Using R + VSCode

This is my (simple) setup for using a local R + VSCode

Install R & Packages

If R is not installed on your local computer, install it!


Then you need to install the following R-packages (from CRAN)

# R Syntax Highlightning

# Better plot Outputs for VSCode

Install VSCode

If VSCode is not installed on your local computer, install it!


VSCode R Extension

In VSCode you can install Extensions. You will need the Extension “R Extension for Visiual Stuido Code” (REditorSupport)

R extension

After installation of the R extension, an R icon is popping up in the left bar. If you install additional extensions, other icons may pop up too.

Connect R

The R path might be detected automatically. If not, you need to set it in the Extensions Settings.

Set R path: Extensions (left bar) > Select R Extension > Settings icons > Extensions Settings

  • R > Rpath: Windows (if Windows is used) … set path to where your R.exe is located (e.g. C:/R-4.1.3/bin/R.exe)
  • R > RTerm: Windows (if Windows is used) … set path to where your R.exe is located (e.g. C:/R-4.1.3/bin/R.exe)
  • R > Lib Paths … set path to your R directory (e.g. C:/R-4.1.3)

Alternative in settings.json … click Icon “Open Settings (JSON)

You may need to restart your VSCode and Attach the R-Terminal by clicking “Not Attached” in the bottom line of the VSCode Editor. Then there you should see the R-Version you are using.

Settings for R

You can modify some other settings of the R-extension, to increase usability:

  • “r.session.levelOfObjectDetail”: “Detailed” … let you see variable names of a data.frame in the Environment-Viewer of the R extension
  • “”: 1000 … limits the View of data to max 1000 rows (speeds it up)

R extension

Make sure, that Httgpd is set (to show the plot output inside VSCode)

R extension

Keyboard Shortcuts

Files > Preferences > Keyboard Shortcuts > … Click Icon “Open Keyboard Shortcuts (JSON)”

You may want to define Keyboard Shortcuts you are used to, like:

// Place your key bindings in this file to override the defaults
    "key": "ctrl+shift+m",
    "command": "editor.action.insertSnippet",
    "when": "editorTextFocus",
    "args": {
    "snippet": " |> "
    "key": "ctrl+shift+m",
    "command": "workbench.action.terminal.sendSequence",
    "when": "terminalFocus",
    "args": {
    "text": " |> "
    "key": "ctrl+shift+r",
    "command": "editor.action.insertSnippet",
    "when": "editorTextFocus",
    "args": {
    "snippet": "# section -----------------------------------------------------------\n"
    "key": "ctrl+alt+i",
    "command": "editor.action.insertSnippet",
    "when": "editorTextFocus",
    "args": {
    "snippet": "```{r}\n$0\n```"

Code Styling

The R Extension uses lintr for code-styling (following tidyverse style guide You can adapt the default settings by using a .lintr file in your project directory.

Some useful settings:

linters: linters_with_defaults(
    commented_code_linter = NULL,
    trailing_whitespace_linter = NULL,
    trailing_blank_lines_linter = NULL

VSCode Layout

In VSCode you have a lot of options to change the layout. This is the layout I use for R

VSCode R layout

If you installed the R extension, you get on the left an R icon. If you click on it, you get R specific views like “Globel Environment” and “Help Pages”. In the “Global Environment” you can see all variables in your environment including data frames. If the option “levelOfObjectDetail” is set to “Detailed” (in the R Extension Settings), you can see the variable names and type too.

In the center you have your code editor with syntax highligthning and code completion. In the bottom you have your R terminal.

On the right side you have the plot/HTML outputs. If the output-window is selected, you can zoom in/out using the “zoom in” and “zoom out” icons on top of the plot. To get a second row of plots (like you see in the screenshot), select the output window and select from the menue: View > Editor Layout > Split Down.

Now you can resize your Plot-Output as you are used to (using RStudio)


If you want to use Quarto, you need to install it first (see Quarto)

Then you need to install the VSCode “Quarto” Extension

VSCode Quarto

If you create a qmd file, you get a “Render” button in VSCode. If clicked, you see the preview of the document on the right.

VSCode Quarto

To get a single HTML-File, you need to set “embed-resources: true” in the header.

There are a lot of execution options you can use. See quarto execution options

VSCode Shortcuts

Useful shortcuts in VSCode

  • F1 = opens all mighty search bar
  • strg shift c = open terminal / command line
  • strg + = increase text size
  • strg - = decrease text size
  • strg f = find
  • strg s = save file
  • F11 = toggle full screen
  • ctr k t = Select Color Theme

Why VSCode?

RStudio is a great IDE that offers the best “out of the box” R experience. So why using VSCode?

You may consider using VSCode if

  • You are using different languages, and prefer one code editor for all
  • You are working in a mixed R/Python team and you must agree on one IDE
  • You are working in a cloud environment, and the company you are working for doesn’t use Posit Workbench
Written on June 1, 2023