GrapheR: a multiplatform GUI for drawing customizable graphs in R

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Authors Maxime R. Hervé
Journal/Conference Name The R Journal
Paper Category
Paper Abstract This article presents GrapheR, a Graphical User Interface allowing the user to draw customizable and high-quality graphs without knowing any R commands. Six kinds of graph are available: histograms, box-and-whisker plots, bar plots, pie charts, curves and scatter plots. The complete process is described with the examples of a bar plot and a scatter plot illustrating the legendary puzzle of African and European swallows’ migrations. Observation and aims Unlike statistical software based on a Graphical User Interface (GUI ), such as Minitab® or Stata®, the R language allows you to control exactly how your data will be displayed. This comes at a cost: you must know the exact arguments of the commands to get the result you want. In this context, beginners find that drawing elaborate graphs is often a long and difficult process made up of lots of trials and slight code modifications. Some well-known R GUIs already exist (e.g. R Commander (Fox, 2005), JGR (Helbig et al., 2005), Sci-Views R (Grosjean, 2010), Rattle (Williams, 2009) or playwith (Andrews, 2010)), but the graphs they produce have mainly an explorative function in data analysis, and are not customizable to get publication-ready material. Therefore, many R users, especially beginners (but not only), go back to Excel®-like software and their clickable interfaces to quickly draw the graphs they want to publish. In the compromise between speed and simplicity vs. graph quality, they must sacrifice graph quality in the process. This is regrettable, because R can do lots of things Excel® cannot, by combining high and low-level graphical functions. The goal of the GrapheR (Herve, 2011) package is therefore to combine the simplicity of a GUI with the powerful capabilities and the graphical quality of R. To be immediately accessible to beginners, GrapheR does not require any knowledge of the R language. Indeed, the loading of the dataset, the choice of the variables to be represented and the configuration of all graphical options are made with menus, checkboxes and other clickable tools. The visual structure and functioning of the GUI are entirely based on the tcltk package developed by Peter Dalgaard (Dalgaard, 2001, 2002), which adapts the Tcl/Tk language to R. Lauching the interface As with any other package, GrapheR is loaded via library(GrapheR), require(GrapheR) or the ‘Packages’ menu of the Windows R GUI. Launching the interface is the only step that requires the user to enter a command: run.GrapheR(). The interface opens and the console can now be reduced. Description of the interface The interface is divided into three blocks (Figure 1): 1. The navigation bar: it contains seven groups of buttons, each corresponding to one (obligatory or optional) step of the process. From left to right: A. Loading and modifying the dataset. B. Setting up a graph. From left to right: histogram, box-and-whisker plot, bar plot, pie chart, curve and scatter plot. C. Opening a new graphics device: when a graph is drawn, it is in the active window or in a new device if none is open. This button allows the user to open a new graphics device in which several graphs can be drawn.
Date of publication 2011
Code Programming Language R
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