RStudio Development

adamconroy edited this page Aug 16, 2018 · 37 revisions


This document describes how to configure a Linux, macOS, or Windows system to do RStudio development. After installing required dependencies for your target platform you should install the recommended development tools and review the section on iterative development to understand the optimal development workflow.

Getting the Code

You should start by cloning the RStudio repository (either the main repository or a fork you've setup for development). To clone a read-only copy:

git clone

If you have push access then you can clone using:

git clone

Developing with Vagrant

RStudio includes a Vagrant configuration, which can automatically create a virtual machine with a development environment ready to use. In this configuration you won't need to install prerequisites manually, as they'll all be installed on the virtual machine during its provisioning step. Once you've cloned the source, run the command

vagrant up

from within the rstudio directory to create the virtual. See Development with Vagrant for more information.



RStudio has a number of dependencies including CMake, Qt, Boost, and a variety of other libraries. You can install all of these dependencies by following the instructions in the Installing RStudio Dependencies article.

C/C++ Tools

We strongly recommend the use of Qt Creator as a C/C++ IDE for RStudio development. It works well on all three target platforms, has very good support for CMake based projects, and has a deep set of features for productive C/C++ development.

On Windows, Qt Creator is installed automatically as part of installing dependencies. You can download Linux and Mac versions of Qt Creator here:

To create a Qt Creator project for working with RStudio:

  1. Invoke the File -> Open File or Project... menu
  2. Choose the following CMake file: rstudio/src/cpp/CMakeLists.txt

You may also want to change the tab and indentation preferences to match the project standard of using 3 spaces for indentation.

Java Tools

RStudio uses Google Web Toolkit for development of the Javascript client. This code can be found at:


The gwt directory includes project files for both Eclipse and IntelliJ. If you are using Eclipse then two additional steps are highly recommended:

  1. Install the Google Web Toolkit Eclipse Plugin
  2. Go to Preferences -> Google -> Web Toolkit and add the appropriate version of GWT located at rstudio/src/gwt/lib/gwt.

Once the plugin is installed, open the project:

  1. Click File, New, Project
  2. Select Java Project From Existing Ant Buildfile
  3. Browse to rstudio/src/gwt and select build.xml
  4. Select the first of the javac targets presented

Development Workflow

Linux or macOS are strongly recommended for feature development since they support an incremental development model (described below) whereas on Windows you need to do a rebuild and/or relaunch for each iteration.


Before you compile RStudio the first time, you will need to run CMake. Among other things, CMake will set the build directory. Before running CMake, it may be a good idea to change the configured build directory. To do so, navigate to the projects pane on the left hand bar. Under the CMake section you should see a "Build directory:" text edit box. Change the directory to your desired output location.

Now run the CMake build.

There are two additional tweaks to the configuration within Qt Creator that will yield faster builds and more convenient turnarounds on changes:

  1. Add -j4 to the make command line (to use 4 cores for building, feel free to use 8 if you have them)
  2. Add a post build command to force suspension of any running rsession processes The Qt Creator Build Settings for these changes look like this:

Build Settings

Finally, run the project build.

To run a local server on Linux or macOS you execute a script within the CMake build directory. For example:

cd rstudio/src/cpp-build

This runs an RStudio server on http://localhost:8787.


To do incremental client development (tweak and reload the browser to see changes) you should run the following from the rstudio/src/gwt directory:

ant devmode

You can then make incremental changes to Java code and they'll be recompiled automatically whenever you reload the browser.

When running in SuperDevMode and using the Chrome browser, it's possible to set debug breakpoints and step through the GWT Java code rather than the generated JavaScript using source mapping. SuperDevMode emits source maps by default, but you need to turn on source map debugging in Chrome to pick them up. Do this (it's one-time setup):

  1. Open the Chrome dev tools (F12)
  2. Click the gear icon in the bottom right
  3. Under Sources check Enable source maps
  4. Close the preferences and reload RStudio

To debug the Java source once you've done the above:

  1. Browse to RStudio and open the Chrome dev tools
  2. Click the Sources tab and open the navigator (small triangle on the upper left)
  3. Scroll to the bottom of the source list--you'll find the entire Java source tree there
  4. Open a Java file and set breakpoints as usual

A note on Java heap space

It's possible when compiling the GWT sources that Java will run out of heap space. If this happens the ant build will fail while building the javac target with an OutOfMemoryError. To fix this, it's necessary to get ant to fork the javac process that builds the RStudio sources. Add fork = "true" to the <javac ... > directive that compiles org/rstudio. See this StackOverflow answer for details.

Desktop Development

To run the desktop application from within the build tree, switch to the main CMake build directory (the one where rserver-dev is run from as described above) and run this command (it's distinct for each platform):

  • Linux and macOS: rstudio-dev
  • Windows: rstudio.bat

Note that RStudio will attempt to launch the copy of RSession.exe that matches the bit flavor of the default version of R on the system, but by default the makefiles will only produce the 32-bit flavor of RSession.exe. This means that if you have 64 bit R on your system set as the default, you will need to hold down Control while launching RStudio Desktop for the first time, and select the 32 bit version of R to use with RStudio.

macOS Desktop Development

To run using the native OS components (for instance, to use the OS dialogs) run ant desktop (or ant draft for release builds) instead of ant devmode


See Unit Tests for information on running RStudio unit tests.

You can’t perform that action at this time.
You signed in with another tab or window. Reload to refresh your session. You signed out in another tab or window. Reload to refresh your session.
Press h to open a hovercard with more details.