[R] re: GUI's for teaching

ripley@stats.ox.ac.uk ripley at stats.ox.ac.uk
Tue Jun 25 16:04:57 CEST 2002

On Tue, 25 Jun 2002, Emmanuel Paradis wrote:

> Hi,
> Have you seen the tcltk package? I believe it is a better option than the
> one you outline in your message. Why develop a Windows-only GUI? Maybe in a
> few years your teaching department will give up Windows for Linux (for the
> reasons you wrote about R: it is free, advanced, and adaptable). There is
> an article in R News (vol.1, n°3) by Peter Dalgaard on the tcltk package,
> and the latter includes a few nice examples. You need to install Tcl/Tk: it
> is free and can run on many OSs.

Well it can run under a few OSes, principally Motif-based X11 and Windows.
(It does not run on classical MacOS with R.)  But the chief drawback is
look-and-feel:  Windows users have very high expectations of the
uniformity of their interface.  A secondary one is the difficulty of
coordinating two event-driven systems.

(Some of) the R developers would love to be able to provide a high-quality
cross-platform GUI interface.  There are various possible starting points
(Java and wxWindows being the others most frequently mentioned).  But it
is thought to be a large job.

> BTW, are GUIs the best way to teach stats? I recommend newcomers to R to
> save their command lines in a text file in order to able to source() them
> later. Quite often you need to re-do an analysis, because you have new
> data, you want to change a parameter, fit new models, ...

A GUI can be a good way to write command lines for you.  The discussions
here are all about support: Minitab abd SPSS are used for basic courses
just because no one needs to write any documentation nor provide any

> Emmanuel Paradis
> At 17:31 25/06/02 +0800, you wrote:
> >Dear All,
> >
> >This is a question to sound out possibilities.
> >
> >I am with the Faculty of Natural and Agricultural Sciences at the
> >University of Western Australia, representing a few of the more
> >statistically minded in the faculty. Essentially, there have been
> >problems in the past with software support, changing over statistical
> >software, and paying lots of money for it. In R you have an advanced
> >statistical software package, it is free and it is adaptable. Also the
> >maths department at UWA is using it on an informal basis and so support
> >over the long term is available. The only reason why the faculty is not
> >using R as a whole is because there is no GUI equivalent to
> >Minitab/SPLUS/Genstat in R that can be used for undergraduate teaching
> >purposes (unless I'm seriously mistaken). In RWindows there is the GUI,
> >but it is not designed to carry statistical functions with buttons for
> >options and this is what is needed for low statistical level undergrads.
> >There is RWeb, but at this stage of development you wont find many
> >takers in the faculty.
> >
> >What I want to know is this: can anyone give me a quote on what it will
> >cost to develop a RWindows clone of the Minitab GUI. This GUI would
> >support initially the simple six (EDA, probabilities and quantiles of
> >distributions, t-tests,one-way anova, chi-square, and simple linear
> >regression), and have the potential to develop into the next level of
> >statistical analysis (glms, multivariate methods, time series and
> >spatial - analytical problems common across our faculty). If the cost of
> >development is comparable to present licence maintenance fees at FNAS
> >then I think our small group can argue for its adoption. Not only that,
> >the benefits to undergraduate teaching in other universities would be
> >immense. If development costs are high then other faculties at other
> >universities, where the software licencing arrangements are also
> >troublesome, are also invited to participate in this potential project.
> >
> >I imagine this question has been discussed before, but I hope to have
> >but an interesting turn to it.
> >
> >Regards
> >
> >Rohan Sadler
> >Ecosystems Research Group
> >School of Plant Biology (Botany)
> >Faculty of Natural and Agricultural Sciences
> >
> >+61 8 9380 7914
> >
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Brian D. Ripley,                  ripley at stats.ox.ac.uk
Professor of Applied Statistics,  http://www.stats.ox.ac.uk/~ripley/
University of Oxford,             Tel:  +44 1865 272861 (self)
1 South Parks Road,                     +44 1865 272860 (secr)
Oxford OX1 3TG, UK                Fax:  +44 1865 272595

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