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GitHub Actions

{tic} supports running builds on GitHub Actions on all major platforms (Linux, macOS, Windows). The upstream support for the R language was developed by Jim Hester in r-lib/actions. This repo also stores some usage examples which differ to the {tic} approach in the following points:

  • {tic} makes use of ccache for compiler caching enabling faster source installation of packages. The ccache directory is cached and build once a week.
  • {tic} installs packages from source on Linux by default and does not use package binaries.
  • {tic} caches the complete R library and not only the direct packages dependencies (actions does this via remotes::dev_package_deps(dependencies = TRUE)). The cache is built once per day.

Making use of binaries can speed up build times substantially. This can be especially attractive for packages with many dependencies or dependencies which take a long time to install. However, binaries do oft run into problems when the package needs linking against system libraries. The most prominent example for this is {rJava}. If the binary was built with the same version as the user is running on the system, everything will work. However, often enough a different version of the system library is installed and the R packages needs to be installed from source to successfully link against it.

For the case of {rJava}, one needs to

  • add a call to R CMD javareconf for macOS runners
  • add a call to sudo R CMD javareconf for Linux runners

macOS toolchain

macOS is a bit tricky when it comes to source installation of packages. By default clang is used instead of gcc (Linux) because the former is the default for macOS. However, the default clang of macOS does not come with openMP support. Therefore, the R macOS core devs and CRAN currently use a custom openMP-enabled (old) version of clang to build the CRAN package binaries. In {tic} we reflect this by installing clang7 and clang8 for the respective R version during build initialization in the “ccache” stages.


If Java support is required, add the following for macOS runners:

      - name: "[macOS] rJava"
        if: runner.os == 'macOS'
        run: |
          R CMD javareconf
          Rscript -e "install.packages('rJava', type = 'source')"

For Linux, add sudo R CMD javareconf to stage “Linux Prepare”. We currently do not support Java on Windows.


If you have a huge dependency chain and compiling many packages from source (especially on R-devel), ccache can help to speed up package installation. It is recommended once your dependency installation time is higher than 30 minutes.

Once the ccache cache is build, compilation will complete much faster. The ccache cache itself is only invalidated once a month. This means package installation can make use of the cache in 29/30 days in a month.

The downside is that ccache needs to be installed and configured. This happens in every run, i.e. also in runs in which ccache is not used because a package cache already exists. Installation can take up to 1 min, depending on the platform. Note that ccache won’t be used on Windows since only binaries are used on this platform.

You can take the following blocks and add/replace them to your tic.yml as needed. The essential part is to prefix the compiler settings in ~/.R/Makevars with ccache.

      - name: "[Custom] [Cache] Prepare weekly timestamp for cache"
        if: runner.os != 'Windows'
        id: datew
        run: echo "date=$(date '+%d-%m')" >> $GITHUB_OUTPUT

      - name: "[Custom] [Cache] Cache ccache"
        if: runner.os != 'Windows'
        uses: pat-s/always-upload-cache@v2.0.0
          path: ${{ env.CCACHE_DIR}}
          key: ${{ runner.os }}-r-${{ matrix.config.r }}-ccache-${{steps.datew.outputs.datew}}
          restore-keys: ${{ runner.os }}-r-${{ matrix.config.r }}-ccache-${{steps.datew.outputs.datew}}

      # install ccache and write config file
      # mirror the setup described in
      - name: "[Custom] [macOS] ccache"
        if: runner.os == 'macOS' && matrix.config.r == 'devel'
        run: |
          brew install ccache
          # set compiler flags
          mkdir -p ~/.R && echo -e 'CC=ccache clang\nCPP=ccache clang\nCXX=ccache clang++\nCXX11=ccache clang++\nCXX14=ccache clang++\nCXX17=ccache clang++\nF77=ccache /usr/local/gfortran/bin/gfortran\nFC=ccache /usr/local/gfortran/bin/gfortran' > $HOME/.R/Makevars

      # install ccache and write config file
      - name: "[Custom] [Linux] ccache"
        if: runner.os == 'Linux'
        run: |
          sudo apt install ccache libcurl4-openssl-dev
          mkdir -p ~/.R && echo -e 'CC=ccache gcc -std=gnu99\nCXX=ccache g++\nFC=ccache gfortran\nF77=ccache gfortran' > $HOME/.R/Makevars

In addition you also need to set the following env variables:

# setting some ccache options
CCACHE_SLOPPINESS: include_file_ctime

Spatial libraries (gdal, proj, geos)


homebrew-core has formulas for gdal, geos and proj. If you need more spatial formulas, have a look at the osgeo4mac tap. Note however, that when installing formulas from the latter, these will conflict with the ones from homebrew-core. Either install all formulas from osgeo4mac or none.

Also one needs to remove the gfortran build that is installed with actions/setup-r. This is due to brew installing gcc during the installation of gdal. gcc comes with gfortran included and when brew tries to link gfortran it will fail since there is already a local instance of gfortran. Hence, this instance needs to be removed so that the brew link step does not error and stop the build.

# conflicts with gfortran from r-lib/actions when linking gcc
rm '/usr/local/bin/gfortran'
brew install gdal proj geos

When spatial packages like {sf} or {terra} get updated, it takes some time until the binary is available. In the mean time, they must be installed from source. This fails for some time now due to a linking issue of sqlite or jpeg, see for more information. To fix this, one can add the following as a custom block to tic.yml:

mkdir ~/.R && echo -e "CPPFLAGS += -L/opt/homebrew/opt/jpeg/lib" >> ~/.R/Makevars

Here’s the full block, used in {mlr3spatiotempcv}:

      - name: "[Custom block] [macOS] Install spatial libraries"
        if: runner.os == 'macOS'
        run: |
          rm '/usr/local/bin/gfortran'
          brew install ccache gdal geos proj udunits jpeg sqlite
          brew install xquartz
          mkdir ~/.R && echo -e "CPPFLAGS += -L/usr/local/opt/jpeg/lib" >> ~/.R/Makevars


On Linux, add libgdal-dev libproj-dev libgeos-dev to the apt install call in the “Linux Prepare” stage.

Known issues

  • [Windows] Installing {tinytex} for LaTeX availability does not complete

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