Web Application Development with R using Shiny – Review

I have been invited to write a review of a book I got as a prize for answering a question posed by Chris Beeley during the lasted LondonR meeting. As a form of of disclosure I would like to add that I have been offered a free title from Packt (the publisher of the book) for providing the review.

First, let me start by saying that I started using R about a year ago and I am very pleased I did manage to climb the learning curve. Most of the work I have been doing with R involves the manipulation and analysis of data and only very recently heard of Shiny. Shiny is an R package that “makes it incredibly easy to build interactive web applications with R.” I would like to think of it as a GUI development for R code. As explained by the book, you can install Shiny directly from the R console, but I find RStudio much better as a development environment.

The book starts with a brief introduction to R, perhaps too brief, and I would recommend consulting a book on R for more information. Nonetheless, the basics are covered for the purposes of the book. The main point of the book is covered with the development of an application to query results from the Google Analytics API. This is a good way to familiarise yourself with the use of the package but I could not help feeling that more information was needed as the examples are all rather light. The chapter dealing with custom HTML provides a number of tools and tips that could be used to generate your own applications but then again things seem a bit to rushed.

Overall, I think the book provides a concise way to get started with shiny, but bear in mind that you may need either a decent knowledge of R, HTML, CSS, JS or a couple of good sources (books, blogs, friends) to make full use of Shiny.