Another Look at R Tools for Visual Studio

Microsoft is making big investments in the R language. R is used mostly for data analyses, for example, performing a linear regression analysis on some data.

The basic R language is very old. When you install Base R, you get a simple but effective program to run R commands and scripts, called the RGui.exe tool.

About eight weeks ago I took a first look at a preview version of R Tools for Visual Studio (RTVS). RTVS is an add-in for the very powerful Visual Studio programming environment.


I decided to see what was new with RTVS. First, instead of using Base R, I downloaded and installed the new Microsoft R Client which is really a wrapper around Microsoft R Open (MRO). MRO extends R by using multi-threaded math libraries for faster performance, and a special checkpoint package that manages R package dependencies.


After I installed MRO, I updated my existing Visual Studio 2015 to add the Update 3 package. RTVS only works with VS 2015 Update 2 or later.

So at this point I had MRO and VS 2015 Update 3 on my machine and I was ready to install RTVS 0.4. The install was essentially a VS update. It went smoothly and quickly.

After installing RTVS, I launched VS. VS automatically sensed I had MRO and gave me a little dialog box so I could tell VS to use MRO instead of the Base R on my machine. After VS launched, the File | New | Project option had a new R Project template. Very nice.

It’s still too early for me to form a solid opinion of RTVS, but I like what I’ve seen so far.

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