Calling R from Excel



There is Excel workbook ‘R_connection_examples.xlsm’ with examples in the package ‘xlsx’ folder. First function intended for usage in macro.

ExecInR(ByVal Lines As String, Optional ByRef Success As Variant, Optional NeedOutput As Boolean = True) As String

This function calls R in stateless and synchronous manner. ‘Stateless’ means that R executes code and terminate. It doesn’t keep objects and data between calls. ‘Synchronous’ means that Excel waits while R executes code.

Second function is user-defined worksheet function so it is intended for usage on worksheet with other Excel formulas and recalculated after changes on worksheets.

RExec(Code, Precedents)

No data are shared between “RExec” calls. In this case R call is asynchronous - Excel doesn’t wait completion of R code (sometimes it may cause problems). By now it is not possible for this function to capture R output or indicate errors in R code.

RExec function works completely different from other Excel worksheet functions. It doesn’t show any useful result in its own cell but it can change other cells (produce side-effects). So in argument code we provide R code that should care about getting data from Excel and putting results back to Excel. Other function arguments (precedents) aren’t used in calculation but it can be used to trigger formula recalculation when needed.

Random number in function cell is needed to indicate that function is recalculated so we can execute such functions in deterministic sequence by referencing them to each other.

In both cases in general it doesn’t need to care about R location in the system - it will be detected from registry/environment variable. But if you need to point to some specific location (e. g. network location) it is possible to set constant PathToR.

Priority in search for R:

  1. PathToR - if R not found here we will go further
  2. If RNearThisWorkbook = True we search near workbook.
  3. Environment variable R_HOME.
  4. Registry.

If R not found in all above mentioned places error will be raised with suggestion to install R and URL ‘’.

Sometimes second hidden Excel instance is running in background. This may cause problems with connection - R try to read and write data from/to that hidden instance. This problem rather rare occurs with Excel 2013.

There are several other functions in the example workbook: for asynchronous stateless call in macro and for live connection with R. They are not stable and are not recommended for usage.