[Rd] Problem with S3 to S4 transition

Renard Didier didier.renard at mines-paristech.fr
Tue Mar 16 13:26:09 CET 2010

Hello to everybody

I am developing a package using R and have the following problem:

I used to work in a mixture of S3 and S4 mechanism environment: as a 
matter of fact, I used to define my classes (say "DB" for illustration) 
using the setClass function (with representation field), and
I was using the S3 implicit mechanism writing the functions: print.DB 
and plot.DB.

Recently, I read some interesting papers on the use of S4 mechanism and 
was convinced that I would have some benefit in turning everything on S4 
This is the reason why I simply renamed my previous functions into 
DB.print and DB.plot (by analogy with other functions where the Class 
name is the leading part of the name). My idea was to use the setMethod 
principle to set the DB.print function as the function for the "print" 
method on the "DB" class.
Therefore, in the .First.Lib file of my package, I introduced the 
setMethod line just after the setClass one, as in the following example:

        representation(flag.grid = "logical", ndim = "numeric",
        x0 = "numeric", dx = "numeric", nx = "numeric",
        locators ="character",items = "data.frame"))
    setMethod("show","DB",function(object) DB.print(object))
    setMethod("print",signature(x="DB"),function(x,...) DB.print(x))
    setMethod("plot",signature(x="DB"),function(x,y,...) DB.plot(x))
    setMethod("["  ,signature(x="DB"),db0.getindex)
    setMethod("$"  ,signature(x="DB"),db0.get)

As one can notice, I use the same mechanism for SHOW, PLOT and PRINT.
Finally I created the package and imagined to use it using library statement

Surprisingly, when I used the library statement, the program tells me:
 > standardGeneric for "print" defined from package "base"
 > standardGeneric for "plot" defined from package "base"
and creates two objects in the .GlobalEnv, namely "plot" and "print" 
with the following contents:

 > print
standardGeneric for "print" defined from package "base"

function (x, ...)
<environment: 0xa275c70>
Methods may be defined for arguments: x
Use  showMethods("print")  for currently available ones.

Nothing similar for "show" although my use of setMethod is the same.

I see a main difference as "show" belongs to the "methods" library 
whereas the two other belong to the "base" library. Bu t I could not see 
how to avoid a user of my library to have these message and the two 
objects created.

I am allowed to set the method as I did (I think that I read something 
telling me that I could not do it with methods of the "base" library). 
Otherwiser how can I define the function DB.print as the required method 
for printing objects belonging to the "DB" class.

Thank in advance for you help.

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