10.6 Searching for functions

Given the name of a function, it is not difficult to find out what that function does and how to use the function by reading the function's help page. A more difficult job is to find the name of a function that will perform a particular task.

The help.search() function can be used to search for functions relating to a keyword within the current R installation. The RSiteSearch() function performs a more powerful and comprehensive web-based search of functions in almost all known R packages, R mailing list archives, and the main R manuals. This is based on Jonathan Baron's search site, http://finzi.psych.upenn.edu/search.html. There is also a Google customized search available, http://www.rseek.org, which provides a convenient categorization of the search results. This was set up and is maintained by Sasha Goodman.

Another problem that arises is that, while information on a single function is easy to obtain, it can be harder to discover how several related functions work together. One way to get a broader overview of functions in a package is to read a package vignette (see the vignette() function). There are also overviews of certain areas of research or application provided by CRAN Task Views (one of the main links on the CRAN web site) and there is a growing list of books on R (see the home page of the R Project).

Paul Murrell

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