik at wu-wien.ac.at
Wed Jun 8 11:38:21 CEST 2005

>>>>> A J Rossini writes:

> On 6/8/05, Torsten Hothorn <Torsten.Hothorn at rzmail.uni-erlangen.de> wrote:
>> On Tue, 7 Jun 2005, Duncan Murdoch wrote:
>> [...]
>> > My proposal (modified following the suggestions I've heard so far) is as
>> > follows:
>> >
>> >   - to check that a couple of help topic aliases exist (<pkg>.package
>> > and <pkg>)
>> >   - to recommend that <pkg>.package contain general information about
>> > the package, and that <pkg> be an alias for it, if it isn't used for
>> > some other purpose.
>> >   - to write promptPackage() to help create an initial version of
>> > <pkg>.package.Rd.  It can get some information from the DESCRIPTION
>> > file; perhaps it could go looking for a vignette, or the INDEX, or
>> >   - to modify the other help system tools to make use of this (e.g. the
>> > package:<pkg> heading on a page would become a link to the <pkg>.package
>> > alias, etc.)
>> >
>> as a package author who already provides help pages for general package
>> descriptions (`?multcomp' and `?coin' work and, if I remember correctly,
>> Martin suggested to include the advertisement this way) I must
>> admit that I never say `?foo' when I'm interested in a global overview
>> about a new package `foo'.
>> Instead, `library(help = foo)' gives what I want to see, namely the title
>> and description of a package and all documented topics. One may argue that
>> asking `library' for help is not the most obvious thing to do. But people
>> able to recall that fitting an ANOVA model requires `aov' and comparing
>> two models needs `anova' should be able to have `library' in mind for
>> general package information.
>> So, for me having infrastructure for _automatically_ generated overviews
>> is very nice, but _forcing_ package authors to provide additional
>> meta-information would be less welcome.

> I'm in the Robert/Brian school of thought -- this can be solved with
> better DESCRIPTIONS, or by explicitly writing such a file (which one
> can already do), or through better advertisement / incorporation of
> the vignette tools.


> Requiring anything additional is a PITA.   Sure, it doesn't look like
> much time, but it is.  "much" is in the eye of the beholder.

> Perhaps one thing to do is to map  
>    ?<pkgname>.package  
> to 
>    library(help=pkgname)
> as was previously suggested, and let authors put information in the
> DESCRIPTION, perhaps with a lead towards the right help file to use to
> get more.

If we want to do something along these lines, then we could map

   package ? pkgname => help(package = "pkgname")

I don't think we can do something which possibly masks topics for
objects of class package :-)


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