R (see also here) is a free language and environment for statistical computing and graphics. It is superior to other graphics/analysis packages commonly used in Astronomy, e.g. supermongo, pgplot, gnuplot, and features a very wide range of statistical analysis and data plotting functions.
Furthermore, R is already the most popular amongst the leading software for statistical analysis, as measured by a variety of indicators, and is rapidly growing in influence.
R is really important to the point that it’s hard to overvalue it. It allows statisticians to do very intricate and complicated analyses without knowing the blood and guts of computing systems.Google research scientist, quoted in the New York Times
- It’s a mature, widely used (around 1-2 million users) and well-supported free and open source software project; it’s committed to an annual schedule for major updates (it runs on GNU/linux, unix, MacOS and Windows)
- Excellent graphics capabilities (see also here)
- Vector arithmetic, plus many built-in basic & advanced statistical and numerical analysis tools
- Intelligent handling of missing data values (denoted by
- Highly extensible, with over 4300 user-contributed packages available
- It’s easy to use and has excellent online help and associated documentation
These pages are intended to be a brief summary of some basic information needed to get started quickly with R in a broadly astronomical context. There are many extensive documents on using R, linked from the R homepage, which deal with the topics touched on here in more detail.
Find out what's great about R by viewing the slides from a 20 min talk I gave on “Why I love R” at the first meeting of the Birmingham R user group - a free event for R users at all levels and from all backgrounds based in and around Birmingham (UK) and the West Midlands, to meet and discuss R-related topics and to promote the use of R.The great beauty of R is that you can modify it to do all sorts of things, and you have a lot of prepackaged stuff that’s already available, so you’re standing on the shoulders of giants.Google chief economist, quoted in the New York Times