[R] Problems in Recommending R

Warren Young warren at etr-usa.com
Tue Feb 3 14:30:36 CET 2009

Stavros Macrakis wrote:
> anti-alias the demonstration graphic.  The current graphic
> makes R graphics seem (falsely!) to be very primitive. I'm afraid I
> don't know how to do the anti-aliasing myself.

Simply re-plotting it in 2.8.1 built with Cairo support produces 
something better:


The text is antialiased, as are some of the graph lines.  The dots in 
the largest plot aren't, though.

Outputting to PDF and then scaling down does even better:


The command at the end to do this is:

	pdf(file="swiss.pdf", width=12, height=8)

The R webmasters are welcome to use either of these in place of the 
current graphic, but it might be good to change the script to fix up 
some of the changes in the way the script is interpreted first.

Fair warning: I won't be hosting these pictures for very long.  Download 
'em if you want 'em now.

> Replacing the fixed-width, typewriter-style font with something a bit
> more elegant might also be good....

The choice of fonts on the web is pretty limited, unless you want to get 
clever.  I prefer to work with the few standard web fonts, building up 
improved styles relative to the defaults with CSS.  It might be 
interesting to keep the current font, but experiment with letter 
spacing, for instance.

Far more serious problems:

- Use of frames.  The usability problems of frames are well known, and 
are justified only in a few special cases.  A content-heavy site like 
r-project.org is not one of them, if only because of the bookmarking issue.

- Use of Times as the standard font.  Times was commissioned by a 
newspaper, with a primary goal of reducing paper costs.  Its creators 
succeeded by creating something compact and spindly, and thus uncommonly 
ugly and hard to read considering its popularity.  It is marginally 
justifiable on paper, its design target.  It should never be used on 
computer screens; at least, not until they get to 300 dpi or so.  In 
general, use sans serif fonts on computer screens.  There are rare 
exceptions, like Georgia (designed for PC screens from the start) and 
Courier (heavy slab serifs that come out okay on low-res screens).  Look 
at the default fonts used on every OS, and every device with an LCD 
screen you own: they're all sans serif, aren't they?  There's a reason 
for that...

- HTML tables using the default "3D" chiseled look.  Nothing says "1995" 
better, except maybe blink tags, rainbow colored separator bars, and 
"under construction" graphics.

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