Jeromy Anglim's Blog: Psychology and Statistics

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Getting Started with Sweave: R, LaTeX, Eclipse, StatET, & TeXlipse

Being able to press a single button that runs all your statistical analyses and integrates the output into your final report is a beautiful thing. If you have not already heard, this is what Sweave can do for you. However, getting your computer to run Sweave can be a little bit fiddly. Thus, this post: (1) sets out the benefits of Sweave; (2) sets out how to install and configure R, Sweave, and Eclipse on Windows; (3) lists resources for people wanting to learn more about how to use LaTeX and Sweave; and (4) lists some specific resources relevant to researchers in psychology wanting to use these tools.


What is Sweave?

To Sweave is to weave in S. To weave is to combine data analysis code and standard formatted text into a single self-describing document. R is a dialect of S. Thus, if you use R to do your statistical analyses and you want to automate the importation of analyses in R into your reports, Sweave may be the tool for you. For a longer description, see Friedrich Leisch's (2002) Sweave: Dynamic Generation of Statistical Reports Using Literate Data Analysis.

Why Sweave?

  • Reproducibility: The most important reason to adopt a tool like Sweave is to make your research more reproducible. The R code sets out exactly how the raw data is transformed into publication output. The Sweave document links this R output with the final report.
  • Efficiency: Statistical output is automatically incorporated into your report. There is no need to copy and paste output from your statistical analysis program into your report. If your data or analyses change, you can update your report with a single click instead of having to manually update every table and figure.
  • Reliability: The integration of analyses with the report reduces the chance of errors entering in through copying and pasting of statistical output into documents.
  • Education & Communication: By providing data analysis code for a report, this teaches others how to do similar analyses.
  • For an extended discussion, see Anthony Rossini and Friedrich Leisch's (2003) working paper Literate Statistical Practice.

Common Use Cases

  • Statistics Instructional Materials
  • Empirical reports, journal articles, book chapters, theses, etc.
Data sharing, literate programming, reproducible research, weaving: This is future of data analysis. Why not get on board now?


A strength of R, Sweave, and LaTeX is that they are cross platform tools that can be integrated together to support powerful data analytic workflows. These tools run on Windows, Linux, and Mac OS with a range of text editors and command line options. However, the flexibility in configurations presents a challenge. There is no single click installation file like "setup.exe". The tools need to be assembled. This section sets out how to install and configure a system for writing Sweave documents based around the Eclipse IDE and a Windows Operating System. It's not the only way to assemble a system to support Sweave, but for someone entrenched in the Windows world, I think its a good start.

1. Download and install R

R Project. I'm assuming you already use R, but if not you may wish to read my post on Getting Started with R.

2. Download and install a Latex distribution

There are several LaTeX distributions. I installed MikTex.

3.a Download and install Eclipse and the StatET and TeXlipse plugins

See the StatET Installation page for instructions on how to install StatET and Eclipse.
See also the links under "Getting Started" with StatET and Eclipse.

3.a Download and install Eclipse

See StatET Installation page; This assumes you have Java installed.

3.b Install the StatET plugin and the TeXlipse plugin

See StatET Installation page

3.c Configure the StatET plugin

See Longhow Lam's Eclipse and the R plug-in StatET

3.d Configure the TeXlipse plugin

The TeXclipse homepage lists general information. See specifically, the configuration page. My configuration could be abbreviated to: Go to Window - Preferences in Eclipse; Then, TeXlipse - Builder Settings; Then, enter the appropriate directory for your Bin directory of TeX distribution. In my case this was "D:\MiKTeX 2.8\miktex\bin" .

3.e Configure Sweave

  • Sweave.sty: Sweave is a built-in function in R. However, when you run Sweave, your LaTeX distribution needs to be able to find a file called "Sweave.sty". The file is stored in your R program files (e.g., "C:\Program Files\R\R-2.9.1\share\texmf"). A quick way to make it accessible is to place the file in your Eclipse project folder where the Rnw file is located. See this R-Help post for tips. UMN has some additional tips. (UPDATE: Bernd referred me to some additional material on linking Sweave.sty with MikTeX.
  • External Tools: Go to Run -- External Tools - External Tools configurations;
    Sweave Document Processing (R/LaTeX); Click New Button; Give it a name like "Sweave-PDF"
    Under the LaTeX tab change output format to pdf build commands pdflatex.exe


Using Sweave assumes that you know how to use LaTeX. If you just want to write LaTeX documents using Eclipse (without R code), you can go to File - New Project (Texlipse - LaTeX Project). Once you have a basic working environment, it's easy to experiment with all the details of LaTeX. Here are some web guides among the many that are available.


