[Rd] NEWS.md support on CRAN

Duncan Murdoch murdoch.duncan at gmail.com
Sat May 23 14:14:17 CEST 2015

On 23/05/2015 4:05 AM, Kurt Hornik wrote:
>>>>>> Duncan Murdoch writes:
>> On 22/05/2015 8:49 PM, Imanuel Costigan wrote:
>>> Are there any plans for CRAN to support NEWS files in markdown? Bit of a hassle to go the the package’s Github (or other like) site to read NEWS.
>> Not as far as I know.  There have been discussions about increasing the
>> support of Markdown, but so far the conclusion has been that it's too
>> hard to do -- the support is not stable enough on all the platforms
>> where R runs.
> There are actually two issues here.
> For CRAN, we could in principle take inst/NEWS.md files, convert these
> to HTML using pandoc, and use the HTML for the package web page.  (Would
> need the CRAN incoming checks to be taught about inst/NEWS.md.)
> However, we cannot use such files for utils::news() because we do not
> (yet?) know how to reliably parse such files and extract the news items
> (and hence cannot really compute on the news information).

It would be quite easy to modify the news() parser to parse a suitably
described Markdown format.  The main change from the current text parser
would be to expect a prefix on the line introducing each version or

I think the harder problem is display.  CRAN can run pandoc, but can
users who install the package from source?  I would expect some obscure
platforms (like Windows ;-) would not have it available.  I could add it
to Rtools on Windows, but I think platforms that normally install tools
from source will have more trouble, because it has an unusual
prerequisite (Haskell).  We could fall back to displaying the NEWS.md
file without processing, but that makes lots of code more complicated.

> Btw, currently only one package on CRAN has inst/NEWS.md (another one
> has NEWS.md at top level).

I'd guess if someone solved the problems mentioned above, it would
become more popular.  Many people would convert their text NEWS to
NEWS.md if it would display better; that's a lot easier than converting
to NEWS.Rd.

Duncan Murdoch

> Best
> -k
>> Markdown is allowed for vignettes (because the package author processes
>> those), so I'd suggest putting your news into a vignette instead of a
>> news file.  Put in a token news file that points to the vignette so
>> users can find it.
>> Duncan Murdoch
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