ESS - Emacs Speaks Statistics


1 General Information: README

This is the README file for the distribution of ESS version 18.10

ESS is a GNU Emacs and XEmacs mode for interactive statistical programming and data analysis. Languages supported: the S family (S, S-PLUS and R), SAS, BUGS/JAGS and Stata. ESS grew out of the desire for bug fixes and extensions to S-mode and SAS-mode as well as a consistent union of their features in one package.

Installation instructions are provided in sections for both Unix and Windows; see below.

The current development team is led by Martin Maechler since August 2004. Former project leader A.J. (Tony) Rossini ( did the initial port to XEmacs and has been the primary coder. Martin Maechler ( and Kurt Hornik ( have assisted with the S family and XLispStat. Stephen Eglen ( has worked mostly on R support. Richard M. Heiberger ( has assisted with S/S-PLUS development for Windows. Richard and Rodney A. Sparapani ( have done much of the work improving SAS batch and interactive support. Rodney has also extended ESS to support BUGS/JAGS and has an interest in improving Stata support.

We are grateful to the previous developers of S-mode (Doug Bates, Ed Kademan, Frank Ritter, David M. Smith), SAS-mode (Tom Cook) and Stata-mode (Thomas Lumley).

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1.1 License

The source and documentation of ESS is free software. You can redistribute it and/or modify it under the terms of the GNU General Public License as published by the Free Software Foundation; either version 2, or (at your option) any later version.

ESS is distributed in the hope that it will be useful, but WITHOUT ANY WARRANTY; without even the implied warranty of MERCHANTABILITY or FITNESS FOR A PARTICULAR PURPOSE. See the GNU General Public License in the file COPYING in the same directory as this file for more details.

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1.2 Stability

All recent released versions are meant to be release-quality versions. While some new features are being introduced, we are cleaning up and improving the interface. We know that there are many remaining opportunities for documentation improvements, but all contributors are volunteers and time is precious. Patches or suggested fixes with bug reports are much appreciated!

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1.3 Requirements

ESS is most likely to work with current/recent versions of the following statistical packages: R/S-PLUS, SAS, Stata, OpenBUGS and JAGS.

ESS supports current, and recent, stable versions of GNU Emacs (currently, 24.3 or higher; alpha/beta/pre-release versions are NOT SUPPORTED).

Due to XEmacs lacking some features that ESS requires, ESS support of XEmacs ended with ESS 12.04-4.

To build the PDF documentation, you will need a version of TeX Live or texinfo that includes texi2dvi (BEWARE: recent TeX Live, and some texinfo RPMs, do NOT include texi2dvi).

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1.4 Getting the Latest Version

1.4.1 Source code

You may download the latest ESS release source code from the ESS web page or StatLib

1.4.2 Git for ESS development

Developers and experimentation on ESS mainly happens through git. ESS is currently hosted on Github:

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1.5 Installation

1.5.1 Packaged ESS

You may install ESS from Emacs by using M-x package-install if you add the third-party package archive MELPA to package-archives. Instructions on how to do so are found on MELPA’s website. MELPA also hosts MELPA-stable with stable ESS builds. You may choose between MELPA with the latest and greatest features (and bugs) or MELPA-stable, which may lag a bit behind but should be more stable.

Alternatively, many GNU/Linux distributions package and distribute ESS, check with your distribution to see if this is the case. You may need to add the above require statement to your configuration file in order to activate ESS.

You will need to add

(require 'ess-site)

to your Emacs configuration file in order to activate ESS. Instead of activating ESS when Emacs starts up (which can take some time), you can load ESS when needed by loading the autoload file:

(load "ess-autoloads.el")

Users of the nonfree operating systems macOS and Windows may be interested in downloading the Emacs binary by Vincent Goulet:

  1. macOS Emacs Modified for macOS
  2. Windows Emacs Modified for Windows.

1.5.2 From source

Users who wish to install ESS from the source code may follow these instructions:

  1. Obtain the ESS source files.

    See Latest Version in ESS

    We will refer to the location of the ESS source files as /path/to/ESS/ hereafter.

  2. Optionally, compile elisp files and build the documentation:
    cd /path/to/ESS/

    Without this step, info, pdf and html documentation and reference card will not be available. Uncompiled ESS will also run slower.

  3. Optionally, install site-wide:

    You may make ESS available to all users of a machine by installing it site-wide. To do so, run make install. You might need administrative privileges:

    make install

    The files are installed into /usr/share/emacs directory. For this step to run correctly on macOS, you will need to adjust the PREFIX path in Makeconf. The necessary code and instructions are commented in that file.

  4. Initialize ESS

    If you have performed the make install step from above, add:

    (require 'ess-site)

    to your Emacs configuration file. Otherwise, you should add /path/to/ESS/lisp/ to your Emacs load path and then load ESS with the following lines in your Emacs configuration file:

    (add-to-list 'load-path "/path/to/ESS/lisp/")
    (require 'ess-site)

    ess-site.el loads all ESS languages. If you only want to load support for R, you may use

    (require 'ess-r-mode)

    instead of ess-site. Note that support for loading only part of ESS is recommended only for experienced Emacs users.

    Instead of requiring all or part of ESS at startup, you may want to load the autoloads file to defer loading. See above.

  5. Check installation Restart your Emacs and check that ESS was loaded from a correct location with M-x ess-version.

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1.6 Starting an ESS process

To start an S session on Unix or on Windows when you use the Cygwin bash shell, simply type M-x S RET.

To start an S session on Windows when you use the MSDOS prompt shell, simply type M-x S+6-msdos RET.

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1.7 Current Features

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1.8 New Features

Changes and New Features in 18.10:

Many improvements to fontification:

Notable bug fixes:

Obsolete libraries, functions, and variables:

Changes and New Features in 17.11:

Changes and New Features in 16.10:

Bug fixes in 16.10:

Changes and New Features in 16.04:

Bug fixes in 16.04:

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1.9 Reporting Bugs

Please send bug reports, suggestions etc. to, or post them on our github issue tracker

The easiest way to do this is within Emacs by typing

M-x ess-submit-bug-report

This also gives the maintainers valuable information about your installation which may help us to identify or even fix the bug.

If Emacs reports an error, backtraces can help us debug the problem. Type "M-x set-variable RET debug-on-error RET t RET". Then run the command that causes the error and you should see a *Backtrace* buffer containing debug information; send us that buffer.

Note that comments, suggestions, words of praise and large cash donations are also more than welcome.

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1.10 Mailing Lists

There is a mailing list for discussions and announcements relating to ESS. Join the list by sending an e-mail with "subscribe ess-help" (or "help") in the body to; contributions to the list may be mailed to Rest assured, this is a fairly low-volume mailing list.

The purposes of the mailing list include

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1.11 Authors