styler – A non-invasive source code formatter for R

By Rsome – A blog about some R stuff

(This article was first published on Rsome – A blog about some R stuff, and kindly contributed to R-bloggers)

I am pleased to announce that the R package
styler, which I have worked on
through Google Summer of Code 2017
with Kirill Müller and Yihui Xie,
has reached a mature stage.

You can now install it from CRAN


If your CRAN mirror does not yet have it, you can get it from GitHub with remotes::install_github("r-lib/styler").

The package formats R code, by default according to the tidyverse style guide.
The distinguishing feature of styler is its flexibility. We will introduce some
of the options below. Before I continue, I want to thank my two mentors
from Google Summer of Code, in particular
Kirill Müller, who was an amazing
companion during the three months of coding – and beyond. I feel really blessed
how everything came about. In addition, I would like to thank Google for
organizing GSOC this year and facilitating the involvement of students in open
source projects.

Back to the package: styler can style text, single files, packages and entire
R source trees with the following functions:

  • style_text() styles a character vector.
  • style_file() styles R and Rmd files.
  • style_dir() styles all R and/or Rmd files in a directory.
  • style_pkg() styles the source files of an R package.
  • An RStudio Addin that styles the active file R or Rmd file, the current
    package or the highlighted code.

Styling options

We can limit ourselves to styling just spacing information by indicating this
with the scope argument:

style_text("a=3; 2", scope = "spaces")
a = 3; 2

If you are reading this post on r-bloggers, there might be issues with
displaying code and rendered output correctly. You can continue reading on
the page this post was published initially.

Or, on the other extreme of the scale, styling spaces, indention, line breaks
and tokens:

style_text("a=3; 2", scope = "tokens")
a 2

Another option that is helpful to determine the level of ‘invasiveness’ is
strict. If set to TRUE, spaces and line breaks before or after tokens are
set to either zero or one. However, in some situations this might be
undesirable (so we set strict = FALSE), as the following example shows:

small = 2 ,
medium = 4,#comment without space
large =6
, strict = FALSE
small = 2,
medium = 4, # comment without space
large = 6

We prefer to keep the equal sign after “small”, “medium” and large aligned,
so we set strict = FALSE to set spacing to at least one around =.

Though simple, hopefully the above examples convey some of the flexibility of
the configuration options available in styler. You can find out more about
options available with the tidyverse style by checking out the help file for


In the sequel, let us focus on a configuration with
strict = TRUE and scope = "tokens" and illustrate a few more examples of
code before and after styling.

styler can identify and handle unary operators and other math tokens:

# Before
# After
1 + +1 - 1 - 1 / 2

This is tidyverse style. However, styler offers very granular control for
math token spacing. Assuming you like spacing around + and -, but not
around / and * and ^. This can be achieved as follows:

math_token_spacing = specify_math_token_spacing(zero = c("'/'", "'*'", "'^'"))
1 + +1/2*2^2

It can also format complicated expressions that involve line breaking and
indention based on both brace expressions and operators:

# Before
if (x >3) {stop("this is an error")} else {
1 / 33 *
2 * long_long_variable_names)%>% k(

) }
# After
if (x > 3) {
stop("this is an error")
} else {
1 / 33 *
2 * long_long_variable_names
) %>% k()

Lines are broken after ( if a function call spans multiple lines:

# Before
do_a_long_and_complicated_fun_cal("which", has, way, to,
"and longer then lorem ipsum in its full length"
# After
"which", has, way, to,
"and longer then lorem ipsum in its full length"

styler replaces = with for assignment, handles single quotes within
strings if necessary, and adds braces to function calls in pipes:

# Before
one= 'one string'
two= "one string in a 'string'"
a %>%
b %>%
# After
one two a %>%
b() %>%

Function declarations are indented if multi-line:

# Before
my_fun y,
z) {
# After
my_fun y,
z) {

styler can also deal with tidyeval syntax:

# Before
mtcars %>%
# After
mtcars %>%
group_by(!!! my_vars)

If you, say, don’t want comments starting with ### to be indented, you can
formulate an unindention rule:

"a ,
"### not to be indented",
"# indent normally",
reindention = specify_reindention(regex_pattern = "###", indention = 0)

a ### not to be indented
# indent normally

Customizing styler – implementing your own style guide

Not only can you customize styler with the options of tidyverse_style(). The
real flexibility of styler is supporting third-party style
guides. Technically speaking, a style guide such as tidyverse_style() is
nothing but a set of transformer functions and options. How you can create
your own style guide is explained in this


I hope I have convinced you that you should give styler a try. If you find
unexpected behavior, you are welcome to file an issue on

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