What is the advantage of using {tic} compared to the default R setup?

  1. Deployment to a Git repository is greatly simplified.

  2. Support for R packages and other kinds of project (bookdown, blogdown, etc.), with predefined templates. Set up your project to deploy rendered versions of your book or blog with a single push.

  3. Workflow specification are specified in a single R script, regardless of the CI system used. No need anymore for YAML configuration files that differ across CI services.

Other minor advantages include the use of rcmdcheck::rcmdcheck() for package checking (instead of R CMD check) and robust caching approach of project dependencies (via ccache and R package caching).

Simplified Deployment

CI services can be used to automatically build and deploy files. This means that these services can push certain files created during the build to repositories (GitHub, GitLab, etc.). Possible use cases are:

If {tic} should be used for deployment, some preparatory work is required:

  • Setting up a SSH key pair for deployment (differs across CI services).
  • Granting permission to push to the repo on GitHub.

When calling use_tic(), the streamlined preparation process is run, utilizing the R Client packages of the respective CI service under the hood. This step is needed once per repository.

For more detailed information on deployment in {tic}, have a look Deployment vignette.

Support for various R projects

{tic} was developed with the aim to not only simplify R package development using CI services but also to support other R project types:

  • bookdown
  • blogdown
  • drat
  • website deployment
  • figshare deployment

Each of these project types requires a standardized structure. {tic} detects this structure (assuming the user already has set it up) and adds CI templates tailored towards this specific project type to the repository when calling use_tic(). See the Example projects section in the “Get started” article for a list of supported project types including links to minimal example repositories.

CI-Agnostic workflows

What does “CI-Agnostic” mean and why do we need it?

For to historic reasons, the R community first started on Travis CI to implement an easy way for R package checking. The build script for R is community maintained. Theoretically, R could be run on any CI system. Travis CI is only one out of a bunch of providers which offer (free) CI solutions.

Each CI provider has its own way how the user has to write the YAML file to successfully talk to the service. This setup file controls what will be done in each run.

To give you an example how different these control files can be, take a look at these two examples from Travis CI and Appveyor. While Travis is the CI service with the most mature R implementation, people also like to test their code on Appveyor which provides support for Windows. Getting everything setup on Appveyor is a bit more complicated than on Travis CI because no client package for R exists. Also, Appveyor has its own YAML notation to specify certain actions. At this we have not mentioned other providers like Circle CI, Azure or GitHub Actions yet.

We could list way more differences - but that’s exactly the point when {tic} comes in!

  • Rather than dealing with all the CI differences, {tic} enables the specification of the complete workflow in an external R script file tic.R.
  • The calls listed in tic.R will work the same way on every CI service that is supported by {tic}.
  • You can emulate all the stages and steps locally by calling run_all_stages().
  • You are independent to changes made to the upstream runners of a specific CI system.
  • A tic.R workflow is usually shorter and easier to parse than a .travis.yml or appveyor.yml file as it builds on macros.

So instead of learning how to specify specific tasks on different CI platforms, you only apply R commands which work the same on all CI systems.

Enhanced R package checking

As an R package developer calling devtools::check() is a common task. Usually CI workers will run R CMD check <package> to check the R package. {tic} instead makes use of {rcmdcheck}, a wrapper around R CMD build and R CMD check developed by Gabor Csardi. {rcmdcheck} comes with several enhancements:

  • Coloring of important steps, simplifying the readability of the log.
  • Enhanced and extended tracebacks of errors, especially errors in tests.
  • The whole check process is returned in a R object, making it easier to inspect errors/warnings.

Especially the extended log printing of errors on the CI service is a huge advantage - often enough, CI services cut the console log output early, often omitting important information about the error.

Caching of packages

When using {tic}, all dependencies (the ones of the package plus the ones of other stages of the CI build) are installed in the "before_install" and "install" stage. This has the advantage that all packages are added to the cache (even if they are just needed for deployment), speeding up subsequent builds substantially.

More information about the complete workflow can be found in the Build lifecyle vignette. ## Easier troubleshooting

{tic} comes with the ability to emulate a CI run locally and debug problems in the config file by calling dsl_load() locally.