The Comprehensive R Archive Network (CRAN) is the main repository for R packages. (If your package concerns computational biology or bioinformatics, you might be interested in Bioconductor, instead.) The main advantage to getting your package on CRAN is that it will be easier for users to install (with install.packages). Your package will also be tested daily on multiple systems.

It used to be that putting your package on CRAN also gave it some exposure, but with >6000 packages, that’s no longer quite true. To get the word out about your package, I’d recommend twitter, writing a blog, or writing a paper (perhaps for The R Journal or Journal of Statistical Software, though many other journals, including Bioinformatics and Genetics, publish software notes).

Here, I’ll give some advice on how to get your package on CRAN. It can be a painful process, so you want to get your package in order before you submit.

  1. Run R CMD check --as-cran and eliminate all problems. If there are any errors or warnings, your package will not be accepted at CRAN. And even a “Note” will likely disqualify you. So figure out what all of those errors, warnings, and notes mean and then revise your package so that they are no longer issued.

  2. Read the CRAN repository policy. To keep up-to-date with changes, look at Dirk Eddelbuettel’s github repository for the CRAN policy, or follow @CRANPolicyWatch on twitter.

  3. While the official manual on R packages, Writing R Extensions, is rough going, it would probably be a good idea to read through it before attempting to submit your package to CRAN.

  4. Examples in the help files for your package (@examples with Roxygen2) should be quick, as every example in every package on CRAN is tested daily on multiple systems. Use \dontrun{} to skip over very-long-running bits of code, or \dontshow{} to add a bit of code to subset an example dataset to make it much smaller and to make subsequent commands faster. You can also use \donttest{}, which prevents a command from being run during the tests, but still has the command run during a call to example() (which enables a user to run all of the examples for a function). R CMD check --as-cran and devtools::check() will give warnings about examples that take more than a few seconds to run.

  5. Check your package on as many systems as you can. If you have access to a Unix server, run R CMD check --as-cran there; if you have access to Windows and Mac computers, do the same on both. If you have no access to a Windows computer, you can submit your package to the http://win-builder.r-project.org to build and check your package on Windows. You can use build_win() in the devtools package for this.

  6. Also check your package using the development version of R, as this may reveal additional issues. I find it easiest to accomplish this by submitting to http://win-builder.r-project.org (which gives you the option of using R-release or R-devel), as then I don’t need to take the time to install R-devel locally.

  7. Submit your package at the beginning of a week in which you don’t have many commitments. If CRAN finds problems in your package, you’ll want to have some time to make changes and resubmit. (Not everyone agrees with me on this point.)

  8. Instructions on how to submit your package to CRAN are at the bottom of the CRAN front page, “Submitting to CRAN.” Submission is now via a web form. If this process fails, you can go back to the “old” method: upload your package to ftp://CRAN.R-project.org/incoming and send an email to cran@r-project.org. The email should be carefully phrased (and must be sent as plain text!). Be sure to mention that you’ve read and agree to the CRAN policies.

  9. Finally, put on your armor. One of the people that handles CRAN submissions can be unnecessarily offensive and pedantic. Try to put his little barbs out of your mind and focus on his actual advice on how to revise your package to make it suitable for CRAN. (Please don’t be put off by CRAN from this comment. Many people’s experiences are entirely positive. And you can’t expect yourself to have memorized the entire Writing R Extensions manual nor kept track of all changes to the CRAN policy. So if limitations in your understanding are bluntly pointed out, just learn from that, revise your package, and resubmit.)


Now go to the page about writing vignettes.