Chapter 2 R Patched and Development Versions

These instructions cover how to install R from source or from binaries. Contributors will typically need to work with the patched or development versions of R. This chapter describes where the source code for these versions can be found and how to install these versions from the source or the binary builds (where available). The tools required to build R and R packages are also discussed. For the most up to date and complete instructions you can check the R installation and administration manual .

2.1 The R source code

R uses svn as a version control tool hosted at and uses a ‘major.minor.patchlevel’ version numbering scheme2.

There are three releases of R available to install:

  • The latest official release (r-release), either major version x.0.0 or minor version x.y.0, for example: 3.0.0 or 3.2.0

  • The patched release (r-patched), for example 3.0.1 or 3.2.1 and

  • The development release (r-devel) : continually developed version moving from r-release to next major/minor version (x + 1).0.0 or x.(y + 1).0 a few weeks before release (at the start of the “GRAND FEATURE FREEZE”).

The source code of released versions of R can be found at R/tags, the patched versions are at R/branch.

The r-devel at R/trunk is the next minor or eventual major release development version of R. Bug fixes and new features are introduced in r-devel first. If the change meets the development guidelines R Core will also make the change in r-patched.

2.2 Prerequisites

To install from the source code you will need the source code and the dependencies of R.

If you need to install svn you can use your distribution’s package manager to install it.

2.2.1 Ubuntu

In Ubuntu you can use this command to find all the dependencies of R:

apt-rdepends --build-depends --follow=DEPENDS r-base-dev | grep " B" | sed -e "s/  Build-Depends: //"

It might require installation of apt-rdepends which can be done from default repositories via sudo apt-get install apt-rdepends.

To install all the R dependencies you can use:

sudo apt-get build-dep r-base-dev

2.2.2 Fedora

In Fedora you can use this command to find all the dependencies of R:

dnf rq -q --repo=fedora-source --requires R 

You will also need the rsync package to download the recommended packages.

To install them you can use:

dnf install 'dnf-command(builddep)'
dnf install rsync
dnf builddep R

2.3 Building R

2.3.1 Linux

Here are the basic steps intended as a checklist. For complete instructions please see the section in R-admin.

  1. Retrieve R source code via into TOP_SRCDIR, note that we retrieve the r-devel source code:

    export TOP_SRCDIR="$HOME/Downloads/R"
    svn checkout "$TOP_SRCDIR"
  2. Download the latest recommended packages3:

  3. Create the build directory in the BUILDDIR:

    export BUILDDIR="$HOME/bin/R"
    mkdir -p "$BUILDDIR"
    cd "$BUILDDIR"
  4. Configure the R installation (with --enable-R-shlib so that RStudio IDE can use it):

    "$TOP_SRCDIR/configure" --enable-R-shlib
  5. Build R :

  6. Check that R works as expected:

    make check

    There are other checks you can run:

    make check-devel
    make check-recommended

If we don’t want to build R in a different directory than the source code we can simply use:

svn update
"$TOP_SRCDIR/configure"  --enable-R-shlib
make check

Once you successfully built R from source you can modify the R source code to fix an issue: Prepare a patch (See this guide) and after checking that R works as intended (make check-devel) submit the patch for consideration by R Core. (See the lifecycle of a patch chapter).

To use the r-devel version in RStudio, you can do the following:


2.3.2 Windows Binaries

The binary builds of R for Windows can be downloaded and installed from here. Along with the link to the latest stable release, this page also contains links to the binary builds of r-patched and r-devel.

  1. Click on the download links to download an executable installer.

  2. Select the language while installing, read the GNU general public license information, and select the destination location to start the installation. You will be prompted to select components at this stage: User installation, 64-bit User installation, or Custom installation. The default option may be chosen for the questions from this step onwards to complete the installation.

Daily binaries for r-devel are made available for download and installation. From source

Before installing R from source, some additional programs are needed, as per the latest documentation:

  1. Rtools is the suggested toolchain bundle for building R base and R packages containing compiled code on Windows. The latest version of Rtools can be installed using the Rtools installer rtools43-XXXX-XXX.exe.

  2. A LaTeX compiler is needed to install and build R, check packages and build manuals. On CRAN, MiKTeX is used, which can be downloaded from Once installed open MiKTeX via the Windows start menu. It might ask to check for updates and more importantly, to make it available in PATH. You can accept both.

  3. Open the Rtools43 terminal to update and install subversion:

    pacman -Syuu
    pacman -Sy wget subversion
  4. Retrieve the latest source code via subversion:

    export TOP_SRCDIR="$HOME/Downloads/R"
    svn checkout "$TOP_SRCDIR"

    If you already have the repository available you can update as:

    cd $TOP_SRCDIR
    svn update

    You can also use a SVN client such as TortoiseSVN (, command line tool, and Windows Explorer integration) or SlikSVN (, just the command line tool) so that it can be also found by other tools.

  5. Download the latest tcl/tk and unzip it in $TOP_SRCDIR:

    cd "$TOP_SRCDIR"
    wget -np -nd -r -l1 -A 'tcltk-*.zip'
    unzip "tcltk-*.zip"
  6. Add gcc, MiKTeX and tar to the PATH and set one tar option:

    export PATH="/x86_64-w64-mingw32.static.posix/bin:$PATH"
    export PATH="/c/Program Files/MiKTeX/miktex/bin/x64:$PATH"
    export TAR="/usr/bin/tar"
    export TAR_OPTIONS="--force-local"

    If MiKTeX was installed just for your user you might need to run:

    export PATH="/c/Users/$USER/AppData/Local/Programs/MiKTeX/miktex/bin/x64:$PATH"
  7. Check that all the programs can be found:

    which make gcc pdflatex tar

    If there is any error you’ll need to find where the program is installed and add the corresponding path.

  8. Download the latest recommended packages4:

    cd "$TOP_SRCDIR/src/gnuwin32/"
  9. Build R and the recommended packages:

    make all recommended

    The recently compiled version of R will be at $TOP_SRCDIR/bin/. In RStudio you can select that folder and restart it to use the r-devel version.

  10. Check that R works as expected:

    make check

    There are other checks you can run for testing the successful installation of the recommended packages:

    make check-devel
    make check-recommended

2.3.3 macOS

This section will be added after the official installation instructions for macOS in the R installation and administration manual have been updated for R 4.3.0.

  1. Also known as semantic versioning↩︎

  2. Recommended packages are not in the subversion repository.↩︎

  3. Recommended packages are not in the subversion repository.↩︎