[R] GUIs (for teaching)

Philippe Grosjean philippe.grosjean at ifremer.fr
Mon Jul 1 14:45:35 CEST 2002

Sorry for entering late in the thread, but I was absent last week.

I am developping an alternate GUI for R (and also Splus, Octave, Scilab,
Matlab, Ox & Mathematica). The project started 3 years ago, but it is
progressing slowly, since I am currently the only developer on the project
and had to do it during my extra time. Now, it is going a little faster
because I got some time and money explicitly dedicated to it. It will be
released as GPL in (presumably) one or two years, and will match many
criteria discussed in the thread. Yet, it is intended to go further in
several points. Concerning the delicate choice of script versus menu/dialog
box, my intention is to propose dialog boxes that create scripts templates
with comments for further edition. This should both encourage script edition
and facilitate the use of R for beginners or unfrequently users.

There will be not only a flexible user interface that bring some nice
additions (synthax highlighting, quick tips on the functions arguments,
templates, object explorer, RTF report,...) but also a modular conception to
allow a concurrent access to several "calculation kernels" locally or
through the network, running on a Unix/Linux/Windows remote machine. Some
data exchange facilities between different kernels are planned also.

Here is a short decription, with an evaluation of work already done.

- Plug to connect to the R engine using DCom (including graph windows)  -
90% done
- Plugs and connections manager (only locally for the moment)           -
75% done
- Multi-document interface with dockable toolbars and windows           -
90% done
- Console windows for direct command-line access of kernels             -
80% done
- Report windows with RTF formatting and graphs/images embedding        -
50% done
- Code edition windows with synthax highlighting, quick tips,...        -
50% done
- Spreadsheed-like matrix/data frame editor                             -
0% done
- Web-based direct online help in the interface                         -
30% done
- Object explorer                                                       -
10% done
- Templates manager (dockable window)                                   -
25% done
- Tips/Help/Error dockable message window                               -
25% done
- Customizable menus and toolbars                                       -
60% done
- Customizable dialog boxes                                             -
0% done
- Plug for Splus                                                        -
0% done
- Plug for Octave                                                       -
0% done
- Plug for Scilab                                                       -
30% done
- Plug for Matlab                                                       -
30% done
- Plug for OX                                                           -
30% done
- Plug for Mathematica                                                  -
75% done
- Messages passing between kernels                                      -
0% done
- ODBC connections & data import/export (but also done within kernels)  -
0% done
- Direct access from Excel or WinWord                                   -
20% done

Since this GUI is developped using some OCXes under Windows (CodeMax &
ActiveBar being the corner-stones, thus Micro$oft ActiveX technology), it
will not be directly portable to other OSes. A choice that, I am sure, will
be heavily criticized by some of you but I evaluated that some critical
aspects of the interface would be much less easily programmed without these

This project is part of SciViews (http://www.sciviews.org, although the web
site is not up-to-date at all regarding this project). The user interface
will be called SciViews Insighter and the plugs manager will be called
SciViews Xchanger. Here is the development schedule, based on the part of my
work dedicated to the development of this GUI:

+ Augustus and September 2002: 6 to 7 weeks dedicated 100% to the GUI
(Insighter), in the framework of the development of a friendly user
interface for the PASTECS R library (Package for the Analysis of Space-Time
Ecological Series, available on CRAN and at

+ December 2002: an additional month for PASTECS, but not allocated yet
between the development of functions, or of the user interface.

+ January to March 2003: about 30-40% of my time will be dedicated to
further develop the GUI in the framework of another project based on R
(Zooscan, for automatic plankton recognition).

I will thus be able to go further in the development of SciViews
Insighter/Xchanger until end of March 2003, but it will certainly not be
finished at that time. Since my work is driven by short-term contracts, I
have still no plan for the future after March 2003. It leaves some
opportunities and I would gladly contribute with those who are interested in
the development of an alternate GUI for R. Finding funding is, of course, a
key aspect. My strategy until now was to develop products (PASTECS, ZOOSCAN,
LABOKIT,...) that would benefit of such a GUI and then to justify a part of
the budget to it. Apparently, some people have other ideas...

It seems to be the time for discussing all these topics more deeply. For the
moment, I will focus in the few next weeks to finalize an incomplete, but
working alpha version of SciViews Insighter/Xchanger and to update the web
site accordingly. I will also work on a wich list regarding the GUI for R
under Windows. I am also concerned not to duplicate work done by other
people, I think for instance at the Omegahat or RWeb projects. However, I
think there is place for a few different user interfaces for R, as not all
users have same requirements... and this is exemplified in this thread on
GUIs for teaching!


Philippe Grosjean

P.S.: I join the copy of a slide showing the current SciViews Insighter GUI.

( ( ( ( (
 ) ) ) ) )	Philippe Grosjean
( ( ( ( (
 ) ) ) ) )	IFREMER Nantes - DEL/AO
( ( ( ( (   rue de l'Ile d'Yeu, BP 21105, 44311 Nantes Cedex 3
 ) ) ) ) )  tel: (33), fax: (33)
( ( ( ( (	e-mail: philippe.grosjean at ifremer.fr
 ) ) ) ) )	        or phgrosjean at sciviews.org
( ( ( ( ( 	SciViews project coordinator (http://www.sciviews.org)
 ) ) ) ) )
( ( ( ( (      "I'm 100% confident that p is between 0 and 1"
 ) ) ) ) )                                L. Gonick & W. Smith (1993)

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