[R] HTML help pages

Prof Brian Ripley ripley at stats.ox.ac.uk
Tue Jan 27 14:26:31 CET 2004

On Tue, 27 Jan 2004, Frank E Harrell Jr wrote:

> On Tue, 27 Jan 2004 12:11:33 +0000 (GMT)
> Damon Wischik <djw1005 at cam.ac.uk> wrote:
> > 
> > On Tue, 27 Jan 2004, Prof Brian Ripley wrote:
> > > Did you check the rw-FAQ?  It says
> > >  If the help search system does not work _at all_, this probably
> > >  indicates that Java support is either not installed or not enabled in
> > >  your browser.  Recent versions of browsers have made Java support
> > >  optional: for example it is optional in Netscape 6/7 and in Opera,
> > >  and may not be installed for IE6 on Windows XP.  You also need
> > >  JavaScript enabled.
> > 
> > I might add one can test if Java support is installed+enabled by going
> > to
> >   http://www.java.com/en/download/help/testvm.jsp
> > This is Sun's java test page.
> > 
> > My situation is that Java support is installed+enabled, but R help is
> > still not working. This indicates some issue to do with the
> > Javascript/Java interface. It might be paranoid security settings,
> > though I've turned of all the security options I can find.
> > 
> > Is there anyone running Mozilla Firebird 0.6 or 0.7 on Debian 3.0 who
> > has got HTML searching to work?
> mozilla-firebird on Debian 3 does not work for me by default, even with
> java and javascript activated.  I've always wondered whether there is a
> way to implement this without java since the java approach has caused so
> many problems for users and it seems to entail some overhead.

Unfortunately, not that we have found.  What you can do with HTML in a
browser is limited.  We could either supply our own HTML-rendering widget,
or run our own HTTP server to talk to a standard browser.  Neither are
small enterprises.

It used not to cause many problems, and I think it rarely does on OSes
with Java support built-in.  There has been a rash of problems with
little-documented security changes and incorrect instructions.

My preferred option is to scale down people's expectations, and perhaps
say on the search page that this will only work if your system is set up
properly, but help.search() will always work.

How to manage help is one of a number of issues facing R (another is the 
introduction of UTF-8 locales and other internationalization issues) where 
a lot of work is needed that is not statistics and is of little benefit to 
developers.  They may not be deemed high enough priority.

Brian D. Ripley,                  ripley at stats.ox.ac.uk
Professor of Applied Statistics,  http://www.stats.ox.ac.uk/~ripley/
University of Oxford,             Tel:  +44 1865 272861 (self)
1 South Parks Road,                     +44 1865 272866 (PA)
Oxford OX1 3TG, UK                Fax:  +44 1865 272595

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