Chapter 14 Installed files

When a package is installed, everything in inst/ is copied into the top-level package directory. In some sense inst/ is the opposite of .Rbuildignore - where .Rbuildignore lets you remove arbitrary files and directories from the top level, inst/ lets you add them. You are free to put anything you like in inst/ with one caution: because inst/ is copied into the top-level directory, you should never use a subdirectory with the same name as an existing directory. This means that you should avoid inst/build, inst/data, inst/demo, inst/exec, inst/help, inst/html, inst/inst, inst/libs, inst/Meta, inst/man, inst/po, inst/R, inst/src, inst/tests, inst/tools and inst/vignettes.

This chapter discusses the most common files found in inst/:

  • inst/AUTHOR and inst/COPYRIGHT. If the copyright and authorship of a package is particularly complex, you can use plain text files, inst/COPYRIGHTS and inst/AUTHORS, to provide more information.

  • inst/CITATION: how to cite the package, see package citation for details.

  • inst/docs: This is an older convention for vignettes, and should be avoided in modern packages.

  • inst/extdata: additional external data for examples and vignettes. See external data for more detail.

  • inst/java, inst/python etc. See other languages.

To find a file in inst/ from code use system.file(). For example, to find inst/extdata/mydata.csv, you’d call system.file("extdata", "mydata.csv", package = "mypackage"). Note that you omit the inst/ directory from the path. This will work if the package is installed, or if it’s been loaded with devtools::load_all().

14.1 Package citation

The CITATION file lives in the inst directory and is intimately connected to the citation() function which tells you how to cite R and R packages. Calling citation() without any arguments tells you how to cite base R:

#> To cite R in publications use:
#>   R Core Team (2020). R: A language and environment for statistical
#>   computing. R Foundation for Statistical Computing, Vienna, Austria.
#>   URL
#> A BibTeX entry for LaTeX users is
#>   @Manual{,
#>     title = {R: A Language and Environment for Statistical Computing},
#>     author = {{R Core Team}},
#>     organization = {R Foundation for Statistical Computing},
#>     address = {Vienna, Austria},
#>     year = {2020},
#>     url = {},
#>   }
#> We have invested a lot of time and effort in creating R, please cite it
#> when using it for data analysis. See also 'citation("pkgname")' for
#> citing R packages.

Calling it with a package name tells you how to cite that package:

#> To cite lubridate in publications use:
#>   Garrett Grolemund, Hadley Wickham (2011). Dates and Times Made Easy
#>   with lubridate. Journal of Statistical Software, 40(3), 1-25. URL
#> A BibTeX entry for LaTeX users is
#>   @Article{,
#>     title = {Dates and Times Made Easy with {lubridate}},
#>     author = {Garrett Grolemund and Hadley Wickham},
#>     journal = {Journal of Statistical Software},
#>     year = {2011},
#>     volume = {40},
#>     number = {3},
#>     pages = {1--25},
#>     url = {},
#>   }

To customise the citation for your package, add a inst/CITATION that looks like this:

citHeader("To cite lubridate in publications use:")

citEntry(entry = "Article",
  title        = "Dates and Times Made Easy with {lubridate}",
  author       = personList(as.person("Garrett Grolemund"),
                   as.person("Hadley Wickham")),
  journal      = "Journal of Statistical Software",
  year         = "2011",
  volume       = "40",
  number       = "3",
  pages        = "1--25",
  url          = "",

  textVersion  =
  paste("Garrett Grolemund, Hadley Wickham (2011).",
        "Dates and Times Made Easy with lubridate.",
        "Journal of Statistical Software, 40(3), 1-25.",

You need to create inst/CITATION. As you can see, it’s pretty simple: you only need to learn one new function, citEntry(). The most important arguments are:

  • entry: the type of citation, “Article”, “Book”, “PhDThesis” etc.

  • The standard bibliographic information like title, author (which should be a personList()), year, journal, volume, issue, pages, …

A complete list of arguments can be found in ?bibentry.

Use citHeader() and citFooter() to add additional exhortations.

14.2 Other languages

Sometimes a package contains useful supplementary scripts in other programming languages. Generally, you should avoid these, because it adds an additional extra dependency, but it may be useful when wrapping substantial amounts of code from another language. For example, gdata wraps the Perl module Spreadsheet::ParseExcel to read excel files into R.

The convention is to put scripts of this nature into a subdirectory of inst/, inst/python, inst/perl, inst/ruby etc. If these scripts are essential to your package, make sure you also add the appropriate programming language to the SystemRequirements field in the DESCRIPTION. (This field is for human reading so don’t worry about exactly how you specify it.)

Java is a special case because you need to include both the source code (which should go in java/ and be listed in .Rinstignore), and the compiled jar files (which should go in inst/java). Make sure to add rJava to Imports.