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CI services run builds in stages. Stages are usually ordered as follows:

The after_xxx stages are executed conditionally after their corresponding xxx stage.

  • The after_deploy stage will only be run if the deploy stage was run before.
  • The after_success stage will only be run if the script stage executed successfully, i.e. without error; otherwise after_failure will be run instead.

tic also relies on a “stage” based approach. All action that should be run in a certain stage are defined in tic.R. The steps are specified in an CI-agnostic way using R syntax.

The majority of the template code consists of glue code and is not meant to be edited.

In a nutshell, the workflow is as follows:

CI YAML -> tic.R -> commands/steps to execute

Some important points:

  • The R code declared in tic.R is not meant to be run manually. It also does not trigger a CI build. All commands just define the workflow of the CI build.
  • The workflow can be loaded using dsl_load(), however this will not run any of the commands defined.
  • For testing purposes, all stages and steps defined in tic.R can be executed by calling run_all_stages(). This emulates a CI build on your local system. See Troubleshooting: Running tic locally for more information.

Accessing a single stage

The steps which are executed in each stage are specified in tic.R. A stage is executed by calling the respective tic function; for example for stage “deploy” tic::deploy(). This is what happens in the CI YAML templates if you take a closer look at them.

These functions then source tic.R and collect all steps which belong to their stage by executing get_stage("<stage name>") (e.g. get_stage("deploy") for the “deploy” stage”).

Again, remember that the order of the stages is fixed (see the “Stages” section), it does not matter in which order you declare the stages in tic.R.

Details of stages

The "before_install" & "install" stages

An important stage for {tic} is the "before_install" stage. Here, {tic} itself gets installed and runs prepare_all_stages(). This function ensures that all subsequent steps can be executed. Under the hood the prepare() method of all steps that were declared in tic.R is being called. For example, the prepare() method of the step_rcmdcheck() step ensures that all dependencies of an R package get installed by calling remotes::install_deps().

All packages that should be stored in the “cache” of the CI service (so that they do not need to be installed again on every CI build) should be installed during preparation.

The "script" stage

The "script" stage is responsible for executing the important tasks of the CI run: Typically, it runs R CMD check for a package or builds the site for a blogdown site. When arriving at this stage, all dependencies for a successful run are already installed.

The "deploy" stage

This stage initiates the deployment (e.g., setting up deployment keys) and executes it. If you want to automatically build a {pkgdown} site, you can do it here. See the article about deployment for more information.


Steps are the commands that are executed in each stage. tic uses the pipe operator and the add_step() function to chain steps in tic.R, for example

In the code example above step_build_pkgdown() is added to the "deploy" stage and subsequently only run in this stage. More steps that should be run in this stage could just by piped after add_step(step_build_pkgdown()). In summary, steps are usually defined using two nested commands: add_step() and the corresponding step, here step_build_pkgdown().

Here is a list that shows a rough grouping of the steps into their default stages:


Step Description
step_hello_world() Print “Hello, World!” to the console, helps testing a tic setup
step_write_text_file() Creates a text file with arbitrary contents


Step Description
step_install_cran() Installs one package from CRAN via install.packages() if it is not yet installed.
step_install_github() Installs one or more packages from GitHub via remotes::install_github()

R package specific

Step Description
step_build_pkgdown() Building package documentation via pkgdown
step_rcmdcheck() Run R CMD check via the {rcmdcheck} package


Step Description
step_install_ssh_key() Make available a private SSH key (which has been added before to your project by use_tic() or tic::use_ghactions_deploy()).
step_test_ssh() Test the SSH connection to GitHub, helps troubleshooting deploy problems.
step_setup_ssh() Adds to known hosts, installs private key, and tests the connection.
step_setup_push_deploy() Clones a repo, initiates author information, and sets up remotes for a subsequent step_do_push_deploy().
step_do_push_deploy() Deploy to GitHub.
step_push_deploy() Combines step_setup_push_deploy() and step_do_push_deploy().