R: Getting Help with R (2024)

Helping Yourself

Before asking others for help, it’s generally a good idea for you to try to help yourself. R includes extensive facilities for accessing documentation and searching for help. There are also specialized search engines for accessing information about R on the internet, and general internet search engines can also prove useful (see below).

R Help: help() and ?

The help() function and ? help operator in R provide access to the documentation pages for R functions, data sets, and other objects, both for packages in the standard R distribution and for contributed packages. To access documentation for the standard lm (linear model) function, for example, enter the command help(lm) or help("lm"), or ?lm or ?"lm" (i.e., the quotes are optional).

To access help for a function in a package that’s not currently loaded, specify in addition the name of the package: For example, to obtain documentation for the rlm() (robust linear model) function in the MASS package, help(rlm, package="MASS").

Standard names in R consist of upper- and lower-case letters, numerals (0-9), underscores (_), and periods (.), and must begin with a letter or a period. To obtain help for an object with a non-standard name (such as the help operator ?), the name must be quoted: for example, help('?') or ?"?".

You may also use the help() function to access information about a package in your library — for example, help(package="MASS") — which displays an index of available help pages for the package along with some other information.

Help pages for functions usually include a section with executable examples illustrating how the functions work. You can execute these examples in the current R session via the example() command: e.g., example(lm).

Vignettes and Code Demonstrations: browseVignettes(), vignette() and demo()

Many packages include vignettes, which are discursive documents meant to illustrate and explain facilities in the package. You can discover vignettes by accessing the help page for a package, or via the browseVignettes() function: the command browseVignettes() opens a list of vignettes from all of your installed packages in your browser, while browseVignettes(package=package-name) (e.g., browseVignettes(package="survival")) shows the vignettes, if any, for a particular package. vignette() is employed similarly, but displays a list of vignettes in text form.

You can also use the vignette("vignette-name") command to view a vignette (possibly specifying the name of the package in which the vignette resides, if the vignette name is not unique): for example, vignette("timedep") or vignette("timedep", package="survival") (which are, in this case, equivalent).

Vignettes may also be accessed from the CRAN page for the package (e.g.survival), if you wish to review the vignette for a package prior to installing and/or using it.

Packages may also include extended code demonstrations (“demos”). The command demo() lists all demos for all packages in your library, while demo(package="package-name") (e.g., demo(package="stats")) lists demos in a particular package. To run a demo, call the demo() function with the quoted name of the demo (e.g., demo("nlm")), specifying the name of the package if the name of the demo isn’t unique (e.g., demo("nlm", package="stats"), where, in this case, the package name need not be given explicitly).

Searching for Help Within R

The help() function and ? operator are useful only if you already know the name of the function that you wish to use. There are also facilities in the standard R distribution for discovering functions and other objects. The following functions cast a progressively wider net. Use the help system to obtain complete documentation for these functions: for example, ?apropos.


The apropos() function searches for objects, including functions, directly accessible in the current R session that have names that include a specified character string. This may be a literal string or a regular expression to be used for pattern-matching (see ?"regular expression"). By default, string matching by apropos() is case-insensitive. For example, apropos("^glm") returns the names of all accessible objects that start with the (case-insensitive) characters "glm".

help.search() and ??

The help.search() function scans the documentation for packages installed in your library. The (first) argument to help.search() is a character string or regular expression. For example, help.search("^glm") searches for help pages, vignettes, and code demos that have help “aliases,” “concepts,” or titles that begin (case-insensitively) with the characters "glm". The ?? operator is a synonym for help.search(): for example, ??"^glm".


RSiteSearch() uses an internet search engine (also see below) to search for information in function help pages and vignettes for all CRAN packages, and in CRAN task views (described below). Unlike the apropos() and help.search() functions, RSiteSearch() requires an active internet connection and doesn’t employ regular expressions. Braces may be used to specify multi-word terms; otherwise matches for individual words are included. For example, RSiteSearch("{generalized linear model}") returns information about R functions, vignettes, and CRAN task views related to the term "generalized linear model" without matching the individual words "generalized", "linear", or "model".

findfn() and ??? in the sos package, which is not part of the standard R distribution but is available on CRAN, provide an alternative interface to RSiteSearch().


help.start() starts and displays a hypertext based version of R’s online documentation in your default browser that provides links to locally installed versions of the R manuals, a listing of your currently installed packages and other documentation resources.

R Help on the Internet

There are internet search sites that are specialized for R searches, including search.r-project.org (which is the site used by RSiteSearch) and Rseek.org.

It is also possible to use a general search site like Google, by qualifying the search with “R” or the name of an R package (or both). It can be particularly helpful to paste an error message into a search engine to find out whether others have solved a problem that you encountered.

CRAN Task Views

CRAN Task Views are documents that summarize R resources on CRAN in particular areas of application, helping your to navigate the maze of thousands of CRAN packages. A list of available Task Views may be found on CRAN.

R FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions)

There are three primary FAQ listings which are periodically updated to reflect very commonly asked questions by R users. There is a Main R FAQ, a Windows specific R FAQ and a Mac OS (OS X) specific R FAQ.

Asking for Help

If you find that you can’t answer a question or solve a problem yourself, you can ask others for help, either locally (if you know someone who is knowledgeable about R) or on the internet. In order to ask a question effectively, it helps to phrase the question clearly, and, if you’re trying to solve a problem, to include a small, self-contained, reproducible example of the problem that others can execute. For information on how to ask questions, see, e.g., the R mailing list posting guide, and the document about how to create reproducible examples for R on Stack Overflow.

Stack Overflow

Stack Overflow is a well organized and formatted site for help and discussions about programming. It has excellent searchability. Topics are tagged, and “r” is a very popular tag on the site with almost 150,000 questions (as of summer 2016). To go directly to R-related topics, visit http://stackoverflow.com/questions/tagged/r. For an example both of the value of the site’s organization and information that is very useful to R users, see “How to make a great R reproducible example?”, which is also mentioned above.

R Email Lists

The R Project maintains a number of subscription-based email lists for posing and answering questions about R, including the general R-help email list, the R-devel list for R code development, and R-package-devel list for developers of CRAN packages; lists for announcements about R and R packages; and a variety of more specialized lists. Before posing a question on one of these lists, please read the R mailing list instructions and the posting guide.

R: Getting Help with R (2024)


Where can I get help with R? ›

To access R's built-in help facility to get information on any function simply use the help() function. For example, to open the help page for our friend the mean() function. or you can use the equivalent shortcut.

How to get help in RStudio? ›

Use Help in RStudio
  1. Type ? sqrt in your script.
  2. Then, help will pop up on the bottom right hand quadrant of RStudio. These give documentation about how to use the function, what arguments it takes, and some example code. Example code might be a helpful page to start with. ...
  3. Type ?? read_excel.
Dec 14, 2023

How do I get help with a package in R? ›

You may also use the help() function to access information about a package in your library — for example, help(package="MASS") — which displays an index of available help pages for the package along with some other information.

What is the help search command in R? ›

The help.search() function in R searches the help system. This function searches for the help system for documentation matching. It does so for a given character string in the file name, title, alias, concept, and keywords entries.

How do I get the R program? ›

Installing R on Windows OS
  1. Go to the CRAN website.
  2. Click on "Download R for Windows".
  3. Click on "install R for the first time" link to download the R executable (.exe) file.
  4. Run the R executable file to start installation, and allow the app to make changes to your device.
  5. Select the installation language.
Feb 7, 2022

Is the R program free? ›

R is a free statistical software package heavily influenced by S. It can be installed on Linux, Windows and MacOS.

What is the shortcut key for help in R? ›

Control/Ctrl + 1 : Source editor (your script) Control/Ctrl + 2 : Console. Control/Ctrl + 3 : Help.

What is the help system in R? ›

The help system for R is built into the language as a subsystem. There are various ways to access the R help subsystem. Accessing help from the command line is similar to the Linux 'man pages'. But there are also other ways to get help, such as a web browser and website searches.

Why isn't my RStudio working? ›

Check firewall, proxy settings, and antimalware. Although RStudio does not require internet access, it does use a localhost connection to link your R session with the RStudio IDE. As a result, it is possible a (software-based) firewall, network setting, or antimalware program is blocking access to RStudio.

Is there a package manager for R? ›

R users also have access to packages developed on GitHub, BioConductor, and often local packages internal to the enterprise. RStudio Package Manager solves these problems by creating a central location for R packages.

What is %>% in R? ›

R pipes are a way to chain multiple operations together in a concise and expressive way. They are represented by the %>% operator, which takes the output of the expression on its left and passes it as the first argument to the function on its right. Using pipes in R allows us to link a sequence of analysis steps.

What is Rtools for? ›

Rtools is a toolchain bundle used for building R packages from source (those that need compilation of C/C++ or Fortran code) and for build R itself.

Which command is used to help in R? ›

Use the help() command.

What does the help command do? ›

The help command provides a brief description of the context-sensitive help system. To list all commands available for a particular command mode, enter a question mark (?) at the system prompt.

What does the GET () command do in R? ›

get() function in R Language is used to return an object with the name specified as argument to the function. This is another method of printing values of the objects just like print function.

What is the R program? ›

R is a free, open-source programming language, meaning anyone can use, modify, and distribute it. It was initially written by Ross Ihaka and Robert Gentleman (also known as R&R) of the University of Auckland's Statistics Department.

Where can I access R? ›

Click on the “Start” button at the bottom left of your computer screen, and then choose “All programs”, and start R by selecting “R” (or R X.X.X, where X.X.X gives the version of R, eg. R 2.10. 0) from the menu of programs. The R console (a rectangle) should pop up.

Where can I get help with RStudio? ›

Codementor is a leading on-demand mentorship platform, offering help from top RStudio experts. Whether you need help building a project, reviewing code, or debugging, our RStudio experts are ready to help.

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