5 min read

UpdateR package: update R version with a function (on MAC OSX)

Andrea Cirillo

I personally really appreciate the InstallR package from Tal galilli, since it lets you install a great number of tools needed for working with R just running a function.

Among these functions one of my favourite is the **_updateR()*_** function which checks for new versions of R language and in case of positive response installs it on your machine.

The only issue with this function is that it works only on Windows Operating systems.

Mac version of updateR function: the UpdateR package

That is why I developed updateR, a package that let’s you update your R version from R itself just running the following line of code:

updateR(admin_password = "os_admin_user_password")

that is to say you will only have to provide admin user password. This password is required because some of the command executed by updateR() are run as super user (for advanced readers we are talking of our old “sudo” friend).

short paragraphs which follow shows you how to install and use the package.

how to install the updateR package

UpdateR package is hosted on Github. You will therefore have to install it leveraging the install_github() function from devtools package:


how to update R version using the updateR package

As seen, updating R version from R is actually a breeze: you just need to run a function.

all you will need to do is retrieve your MAC admin user password and then run the two following lines of code:

updateR(admin_password = "os_admin_user_password")

Since every command launched in background (see below for more infos) is passed with verbose option on, you will suddenly see your console being populated of output messages informing you on how things are going on.

A the end of the installation process those two lines should appear:

everything went smoothly open a Terminal session and run 'R' to assert that latest version was installed

that is all you need to know to use updateR. By the way If you want to know more on how the function works, have a look at the following paragraphs.

behind the scenes: how updateR works

as experimented with Ramazon package, which allows you to publish your shiny app on amazon AWS with a function, I developed updateR mainly leveraging the system() function, which lets you pass commands to the command line directly from the R environment.

That said, the updateR function workflow can be summarized into the following steps:

verify that user is running a unix machine

as said, updateR is a package thought as a OSX twin of Tall galili installr package and can therefore be run only on Mac OSX machines.

Following this updateR takes care of verifying that you are launching it from a unix OS, running the stopifnot() function in order to alt the execution on non-unix systems:

stopifnot(.Platform$OS.type == "unix")

get last R version from CRAN

How would you programmatically check for the latest R version?

updateR does it importing in R the html code of the rstudio CRAN mirror page (https://cran.rstudio.com/bin/macosx/) and extracting from it the version number.

page              <- xml2::read_html(page_source)
version_block     <- rvest::html_nodes(page,"h1+ p a+ a , table:nth-child(8) tr:nth-child(1) td > a")
filename          <- rvest::html_text(version_block) %>% strsplit("\n", fixed = TRUE) # the resulting value is a list
filename          <- filename[[2]] # we take the second element, containing the name of the file
filename_quoted          <- paste("'",filename,"'",sep = "")

Be aware that resulting filename object will be a string similar to the following :“R-xx.xx.xx.pkg”, since we are looking to compose a download URL for the version package on our machine.

This URL is composed pasting the CRAN mirror url togheter with the filename object:

url               <- paste(page_source,filename, sep = "")

one thing still missing here is the comparison between version installed on the maching calling the function and the retrieved version on CRAN.

I will probably (hopefully) develop this within next releases, and collaboration on this would be really welcome.

After defining the download URL we can actually proceed with downloading the package and install it. the first of those two steps will be performed leveraging built-in function download.file() :


run command line commands within R

the last step is the actual installation of the R version package. this activity will be performed using the command line command installer .

we are first going to put toghethet our line of command with paste() function and then submit to the terminal calling system() function on our command string:

command           <- paste("echo " , admin_password, "| sudo -S installer -pkg ", filename_quoted , " -target / -verbose")

feel free to complain with me

I shared updateR as a package since I think it could be a really useful tool for the R commuynity.

As R itself, updateR package comes with absolute no warranty ( ;)) , nevertheless I will be really pleased to read your comments and suggestions on it, as well as I will be pleased if you would like to further improve it through the Github repo

comments disclaimer
thank you for taking the time to comment. If the comment you are about to write is related to a piece of code I wrote, please reach its Github respository and place there any request of improvement or report of bugs.