[Rd] help files for load and related functions

Patrick Burns pburns at pburns.seanet.com
Mon Dec 17 12:00:48 CET 2007

I recently had a discussion with a user about loading
and attaching in R.  I was surprised that the help files
don't  provide a very clear picture.

 From my point of view 'load' and 'attach' are very
similar operations, the difference being that 'attach'
creates a new database on the search list while 'load'
puts all the objects into the global environment.

The help file for 'load' is inexplicit that this is what
happens.  The 'load' and 'attach' help files neither refer
to the other in their See Also.

Furthermore, the 'library' help file talks about "loading"
packages.  I would suggest that it should use "attaching"
as that is the analogous operation.

None of these three help files (nor that of 'save') has a
Side Effects section.  Personally I think that all help files
should have a Side Effects section (to make it clear to
new users what side effects are and that they are not a
good thing for most functions to have).  I can understand
there could be another point of view on that.  However, I
definitely think that there should be a Side Effects section
in the help files of functions whose whole point is a side

Patrick Burns
patrick at burns-stat.com
+44 (0)20 8525 0696
(home of S Poetry and "A Guide for the Unwilling S User")

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