[ESS] Feature Idea: open help in browser when viewing it in an emacs buffer

Kasper Daniel Hansen kasperdanielhansen at gmail.com
Tue Nov 1 15:42:49 CET 2011

On Tue, Nov 1, 2011 at 10:29 AM, Vitalie Spinu <spinuvit.list at gmail.com> wrote:
>> In modern emacsen that link to libxml, you could use shr.el
>> (which comes with Gnus).  It seems reasonably quick and doesn't
>> require forking an external process.
> Thanks, looks interesting indeed, but could not find anything about
> libxml in emacs except this
> http://lists.gnu.org/archive/html/help-emacs-windows/2011-09/msg00027.html
> , it's pretty new stuff.
> Must admit I was quite confused about the "new" dynamic help system in
> R. It's really not that html help supports dynamic substitution of R
> code, and text help doesn't
> (http://cran.r-project.org/doc/manuals/R-exts.html#Dynamic-pages).
> Correct me if I am wrong, but it seems that there is close to nothing
> of that html help can do and text help cannot.
> Some things what are missing:
> 1) open current help page in external browser
> 2) quickly jump to index of a package of choice.
> 3) open links in internal/external browser
> 4) ???
> ...
> Solutions for 1 and 2 were proposed in previous posts, 3 is a
> straightforward emacs configuration
> http://www.emacswiki.org/emacs/BrowseUrl.
> So what else is needed to completely defeat html help?

Since you are in the zone right now about the help system, here is a
number of things - sometimes vaguely described - that I think would be

(1) browsing of vignettes, a la the output from browseVignettes()
(ie. not vignette code, but rather which vignettes are installed)
(2) I think you did this already: package index
(3) making the help system work for package?, class? etc.  Right now
they print to the *R* buffer instead of to a separate help buffer
(4) It would be nice to somehow get improved help for S4 methods.
This could be something as simple as showing all signatures for a
given method (I know this is possible in R) and conveniently selecting
a given method (try asking for help on a method with a signature that
has multiple long-name objects ... a lot to type.  Would be nice to
just see a list of signatures with associated numbers and then click
say [2]

So I think (2) is done.  (1) and (3) would be really nice.  (4) is
more of a bigger project I think.

Thanks for thinking about this,

Several Bioconductor packages have quite a few methods

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