R Tools for Visual Studio
Written by Nikos Vaggalis   
Thursday, 10 March 2016

Microsoft has announced R Tools for Visual Studio (RTVS), providing support for what is quickly proving to be the most popular statistical/ data analysis language currently in use. A preview version is already available.


After providing Python and Node.js extensions to Visual Studio, adding support for R might have been a well expected move focused on luring the data science branch to Microsoft's flagship tool. It's also a move that harmonizes Microsoft with the open source philosophy even further  

Pre-requirements for the tools' installation is a version of Visual Studio 2015 Update 1 or higher as well as the 64 bit editions of R versions 3.2.1, 3.2.2 and 3.2.3 , either Microsoft's R Open or CRAN's R versions,something that rules 32 bit machines out

What's interesting is that installing R tools tweaks the VS interface into becoming more adapted to the needs of the data scientist who has different requirements than the standard programmer. This option can be switched on and off from within the Data Science Settings options

Being an early release, bugs and as of yet unimplemented features might be apparent, as the VS team puts it

"this release is meant for evaluation purposes only and not for production use"

So what does this early release currently offer?

  • a Read-Eval-Print-Loop, IntelliSense support
  • a history window that shows all of the commands that you have typed into the R Interactive Window
  • a variable explorer and debugging capabilities

amongst others, with features not yet implemented :

  • there is no UI for package installation or creation
  • the variable explorer does not allow edit, search, sort and supports global scope only
  • there's no re-factoring support in the editor etc


The RTVS team however welcomes suggestions from users, who just have to fill this survey form for the team to take with their suggestions into account and using them as a guide for building a better IDE.

RTVS will be free and open source, released under the liberal MIT license so that users can easily contribute. Microsoft R Open and CRAN R are of course  GPL2 or GPL3

Although CRAN R as well Microsoft R Open run in  multiple platforms, RVTS currently supports just Windows but already there are already attempts of porting a version to the Visual Studio Code IDE, the new cross-platform IDE from Microsoft.


More Information

R Tools for Visual Studio

R Tools for Visual Studio Preview

Install R Tools for Visual Studio

R Tools on GitHub

Download Microsoft R Open 3.2.3, the enhanced R distribution

R Tools for Visual Studio Sample Projects

Related Articles

Node.js Tools For VS Released

Node.js Tools for Visual Studio

Python Tools for Visual Studio - Free Plug-In 

A Programmer's Guide to R - Data and Objects



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Last Updated ( Thursday, 10 March 2016 )