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R you ready? Open source stats come to Visual Studio

R Tools for Visual Studio, in da house

By Richard Chirgwin, 10 Mar 2016

There's no longer any particular surprise to hear the words “Microsoft” and “open source” in the same sentence: in the latest addition to its stable, Redmond is wrapping the venerable statistical package R in its warm embrace.

The company has offered a first look at R Tools for Visual Studio (RTVS) here.

While commercial users gravitate towards packages like SPSS (now owned by IBM), R is nearly ubiquitous in the academic world.

R has a long history, including one of turning new users into gibbering wrecks, so at least one of the aims of RTVS will be to get application developers to make its high-powered analysis a little less forbidding.

To get cracking on the business of shipping code, devs need Visual Studio, RTVS, and Microsoft R Open. The division between the last two is necessary for licensing reasons: R is licensed under the GPLv2, while Redmond's favourite open source license is the MIT license.

The toolkit includes an “R aware editor”, with VS's Intellisense to provide syntactically-correct auto-complete. There's the familiar-to-VS interactive window that lets devs run code while they're editing it.

Microsoft R Open and Microsoft R Server provide multi-threaded maths libraries, cluster support, and what Redmond describes as “a high performance CRAN repo with checkpoint capabilities.” ®

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