[R] Getting sink to work with "message" on R 2.11.0 - what didI miss?

Greg Snow Greg.Snow at imail.org
Wed May 26 21:49:35 CEST 2010

Inline below:

> From: Tal Galili [mailto:tal.galili at gmail.com] 
> Sent: Wednesday, May 26, 2010 12:26 AM
> To: Greg Snow
> Cc: Faiz Rasool; R-help at r-project.org
> Subject: Re: [R] Getting sink to work with "message" on R 2.11.0 - what didI miss?
> Hello Greg,
> Thank you for the coding.
> A few questions and remarks:
> 1) I have a feature request that I believe Faiz is interested in:
> He would like to have the formatting of tables/data.frames in the output to be prettier then the one extracted from the console output.  I wonder if that is (reasonably) possible.

I have thought about this, but have not yet convinced myself that I am the one to do anything about it.  What is "prettier"?  I claim no expertise in that area.  Some things are a matter of preference to the beholder, what is pretty to me might be ugly to someone else.  I know that many of the examples of fancy things that can be done with tabular output to make it "prettier" really annoy me.  If we could get a real graphics designer involved, then there may be some promise.  But, a real issue to consider is does making something pretty change its usefulness.  I remember one project where I was exporting matrices from to LaTeX to pdf files.  I jumped through some extra hoops to use the LaTeX tool that lines everything up on the decimal place, but then when I had the final pdf file, you could not just copy and paste the numbers back into another program because each number was split into 3 pieces and the decimal was a special character.  I went back and just used the format function (now I would use sprintf) to make sure that all the numbers had the same number of digits after the decimal and therefore lined up.  In that case the numbers could all be copied and pasted directly from the pdf to other tools (and for this project that was important).  The tables did not look as nice (though most people probably would not notice without both versions side by side to compare), but usability far outweighed a slight visual improvement.

One of the things that most impressed me about R2wd when I first started playing with it was the effort to make the tables look nice.  Use the wdTable function in R2wd, but have the word document visible as well, you will see the table appear originally in the MS default, but then it is changed getting rid of useless 3d effects, unneeded boxes/lines, removing excess space, etc.

It seems odd to discuss making something look pretty in a discussion about usability for blind people.

What is the difference to the text to speech converter between reading a table that is formatted with spaces and nonproportional fonts vs an official word table?  I think that is an important question to answer before messing with something that works.

> 2) I don't know if you had seen, but I already wrote a code to do such a thing here:
> http://www.r-statistics.com/2010/05/helping-the-blind-use-r-by-exporting-r-console-to-word/
> And would like to include your instructions in the post as well.
> Is there any other features or advantage of the new code, that should be included when writing about it ?

I did see your code and considered asking you if you wanted it included in the package, but the biggest difference between the 2 approaches (and what I felt was worth writing my own version) is the timing of the transfer to word.  Your version just uses the current tools to write the output to a text file, then when the user issues the finish command everything is copied to word.  In my version (more thanks to the R2wd package and its authors than me) each command/result is sent immediately to word, you don't need to issue the stop command, look at the results, then issue another start command.  This seemed to be more what the original poster requested. 

> 3) In a more general note - 
> I think the challenges of the blind using R are interesting to look into.  a good example would be to ask if there are ways of making R output more easily readable for text to speech softwares.
> For example, imagine how a summary.lm output looks like.  Now imagine how a text-to-speech would read it.  Might there be a way to take such output and rearranging it in such a way so to allow the blind to easily listen to the results ?

This is a good issue, and there was a recent rather long thread on making R output in general more appealing or useful.  I stayed out of that discussion, but I think this is a case where we need to focus more on leveraging the power of R rather than expecting the programmers to anticipate everything (see fortune(226)).  Why does the printed output of summary.lm look the way it does? I think it is more for historical reasons (make those of us that learned to do the computations by hand originally feel better) rather than anything else (why include both t-scores and p-values, the 2 columns are redundant).  If that output is not useful for blind users (I don't know either way) then they can extract those parts that are useful, they can transpose matricies if that order makes more sense.  It would not surprise me if one blind user preferred the coefficient matrix in its current form and another preferred it transposed, while another preferred to grab one number at a time from the matrix rather than listening to the entire thing in one go.  The power of R is that all those are possible (even easy) and me, you, r-core, etc. do not need to make a decision and force everyone to live with it.

> Best regards,
> Tal
> ----------------Contact Details:-------------------------------------------------------
> Contact me: Tal.Galili at gmail.com |  972-52-7275845
> Read me: www.talgalili.com (Hebrew) | www.biostatistics.co.il (Hebrew) | www.r-statistics.com (English)
> ----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Gregory (Greg) L. Snow Ph.D.
Statistical Data Center
Intermountain Healthcare
greg.snow at imail.org

More information about the R-help mailing list