[Rd] wish list: automatic package installation

John Fox jfox at mcmaster.ca
Sat Apr 18 15:33:39 CEST 2009

Dear list members,

The release of R 2.9.0, reminds me of a long-standing nit that I have to
pick. I prefer not to transfer and update all of the packages in my old
library, because I see a new release of R as an opportunity to start with a
clean slate. I'd rather install packages as I need them. My personal
solution is to use the following function in place of library():

package <- function(package, dependencies=TRUE, ...){
     package <- as.character(substitute(package))
     if (!(package %in% .packages(all.available=TRUE)))
        install.packages(package, dependencies=dependencies)
    library(package, character.only=TRUE, ...)

I'm sure that this function could be improved, and possibly I've missed a
facility that's already available. If not, it would be nice if the library()
command automatically tried to download and install missing packages
(perhaps if an option is set).


John Fox, Professor
Department of Sociology
McMaster University
Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
web: socserv.mcmaster.ca/jfox

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