Project Template

A project template provides a common content structure for data analysis projects.  A template can offer several benefits:

  • Define a familiar workspace
  • Enable collaboration
  • Ensure consistency across machines and time.

The project template is simple in nature.  It has everything a good project should have to achieve repeatable research and results.

Projects in RStudio

RStudio makes it easy to create a project.  In particular, each project has its own working directory, source files, workspace settings and history.

There are 3 ways to create an RStudio project:

  • In a brand new directory
  • In an existing directory where you already have R code and data
  • By cloning a version control archive (in Git or Subversion)

For example, use the CreateProject command to start a new project (available on the RStudio global toolbar):









RStudio takes several actions when a new project is created:

  • First, it creates a project file with an .Rproj extension in the project directory. The file defines project options (discussed below);
  • Next, a hidden directory named .Rproj.user is created to store temp files;
  • Finally, the project loads into RStudio, displaying its name in the Projects toolbar.

Project Structure

The project structure of directories and files can be copied into place once a new a project Directory is created.  For example, the image defines a base project template:

The file structure is easy to create.  Download the template here:

Project Template (359 downloads)


Is this the only template to use?  Of course not. However, it is a good starting.

Project Elements

The role of each element in the project structure is clarified below.  For example:

[table id=77 /]

Project Start-up

There are several ways to open a project:

  • First, use the OpenProject command to select an existing project file,
  • Second, select a project from the list of most recently opened projects,
  • Third, double-click on the *.Rproj file.

Meanwhile, RStudio takes several actions when a project it opened.  For example:

  • The R session (process) is started
  • Commands launch from the .Rprofile file (if any);
  • Old data loads from the .Rdata file (if allowed);
  • History details open from the .Rhistory file;
  • The project directory becomes the present working directory.
  • Files open in the editor.

Project Options

RStudio provides options to customize a project. Most important, the options can control the flow of data into memory. For instance:

  • Restore .RData into workspace at startup: Loads the.RData file into R at startup. It can help t0 uncheck this item if project data is large;
  • Save workspace to .RData on exit: Controls whether to save .RData on exit;
  • Always save history:  Sets if the .Rhistory file is always saved from your session.

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