Writing Package Functions

This vignettes contains hints and recommendations for writing R functions within a package. If you are not already comfortable with writing R functions, you can read the chapters from R for data science and Advanced R.

Setting up

Your R function must be contained in a .R file under the R folder. As a rule, one R script contains only one function. If you have functions that are closely related, such as a function returning an S3 object and associated S3 methods, it can make sense to have them all in the same script. We recommend combining functions that share common documentation. Combining the documentation of multiple functions is achieved using the roxygen2 tag @rdname.


When writing an R function, you will likely call functions from other packages. You may be used to calling library() or require() to load the namespace of a package and attach it to the search path. Never do this when writing package functions, as dependencies are handles elsewhere. Specifically, the DESCRIPTION file contains an imports field, listing all external packages needed for our package to work. Packages listed here will be installed when EpiForsk is installed. To add a package to the imports, use usethis::use_package(). Note the packages added to the description file are not imported into the EpiForsk package. The imports field just ensures the packages are present on the users computer. To use functions from external packages, use the :: operator. Writing pkg::name will load package pkg if it isn’t already loaded and access the function name. It is possible to import functions from other packages into the EpiForsk namespace using @importFrom for a single function or @import for the full package. It must be added to the roxygen2 documentation in the EpiForsk_package.R file. Doing this makes the imported functions part of the package, increasing the chance of conflicting function names as well as increasing the package size. Therefore :: is the default way to use external functions. We recommend using @importFrom for operators with special syntax such as %>% and for functions used repeatedly. Calling :: costs around 5 μs, so repeatedly means when the function could potentially be called millions of times. We recommend avoiding @import. For more, see dependencies.

Loading package functions

To test your function during development, you can use devtools::load_all() to make it available in the R session. This makes testing smoother than waiting for the package to install every time.