R Graphics (e-Book) book cover

R Graphics

By Paul Murrell

© 2006 – Chapman and Hall/CRC

328 pages | 10 Color Illus. | 118 B/W Illus.

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R is revolutionizing the world of statistical computing. Powerful, flexible, and best of all free, R is now the program of choice for tens of thousands of statisticians.

Destined to become an instant classic, R Graphics presents the first complete, authoritative exposition on the R graphical system. Paul Murrell, widely known as the leading expert on R graphics, has developed an in-depth resource that takes nothing for granted and helps both neophyte and seasoned users master the intricacies of R graphics. After an introductory overview of R graphics facilities, the presentation first focuses on the traditional graphics system, showing how to work the traditional functions, describing functions that are available to produce complete plots, and how to customize the details of plots.

The second part of the book describes the grid graphics system - a system unique to R and much more powerful than the traditional system. The author, who was integral in the development of the grid system, shows, starting from a blank page, how it can be used to produce graphical scenes. He also describes how to develop new graphical functions that are easy for others to use and build on. Appendices contain a brief introduction to the R system in general and discuss how the traditional and grid graphics systems can be combined.

Much of the information presented in this book cannot be found anywhere else. Well ahead of the curve, particularly regarding the grid system, R Graphics will have a major impact on the future direction of statistical graphics development.

The author maintains a website with more information.


"With R having become the lingua franca of statistics, 'R Graphics' is a must for many useRs and programmmeRs: Flexible programmable graphics having been a major strength of S from its beginning; this is even more true for R which has both improved the traditional graphics from S and introduced the new much more flexible 'grid' graphics system. Paul Murrell, a member of the R Core Development Team, has not only been the main author of 'grid' but has also been responsible for several recent enhancements to the underlying R graphics engine. Together with its online companion web site, this book will be an indispensable resource for almost everyone interested in how to produce R graphics efficiently and intelligently."

-Dr. Martin Maechler, Seminar for Statistics, Swiss Federal Institute of Technology Zurich, Switzerland

"This book starts where the graphics sections of other books on using S for data analysis typically end: high-level plots and their default settings. If everything you want to do to visualize your data can be done using the standard settings, then this book is not for you. But if you ever wanted to go beyond that line, from changing bits and pieces of a graph to writing your own visualization functions, then ``R Graphics'' has all you need to know (and much more). Starting with the basic plotting commands most users are familiar with from introductory texts, the book gives a comprehensive overview of the current state and design principles of visualizing data with R.

Paul Murrell is one of the main authors of R's graphical facilities, and inventor of completely new features like the grid system or expressions for annotation of plots with mathematical formulae. His book is written in the spirit of S itself: It takes the reader on a journey, where beginners gradually are turned into programmers while learning the language, having ample material for both novices and experts. It will certainly claim its place on the bookshelf of reference guides next to my desktop."

-Friedrich Leisch, Institute for Statistics, Technical University of Vienna, Austria

"R Graphics is exactly the sort of documentation that R needs. It is written clearly, with many examples, and will be useful for any level of R expertise from novice upwards. It contains more than a hundred figures containing model code and its output. There are extensive cross-references that make finding detailed information easy. My copy of the book is from the first printing, but it is exceptionally free of typographical and other errors.

I've been using traditional S graphics in S-PLUS and R for 17 years, so I am very familiar with the system. However, there are some details that I've never memorized, so I've often needed to consult the manual page for the par() function. R Graphics will now be the first place to look for those sorts of details, specifically Chapter 3, which contains a series of diagrams and tables illustrating the choices. Being such an old-time user, I was not so familiar with some of the newer functions, such as layout() and xyz.coords(), and I have already modified some of my own code to make use of them.

I was also very impressed with the book's descriptions of the grid and lattice packages. I have not studied the grid system before, though I have heard Murrell speak about it at conferences. The description in this book is perfect. It takes the reader from the basics through to development of new types of graphics. After reading it, I feel that I understand the philosophy behind the design of grid, and am eager to make use of it in my own work. I especially appreciated the design advice in Chapter 7; I will be making use of it, and referring my students to it.

I think every R user who uses graphics (which is essentially every R user) should have a copy of this book. The grid graphics package was a wonderful development, and this book is another one. Murrell is to be congratulated.

-Duncan Murdoch, University of Western Ontario, Canada

"Thanks to Paul Murrell's new book, the secrets of both traditional graphics and the new, modern grid system get unveiled, preventing useRs from writing 'ugly'

code. … [His] book is the first publication entirely

devoted to R graphics, written by the authoritative

expert in the field. It is definitely a must-have for

novices and professionals alike, the ultimate guide to

the power (and beauty) of R graphics."

-David Meyer, Vienna

University of Economics and Business Administration, in R News 6(2), 2006

"It achieves its goal of documenting the graphical facilities of R and should be extremely useful to anyone in need of detailed knowledge, in particular, of R’s grid graphics."

– Søren Feodor Nielsen, University of Copenhagen, in Journal of Applied Statistics, November 2007, Vol. 34, No. 9

Table of Contents

An Introduction to R Graphics

R graphics examples

The organization of R graphics

Graphical output formats



The traditional graphics model

Plots of one or two variables

Plots of multiple variables

Modern plots and specialized plots

Interactive graphics


The traditional graphics model in more detail

Controlling the appearance of plots

Arranging multiple plots

Annotating plots

Creating new plots



The lattice graphics model

Lattice plot types

Controlling the appearance of lattice plots

Arranging lattice plots

Annotating lattice plots

Creating new lattice plots


A brief overview of grid graphics

Graphical primitives

Coordinate systems

Controlling the appearance of output


Missing values and non-finite values

Interactive graphics

Customizing lattice plots


Working with graphical output

Grob lists, trees, and paths

Working with graphical objects off-screen

Placing and packing grobs in frames

Other details about grobs

Saving and loading grid graphics

Working with lattice grobs


An example

Simple graphics functions

Graphical objects

Querying grid


Obtaining and installing R

An environment for statistical computing and graphics

A programming language


The gridBase package


Function Index

Concept Index

About the Series

Chapman & Hall/CRC The R Series

Learn more…

Subject Categories

BISAC Subject Codes/Headings:
COMPUTERS / Computer Graphics
MATHEMATICS / Probability & Statistics / General