Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Tomboy Notes: Personal R Help File

When learning R it is helpful to have your own personal help file. One you create for yourself, with the notes, links, and language you understand (sometimes the help files are not very helpful). Let me introduce you to Tomboy Notes.

Tomboy Notes is a light weight and simple note taking program that will work on Windows, Mac and Linux ( to download use: There are two features I would like to highlight, the notebook and the link system.

The notebook allows the user to combine and organize the separate little notes into one area or file, while still retaining their individuality. Opening Tomboy Notes for the first time there is a blank post-it-note looking screen with a a couple of buttons on top. Yep it is that simple. Start writing text and the note will be saved automatically and a list of notes will begin to form. As the number of little notes grows there will arise the need to organize them.

This is done in the main page under file- Notebooks- New Notebook. Once a notebook is made a simple click of the file will show the notes in that particular notebook. Also if some of the notes are needed in several notebooks, that is okay, they can be used in as many notebooks as desired. This is a great way of organizing and keeping track of various notes within the program.

The next feature is the link. Linking button, with a little arrow pointing down, takes a word or phrase, then creates a new note. This note has the title of the word/phrase just highlighted, with the additional comments added by the user. The nice thing about Tomboy Notes is when a link is made, any time that word is used (past or future) that word now links up to that note.

For example when looking up the plot function I went to my R-Code notebook (large window), opened the plot note (medium, top-right), then I had a question about xlim, I click on the blue link and a description of the xlim function is given (small, bottom-right). All of this was done with 3 clicks of the mouse.

Anytime I insert any bit of code from R-Blogger I past it here to see what code I do not have a note about (not blue). This way I can focus on code I do not know. If I do have the code but there is a new twist, I can edit the link to add the additional information and all the links are updated. Tomboy Notes is a convenient and simple way of managing and organizing the vast amount of code available in R, in a personal way. Every time I get a new set of code I paste it into R-Studio to play with it, and Tomyboy Notes,. With each new set of code my own help file expands and so to my understanding of R. And in case I forget, I can go back and find it.

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