# CRAN Task Views Documentation

## Overview

For more details on how to use task views and how to contribute to them, see the repository of the CRAN Task Views Initiative.

## Format

The file format for CRAN task views leverages the R/Markdown format (see Xie, Allaire, Grolemund 2019) so that standard Markdown can be used for formatting and structuring the text and a handful of special R functions are provided to link to CRAN packages, other task views, GitHub projects, etc.

In ctv versions prior to 0.9-0 (released in December 2021), task views used an XML-based format (introduced in Zeileis 2005, R News, 5(1), 39-40 [PDF]). See below for converting task views from the old XML-based format to the new R/Markdown format.

The format is mostly self-explanatory and is illustrated below using an excerpt from the Econometrics task view which is hosted on CRAN at https://CRAN.R-project.org/view=Econometrics and maintained on GitHub at https://github.com/cran-task-views/Econometrics/.

---
name: Econometrics
topic: Econometrics
maintainer: Achim Zeileis, Grant McDermott
email: Achim.Zeileis@R-project.org
version: 2021-12-02
---

Base R ships with a lot of functionality useful for computational econometrics,
in particular in the stats package. This functionality is complemented by many
packages on CRAN, a brief overview is given below. There is also a considerable
overlap between the tools for econometrics in this view and those in the task
views on r view("Finance"), r view("SocialSciences"), and
r view("TimeSeries").

Further information can be formatted with standard Markdown syntax, e.g., for
_emphasizing text_ or showing something really important in **bold face**.
R/Markdown syntax with special functions can be used to link to a standard
package like r pkg("ivreg") or an important "core" package like
r pkg("AER", priority = "core").

### Links
- [Journal of Statistical Software: Econometrics in R](https://www.jstatsoft.org/v27/)
- [The Title of a Relevant Homepage](http://path/to/homepage/)

The document structure consists of three main blocks: (1) Some metainformation is given in the YAML header at the beginning (separated by lines with ---), followed by (2) the information in the main text, and (3) a concluding special section called Links.

## Details

The metainformation needs to provide the following elements:

• name gives the name of the task view in CamelCase. This is used as the identifier for installing the view and as the name for the Markdown file, e.g., Econometrics.md, and the auto-generated HTML file, e.g., Econometrics.html. Hence, it should be not too long (typically 1-3 words) and contain no special characters like spaces, hyphens, etc.

• topic is a plain text specification of the topic of the task view. In the example above it is identical to the name but is often a somewhat longer and more detailed title (in title case).

• maintainer gives the name(s) of the maintainer(s) in a comma-separated list. The principal contact should be listed first and ideally there are a couple of further co-maintainers that help keeping the task view up to date.

• email is the e-mail address of the principal contact or possibly a dedicated mailing list shared by the co-maintainers.

• version is specified by a date in ISO 8601 format (yyyy-mm-dd).

• Additionally, there are optional elements source which can be used to link to the source repository (e.g., on GitHub) and url for the URL of the published task view, respectively. The latter is inserted automatically for the official task views on CRAN.

The information in the main text should be a short description of the packages, explaining which packages are useful for which tasks. Standard Markdown format can be used to structure the document with sections, itemized and enumerated lists, bold face, italics, etc. Additionally, short R code chunks with special functions are used for linking to resources in the same repository: pkg() for normal packages, pkg(..., priority = "core") for important “core” packages, and view() for related task views. A convenience function doi() creates links for DOIs (digital object identifiers). The distinction between “normal” and “core” packages is only important for the installation of CRAN task views because the user can specify whether all packages (default) or only the most important core packages should be installed (with all their dependencies).

Moreover, code projects in other repositories can be linked by using the functions:

Note however that CRAN task views are intended mainly for packages on CRAN (as the name conveys). Thus, links to other repositories should be used for important packages/projects but not list all potentially relevant repositories. Also, it is not necessary to list the GitHub projects for all listed CRAN packages as these are typically provided on the package’s CRAN web page.

All CRAN packages included with the pkg() function will be listed in a dedicated list below the information text when rendering the HTML version of the task view. Also, the task views as well as packages/projects in other repositories will be included automatically in the list of links at the end of the HTML version.

Finally, additional links - e.g., to books, papers, blogs, interest groups, mailing lists, etc. - can be included in the Links section at the end of the file in a standard itemized list. As explained above this list of links will be complemented automatically with links generated from the functions view(), bioc(), github(), etc.

## Working with task view files in R

To check whether a task view file has been formatted properly it can be read into R and printed. This should display the metainformation and the list of packages. Subsequently, it can be rendered to an HTML page and displayed in a browser for checking whether the information text is processed correctly.

For illustration, the code below employs the Econometrics.md file shipped within the ctv package. Instead a local MyNewView.md with resulting MyNewView.html could be used as well.

library("ctv")
x <- read.ctv(system.file("ctv", "Econometrics.md", package = "ctv"))
print(x)
ctv2html(x)
browseURL("Econometrics.html")

Note that the code above is intended for authors of CRAN task views. For end-users the functions available.views(), install.views(), and update.views() are relevant. See https://github.com/cran-task-views/ctv/ for more details.

## Converting the legacy XML format to R/Markdown

The ctv package provides an (unexported) R function to facilitate the transition from the legacy XML format for the task view files to the new R/Markdown format described above. Simply using

ctv:::ctv_xml_to_rmd("MyView.ctv")

will create a MyView.md file from the .ctv file. This should do most necessary transformations automatically. However, it is recommended to thoroughly check the resulting file and improve it as appropriate. To check the resulting HTML output use

ctv2html("MyView.md")
browseURL("MyView.html")

Note that one important difference between the XML and R/Markdown format is that the “package list” does not need to be listed separately anymore, it is auto-generated from the “info” text. Similarly, the “links” just need to provide those links that are not auto-generated from the “info” text.