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RStudio Electron Preview Release Notes

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Introduction

The RStudio IDE team is in the process of migrating the RStudio Desktop IDE from one programming toolkit (QtWebEngine) to another (Electron). Electron is used to create many popular applications such as Visual Studio Code and Slack, and will provide better performance, accessibility, and maintainability for the RStudio Desktop IDE.

The "Spotted Wakerobin" RStudio IDE release (July 2022) includes a preview of the Electron-based RStudio IDE aimed at users wishing to test drive the new technology and provide feedback.

The Electron-based IDE will replace the QtWebEngine version entirely in a future release, but for now is considered experimental and should not be used for production work. Most users should continue using the QtWebEngine-based desktop release.

Note that this isn't a ground-up rewrite of the RStudio IDE; the vast majority of the underlying code is identical between the Electron and Qt versions.

Installation

RStudio Electron is provided in the same downloadable formats as the Qt version, and is installed the same way.

The RStudio installer for Microsoft Windows and the Linux packages (deb, rpm) will replace previous RStudio installs, whether the Electron or Qt flavors, so if you want to keep an official RStudio desktop version installed while experimenting with Electron, we recommend using the installer-less downloads (Windows and Linux) then extract them to a convenient location. This won't create desktop / start menu shortcuts so you'll need to directly execute rstudio / rstudio.exe from where you placed it.

For macOS, you can drag the RStudio.app from the Electron disk-image to a different location than the Qt version.

Identifying Electron vs. QtWebEngine

The Qt and Electron downloads have the same filenames, the installation process looks exactly the same, and the application itself also looks almost exactly the same. Thus, it can be easy to lose track of which version you have. The easiest way to distinguish is from inside the application, via the Help / About RStudio dialog.

qt-about.png

electron-about.png

Features

Most RStudio IDE functionality is already available in the Electron preview. There are very few Electron-specific features; for the most part the application should look and behave the same as before. Once the move to Electron is complete, we will be able to leverage it to build new capabilities into the product, but achieving parity is the goal for the first release.

One new feature worth noting is that the Mac version is a universal binary and natively supports both M1 and Intel/x64 Macs, as well as M1 and Intel R sessions. Performance, especially first run, on an M1 Mac should be noticably improved compared to the QtWebEngine version.

Known Issues (as of build 2022.06.0-daily+506)

Not all known issues are included below, just those most likely to impact casual usage.

For a more complete list, view the RStudio github issues list filtered by the "electron" keyword.

Desktop Pro (RDP) Features not Available (tracked in private repo)

The preview does not include the RStudio Desktop Pro features such as licensing or remote session support. These features will be included in the final release.

Rendered Documents Don't Launch Microsoft Word (#10897)

When you render a document (RMarkdown, Quarto) to a docx file, it is not automatically opened in Microsoft Word or equivalent. You must manually open the generated file. 

Rendered Presentations Don't Launch Microsoft PowerPoint (#11340)

When you render a presentation to a PowerPoint file (pptx), it is not automatically opened in Microsoft PowerPoint or equivalent. You must manually open the generated file.

Sumatra PDF Viewer not Available on Windows (#11345)

The option to preview generated PDFs using the Sumatra PDF viewer on Windows is not yet implemented.

Compiled PDF doesn't open in system PDF viewer (#11388)

Previewing PDFs in the system viewer is not yet implemented.

Existing Shortcuts Won't Work (#10849)

The internal layout of the installed application on disk has changed, so if you had manually created a shortcut to rstudio.exe on Windows after installing the QtWebEngine version, then install the Electron version over it, that shortcut will no longer work and will need to be recreated. The same is true for aliases on macOS or Linux.

Dock icon doesn't show project name (#11386)

When a project is open, the RStudio dock icon (macOS) doesn't show the project name.

Docker menu missing command for opening a new RStudio window (#11387)

The dock menu on macOS is missing the New RStudio Window command.

System File Dialogs Don't Display Automatically on Linux (#11100)

On certain Linux desktops, standard dialogs such as File Open don't automatically get displayed on top of the main window and must be manually switched to. As a workaround, you can tell RStudio Electron to use the same web-based dialogs as RStudio Server by unchecking "Use native file and message dialog boxes".

web-dialogs.png

Warnings in Terminal (Various issues)

When starting RStudio Electron from a terminal or command-prompt you may see warning messages that vary depending on your operating system, graphics card, and desktop environment. You can generally ignore these messages.

Extra Instances of Application When Opening Files (#11251)

When RStudio Electron is already running and you open a file from Explorer/Finder, etc. it may start a new instance of RStudio instead of opening the file in the existing instance.

Incomplete Loading Restriction Features (#11252)

Not all features related to locking down what can be loaded into RStudio's web browser have been completed in the preview. In practice this should not present a problem, but be aware this is a pre-release product that has not undergone the usual level of testing, security-related or otherwise.

Tools / Shell Command Not Implemented (#11253)

The feature for launching a native system shell/terminal is not yet implemented.

RTools Doesn't Install After Download (#11403)

Microsoft Windows only; RStudio doesn't start the RTools installer after downloading it.

Cannot Save Viewer Pane as Image (#11392)

The "Save As Image" command in the Viewer pane doesn't actually save the file.

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