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Building R packages for Windows

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Building R packages for Windows

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1. Installing the required tools

To build an R pack­age in Win­dows, you will need to install some addi­tional soft­ware tools. These are sum­ma­rized at


1.1 Essen­tial: Rtools

This is a col­lec­tion of unix-​​like tools that can be run from the DOS com­mand prompt. It also con­tains the MinGW com­pil­ers that are used for com­pil­ing For­tran and C code. You should down­load and run the ver­sion cor­re­spond­ing to the flavour of R you are using. When asked, choose the default “Pack­age author­ing instal­la­tion” to build add-​​on packages.

1.2 Optional: MikTeX

Mik­TeX is used for pro­duc­ing the pdf help files. You can pro­duce an R pack­age with­out it, but the pack­age will not con­tain pdf help files. Most of you will have this installed any­way. Down­load from


1.3 Essen­tial: Set­ting PATH variable

The PATH vari­able tells Win­dows where to find the rel­e­vant pro­grams. To add a direc­tory to your PATH on Win­dows select

Control Panel -> System -> Advanced -> Environment Variables

The path vari­able may have already been fixed in step 1.1. In any case, you should check that it looks some­thing like this:

C:\Rtools\bin;C:\Program files\R\R-2.15.1\bin\x64;

The last direc­tory will depend on whether you have a 32-​​bit or 64-​​bit oper­at­ing sys­tem. It should be the direc­tory that con­tains the file Rcmd.exe

  • The pre­cise direc­to­ries will depend where you have installed the var­i­ous tools. The above path should work if you have fol­lowed the default instal­la­tion pro­ce­dure. If the direc­tory names con­tain spaces, put them in quo­ta­tion marks.
  • I have assumed R2.15.1. For later ver­sions, sim­ply change the above paths to the rel­e­vant R ver­sion. It will prob­a­bly then still work.
  • If there are prob­lems, please read the Rtools.txt file carefully.

2 Cre­at­ing the package

Infor­ma­tion about cre­at­ing pack­ages is pro­vided in the doc­u­ment “Writ­ing R exten­sions” (avail­able under the R Help menu) or at


The main items are sum­ma­rized below to get you started, but you will almost cer­tainly need to con­sult the above doc­u­ment if you are to suc­cess­fully com­pile a package. 2.1 Use package.skeleton()

The sim­plest way to cre­ate a pack­age is to first cre­ate an R work­space con­tain­ing all the rel­e­vant func­tions and data sets that you want to include in the pack­age. Delete any­thing from the work­space that you do not want to include in the pack­age. Make sure the cur­rent direc­tory is set to whereever you want cre­ate the pack­age. Use

    setwd("C:/My Documents/Rpackages")

for exam­ple. Then, to cre­ate a pack­age called "fred", use the R command


This will gen­er­ate a direc­tory fred and sev­eral sub-​​directories in the required structure.

2.2 Edit­ing the files

A pack­age con­sists of a direc­tory con­tain­ing a file ‘DESCRIPTION’ and usu­ally has the sub­di­rec­to­ries R, data and man. The pack­age direc­tory should be given the same name as the pack­age. The package.skeleton com­mand above will have cre­ated these files for you. You now need to edit them so they con­tain the right information.


The DESCRIPTION file con­tains basic infor­ma­tion about the pack­age in the fol­low­ing format:

Package: pkgname
Version: 0.5
Date: 2007-06-05
Title: My first collection of functions
Author: Joe Developer , with
contributions from A. User .
Maintainer: Joe Developer
Depends: R (>= 2.0.0), forecast
Suggests: tseries
Description: A short (one paragraph) description of what
the package does and why it may be useful.
License: GPL version 2 or newer
URL: http://www.another.url


2.4 Rd files

The help files for each func­tion and data set are given in “R doc­u­men­ta­tion” (Rd) files in the man sub­di­rec­tory. These are in a sim­ple markup lan­guage closely resem­bling LaTeX, which can be processed into a vari­ety of for­mats, includ­ing LaTeX, HTML and plain text. As an exam­ple, here is the file which doc­u­ments the func­tion seasadj in the forecast package.


\title{Seasonal adjustment}
\item{object}{Object created by \code{\link[stats]{decompose}}
or \code{\link[stats]{stl}}.}
\description{Returns seasonally adjusted data constructed
by removing the seasonal component.}
\value{Univariate time series.}
\seealso{\code{\link[stats]{stl}}, \code{\link[stats]{decompose}}}
\author{Rob J Hyndman}

Detailed instruc­tions for writ­ing R doc­u­men­ta­tion are at


2.5 Includ­ing C or For­tran code

If your R code calls C or For­tran func­tions, the source code for these func­tions needs to be placed in the sub­di­rec­tory src under fred.

2.6 Com­pil­ing the pack­age for Windows

To com­pile the pack­age into a zip file, go to a DOS prompt in the direc­tory con­tain­ing your pack­age. (i.e., the direc­tory "C:\My Documents\Rpackages" in the above exam­ple. Then type

Rcmd INSTALL --build fred

This will com­pile all the nec­es­sary infor­ma­tion and cre­ate a zip file which should be ready to load in R.

2.7 Check­ing the package

To check that the pack­age sat­is­fies the require­ments for a CRAN pack­age, use

Rcmd check fred

The checks are quite strict. A pack­age will often work ok even if it doesn’t pass these tests. But it is good prac­tice to build pack­ages that do sat­isfy these tests as it may save prob­lems later.

2.8 Build­ing a pack­age for other oper­at­ing systems

To build a pack­age for some­thing other than a Win­dows com­puter, use

Rcmd build fred

This cre­ates a tar.gz file which can then be installed on a non-​​Windows com­puter. It can also be uploaded to CRAN pro­vided it sat­is­fies the above tests.

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