R is a programming language as well as a computing environment to perform a wide variety of data analysis, statistics, and visualization. One of the reasons for the popularity of R is that it embraces open, transparent scholarship and reproducible research. It is possible to combine content and code in one document, so data, analysis, and graphs are tied together into one narrative, which can be shared with others to recreate analyses and reevaluate interpretations. Different from tools like ArcGIS or QGIS that are specifically built for spatial data, GIS functionality is just one of many things R offers. And while users of dedicated GIS tools typically interact with the software via a point-and-click graphical interface, R requires command-line scripting. Many R users today rely on RStudio, an integrated development environment (IDE) that facilitates the writing of R code and comes with a series of convenient features, like integrated help, data viewer, code completion, and syntax coloring. By using R Markdown, a particular flavor of the Markdown language, RStudio also makes it particularly easy to create documents that embed and execute R code snippets within a text and to render both, static documents (like PDF), as well as interactive html pages, a feature particularly useful for exploratory GIS work and mapping.
Engel, C. (2019). R for Geospatial Analysis and Mapping. The Geographic Information Science & Technology Body of Knowledge (1st Quarter 2019 Edition), John P. Wilson (Ed.). DOI:10.22224/gistbok/2019.1.3