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Get packages that introduce unique syntax adopted less?


I have this hypothesis that packages that introduce a unique syntax, or a workflow change, get adopted less by users, even if what these packages do is super useful. I’m going to discuss two examples of packages that I think are really, really useful, but sometimes I wonder how many R users use them, or would use them if they were aware these packages existed. I myself, only use one of them!

The first package is {typed} which introduces a type system for R. No more silent conversion to and from types without your knowing! If you don’t know what a type system is, consider the following:

## [1] 9

you get “9” back, no problem. But if you do:

## [1] 5

You get 5 back… what in the Lord’s name happened here? What happened is that the number 100000000 could converted to a character implicitly. But because of all these 0’s, this is what happened:

## [1] "1e+08"

It gets converted to a character alright, but scientific notation gets used! So yes, 1e+08 is 5 characters long… Ideally nchar() would at least warn you that this conversion is happening, or maybe even error. After all, it’s called nchar() not nnumeric() or whatever. (Thanks to @cararthompson for this!)

A solution could be to write a wrapper around it:

nchar2 <- function(x, ...){
  stopifnot("x is not a character" = is.character(x))

  nchar(x, ...)

Now this function is safe:

## [1] Error in nchar2(123456789) : x is not a character

{typed} makes things like this easier. Using {typed} you can write the wrapper like this:

## Attaching package: 'typed'
## The following object is masked from 'package:utils':
##     ?
strict_nchar <- ? function(x = ? Character(), ...){

  nchar(x, ...)


{typed} introduces ? (masking the ? command) allowing you to set the type the functions arguments (x = ? Character()) and also we had to write ? in front of function. It’s also possible to set the return type:

strict_nchar <- Integer() ? function(x = ? Character(), ...){

  nchar(x, ...)

## [1] 8

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