[Rd] need gui matrix editor: does R Core team have advice on how?
pauljohn32 at gmail.com
Sat Jan 28 20:59:31 CET 2012
Would R core team consider endorsing a graphical toolkit and trying to
facilitate development of little GUI tools?
I need a gui matrix editor for users that want to be able to write
matrices that are later used to simulate data. Instead of teaching
them to write a covariance matrix (for example, for mvtnorm), I want
to tell them run a function that pops up a table they can fill in.
The users need to be able to enter variable names in the matrix, so
something that would accept
a 0 0
0 b 0
c d e
would be great. Something that would accept formulae like this would
be even more great.
a 0 0
0 b a^2
c d e
I want this gui matrix editor to "just work" on Windows, Mac, Linux. I
don't mind building this on top of some widget set, but it is
important that the widget set be easily installable on the user end.
That's why I wish R core would offer us some guidance or advice. I'm
not a programmer, but I can learn to program with a library, as long
as it is not a waste of time.
I've been searching R archives and here's what I found so far.
Building on R tcltk2, for people that have the Tcl addon widget
TkTable installed, there are several packages. in tcltk2 itself,
there is a function tk2edit, and there are others that try to
embellish. I've tried several of these, they seem to be not-quite
done yet, one can't copy a rectangle, for example. But maybe I could
learn how to fix them up and make yet another tktable based editor.
Problem: requires user to have enough understanding to install the Tcl
widget TkTable. And, for platforms like Windows, user has to install
tcl/tk itself. On Linux and Mac, that is not as big of a hurdle, so
far as I can tell. On Debian linux, I found that in a package
libtktable that works, but I have no idea how tough that would be on
other linux systems or Macintosh or Windows.
Another problem is that tcl/tk editions change rapidly, and on several
of our systems, we still don't have access to tcl/tk 8.5
(RedHat/Centos based clusters still running version 5 are like that).
Building on Rgtk, I found the package RGtk2Extras. This of course
requires a function gtk tool chain, which used to be a big problem on
the various platforms. But the function dfedit appears to be almost
exactly what I'm looking for. I can create a character matrix and put
in letters how I want, but I later face the problem of how to evaluate
Problem: even more than tcl/tk, GTK versions change and become
incompatible, especially across platforms.
What about QT or WX-Widgets. I gather RkWard is built on KDE, and
hence Qt. I don't find matrix editors using those languages, but I
don't know why not.
Maybe this is impossible for R core to advise us because you may
disagree on which widget library is best, but if there is some
consensus, I would be glad to know because I would do whatever you
I'm pretty sure that, if you said, "use library X, version XYZ", then
the worldwide usage of R is sufficiently broad that people would step
forward and help make sure those libraries are packaged for all OS. I
mean, if there were no tktable package for any linux for which I make
packages (RedHat, Fedora, Debian, Ubuntu), I would create the
packages. But I'm not doing it now because I have no reason to
believe that is a good path from here on out.
Paul E. Johnson
Professor, Political Science
1541 Lilac Lane, Room 504
University of Kansas
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