Microsoft Visual Studio adds R support

The release includes an R editor, code auto-completion, debugging, built-in GitHub support and other features.

Microsoft's Visual Studio added support for the R programming language this week with the unveiling of the open-source R Tools for Visual Studio, now available in public preview.

The release includes an R editor, code autocompletion, debugging, built-in git and GitHub support and an R plotting window and R Markdown/knitr support for exporting reports to Word or HTML format.

This brings Visual Studio in direct competition with the highly popular RStudio IDE for developing R code. RStudio has a significant head start in the hearts and minds of the R community, creating some of the most popular libraries for the language and employing several highly regarded and well-known R developers such as Hadley Wickham.

Visual Studio appears to be competing in part on the attraction of being "multilingual"; and, for Microsoft shops, integration with other Microsoft products such as Azure machine learning.

R is the third language supported by Visual Studio, following Python and Node.js. In a blog post yesterday, Microsoft's data group partner director of program management Shahrokh Mortazav called R "decidedly the most popular statistical/data analysis language in use today." Microsoft is clearly interested in leveraging that popularity, having purchased Revolution Analytics and its enterprise version of R in January.

Visual Studio's Community edition is free to developers "building non-enterprise applications" and in other non-enterprise scenarios. It starts at $45/month for professional enterprise developers. It is also free for those working on open source and academic research.

For its part, RStudio has a free, open-source edition that anyone can use; there's also an enterprise desktop license and two server versions.

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