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A simple package for reproducible package management in R. This is different than other approaches to package management such as packrat, checkpoint, and renv, by including all-in-one management for packages in R focused around a single function, Require.


Some packages, including those in our PredictiveEcology repository, have many package dependencies. Some of them are on CRAN, but some are still in development and so are hosted elsewhere. Mixing many package dependencies that are constantly evolving creates challenges with standard R package management. For example, what is the best way to move analyses from one machine to another, or set up a series of High Performance Compute nodes? How should we use functions like install.packages in a reproducible workflow that are clearly intended to be used once or very few times? How do we deal with many packages on GitHub that have many common dependencies? Finally, how do we do all this for many concurrent projects without installing hundreds of packages in a new directory for every project?

The Require package attempts to address these issues and others. It is different than packrat in that it is much simpler and is closer to base R package management. Require can use hierarchical library paths, as in base R, with many paths in the .libPaths(), or can set a single library path to be standAlone. This allows “system” packages to be used as well as “project-specific” packages to be used together, as in base R. It is different than other packages like renv in that it is focused around a single function, Require, that can be used in a reproducible workflow. renv uses a notion of package versions, the “snapshot”, as installed at its foundation; any changes to package versions by a user then updates this snapshot. renv does not keep this information in the source code of the project. Require uses the notion of a “snapshot” as a decision to make by a user when it is time to set the package versions. Package versions are primarily updated by the code developer by stating the minimum (or maximum) package version in the source code. This means that by default, projects are somewhat more fluid, defined by no package version if none is required or minimum (or maximum) package versions if required until it is time to freeze it, say when publishing or needing to set up virtual machines with identical setup. From this perspective, renv is more “top-down”, and Require is more “bottom-up”, though they can each emulate the other’s behaviour.

We define a reproducible workflow as a workflow that can be run from the start to any point in the project, without having to “skip over” or “comment out” or “jump to” particular lines or chunks of code. Require does that – you can leave all lines of code in a script and they will work efficiently from any starting point.

Basic usage

Require is essentially a wrapper around functions that install packages, e.g., install.packages, install_github and one of the main function to load packages, require.

# install.packages("Require") 

And with version numbering:

Require("data.table (>=1.12.8)")

It is vectorized on package names, and can include mixed github and CRAN, mixed version number and not:

Require(c("data.table (>=1.12.8)", "PredictiveEcology/quickPlot"))

Setup a project

To have a reproducible project, add Require::setup() at the start of a script. This will set the default R package library to a folder called "R" within the (project) working directory. It will also set a package cache directory in the .cache subfolder of the user’s home directory (so it can) be used by every project on that machine. This could be set to a folder shared across machines in, say, a network. This will also set several options. Rather than “run this once”, the function is designed to be run “every” time, ensuring reproducibility if the script is given to somebody else.

By default, this will add or modify the .Rprofile file in the (project) working directory so that each time the project is loaded, it will be run with the R package folder set up previously.

{r setup} Require::setup()

The above will set up a completely isolated folder (other than base R packages). This means that all packages will have to be re-installed. This may be the right behaviour, for a fully reproducible system. However, there other situations, namely, there are already packages installed in the user or system libraries that can be re-used and only a few additional packages are needed for the project and should be isolated from the other packages on the machine.

{r setup-standAloneF} Require::setup(standAlone = FALSE)

Turn setup off

To reset your project to how it was, use setupOff(), then remove any cases of Require::setup() that are in your scripts.

{r setupOff} setupOff() ## Advanced

Keeping it all isolated

Rather than using Require::setup(), we can use the internal functions directly: setLibPaths, and various options.

setLibPaths("Project_A_Packages", standAlone = TRUE)
.libPaths() # this is just to check what happened in the previous line -- there are 2 folders only
Require("data.table (>=1.12.8)")

Or we can use a hybrid of our main, “personal” library and a project specific one for “extra” packages:

setLibPaths("Project_A_Packages", standAlone = FALSE)
.libPaths() # we have added a library to original ones on this system
Require("data.table (>=1.12.8)")

Installing old package versions

In the same way as above, we can specify maximum or exact package versions. Require will retrieve these on CRAN archives.

Require("data.table (<=1.11.0)")

Managing a project

Because it is vectorized, there can be a long list of packages at the top of a project file, with various sources and version specifications.

setup("ProjectA", standAlone = TRUE)
Require(c("data.table (==1.12.8)", "dplyr", "reproducible", 
          "PredictiveEcology/SpaDES@development", "raster (>=3.1.5)"))

Taking a snapshot

When a system is set up with the correct packages and versions, we can take a snapshot and give that file to another person or machine:

pkgSnapshot("mySnapshot.txt", standAlone = TRUE) # to get only the project specific ones

Move to a new machine, say

Require::Require(packageVersionFile = "mySnapshot.txt")

Using local package cache

When installing on many machines on a network, having a local cache can speed up installations. Setting options("Require.RPackageCache" = someSharedDirectory) will turn on local cache. By default, binaries will be saved on Windows. Also by default, binaries will be built on the fly on *nix systems and this binary will be cached for even faster installs later (turned off with options("Require.RPackageCache" = NULL))



See updates from latest CRAN and development versions.


Current release

R build status codecov

Install from CRAN:


Install from GitHub:

install_github("PredictiveEcology/Require", dependencies = TRUE) 

Development version

R build status codecov

Install from GitHub:

install_github("PredictiveEcology/Require", ref = "development", dependencies = TRUE) 


Require package offers a simple, lightweight, package focused around a single function that is resilient to being called multiple times (unlike install.packages). The package has two dependencies (data.table and remotes) and so can be used to install packages without interfering with itself.


Please see for information on how to contribute to this project.