2.1 What is R?

R is a public licence programming language. More specifically, it's a statistical programming language meaning that it's often used for statistical analysis rather than software development. R is also a functional programming, rather than an object-oriented programming language like Python. This means that operation in R are primarily performed by functions (input, do something, output), but more about that later.

Strictly speaking, R is not just a functional programming language. In reality, a language is never purely one type and R is no exception. There are object-oriented systems in R (three main ones), meaning that object-oriented programming is possible and relatively straightforward in R.

So basically, R is a functional programming language with some object-oriented systems. If that means very little to you, don't worry. For the vast majority of users, this is a purely academic definition.

One important attribute about R however that may affect you, is that R is an interpreted language. This essentially means that when you send someone some R code, they need R installed to be able to run it. This means that making full programs is difficult. In the opeRate book that follows this one, we'll look at the shiny package, which can be used to quickly make web apps based on R code. These apps are no different in the sense that they also need R installed to be able to run, but because they are web-based, they are significantly easier to share.

For the most part then, if you want to share R code with colleagues, they'll need to have R installed as well.