Sweave is fairly straightforward. In Eclipse you can start a new R Project and add an *.Rnw file to write your Sweave document. Then use the Document menu to convert the Sweave file to a TEX file, PDF file, etc. There are many more general resources on Sweave:


Adopting LaTeX and Sweave presents several challenges related to somewhat discipline specific needs. These pertain particularly to the various style conventions expected for journal submission. The following are some useful resources:


  1. Ad "3.e Configure Sweave":

    I don't think that placing "Sweave.sty" in the "Eclipse project folder" (or whatever folder outside share/textmf you may choose) is the best way to go since the original "Sweave.sty" may be subject to future changes. Duncan Murdoch discusses some strategies in Using MiKTeX with R for Windows. I am using the MikTeX Settings tool to update "Roots" (in my case I simply added "d:\programme\R\share\texmf").

  2. @Bernd. Thanks for the suggestion. Putting Sweave.sty in the Eclipse project folder is a bit of a quick hack. I'll have a look at Duncan Murdoch's link.

  3. This is exactly the post I needed. Thanks Jeromy !!


  4. Shameless self promotion:

    When you get up and running with Sweave and want more tools for consistency in the style of graphics you create, try pgfSweave:

  5. Thanks for the helpful information.

  6. Cameron,

    I agree with you: pgfSweave is indeed a very helpful tool.

  7. You've got two (2)'s in the intro paragraph.

  8. @stat arb; thanks. it's tidied up now.

  9. Jeromy, good documentation of the steps for Sweave. I use it a lot; trying to do more, such as in a slides pdf document using something like LaTeX Beamer. Wonder if you or any other commenters here have a recipe for success in using Sweave to make a slides presentation.

  10. @JPS
    I'm planning to post an example of using Sweave together with beamer in the future.
    If you understand Sweave and you understand Beamer, I'm assuming it should be a fairly straightforward task to link the two.

    Sweave is just a preprocessor for LaTeX.
    Check out the beamer and sweave tag on this site for other related posts.

  11. Really delighted to have found this - I've just set everything up and created my first pdf! Very exciting. Thanks for an excellent tutorial. Now to learn LaTeX and sweave, and become familiar with Eclipse...

  12. Hi Jeromy, thanks for the Sweave advice. This is as appropriate a place as any to ask a favour: I'm trying to get a decent mathematical psychology community started on Reddit. We lack consistently updated good reading material.

    If there are any good psychometrics or mathematical psychology links (articles, books, blog posts) you'd like to share with a Generally Interested Lay Audience, please share them with us on

  13. Hi Lors,
    I enjoy Reddit and the mathpsych subreddit in particular. Thanks for getting it started.
    I float around under a pseudonym.

  14. Hi ,

    I am Jana , when i run a sweave document , it's showing an error .."No session of R is active in the current workbench window.
    Exit code = 110 ".. Please help me ...I dont know what is the problem

  15. @Janartan I suggest you ask the question on with r and sweave tags.

  16. Is there any step by step procedure to use Sweave, Latex and R and create a Summary table or listings that are used for Clinical Research

  17. @RK a few options

    1. check out the sweave tag on this site; there are some complete examples

    2. Check out the xtable function; its very easy to use; but there are limits on customisation.

    3. post a question or browse the existing questions with the tags r and sweave on

  18. Thanks Jeromy

    I am using Latex function in Hmisc

    Sure I will check in

  19. I am getting following error message

    Status Processing Sweave Document 'GSS_Report.Rnw'.
    No session of R is active in the current workbench window.
    Exit code = 110


    1. I've switched to using knitr, and using makefiles or using RStudio. It sounds like more information is required to answer your question. I suggest posting it on with the tags R and Sweave describing a little more of the background to your problem (e.g., your setup).