Our first attempt at solving the problem of reproducible environments
was packrat. While we
learned a lot from packrat, it ultimately proved challenging to use in
ways that were difficult to fix. This led us to create renv, a system
with fewer surprises and better defaults. If you’re an existing packrat
user, you can call
renv::migrate() to switch renv, then
read on to learn about the main differences:
The renv lockfile
renv.lock is formatted as JSON. This should make the lockfile
easier to use and consume with other tools.
renv no longer attempts to explicitly download and track R package source tarballs within your project. This was a frustrating default that operated under the assumption that you might later want to be able to restore a project’s private library without access to a CRAN repository. In practice, this is almost never the case, and the time spent downloading + storing the package sources seemed to outweigh the potential reproducibility benefits.
Packrat tried to maintain the distinction between so-called
stale packages; that is, R packages which were installed by
Packrat but were not recorded in the lockfile for some reason. This
distinction was (1) overall not useful, and (2) confusing. renv no
longer makes this distinction:
snapshot() saves the state
of your project library to
restore() loads the state of your project library from
renv.lock, and that’s all.
In renv, the global package cache is enabled by default. This should reduce overall disk-space usage as packages can effectively be shared across each project using renv.
renv’s dependency discovery machinery is more configurable. The
renv::dependencies() is exported, and users can
.renvignore files to instruct renv to ignore
specific files and folders in their projects. (See
?renv::dependencies for more information.)