Integrating R with ArcGIS: Part 1

Cameron Plouffe, Higher Education Developer/Analyst

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

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Webinar Schedule

  • Introduction to R
    • Development environments
    • R basics
  • Third party packages
    • Data manipulation with dplyr
  • The R-ArcGIS Bridge
    • Installing the R-ArcGIS Bridge
    • The arcgisbinding package
    • Reading and writing data from geodatabases
    • Visualization in ArcGIS Pro


What is R?

  • Open programming language for statistical computing and data analysis
  • Implementation of the S programming language developed at Bell Laboratories
  • Active user community constantly contributing new packages
  • Over 8000 packages available on the Comprehensive R Archive Network (CRAN)

Why use R?

  • De facto standard language for statisticians
    • Most state-of-the-art statistical methods implemented in packages available on CRAN
  • One the fastest growing programming languages over the past ~5 years
  • Powerful language for creating high quality plots and graphics
    • base R plots, ggplot2, ggvis


Development Environments

  • RStudio
    • Open source and enterprise-ready professional software for R
    • Developed and maintained by team of reputable software engineers including Hadley Wickham
    • Keep your work organized using RStudio projects
  • Recently announced R Tools for Visual Studio
    • Soon to be released, but can sign up for early access version


Getting Started with R

R Data Types

  • R offers many of the conventional data types you may be used to using in other languages
    • numeric, integer, logical, character, list
  • Several unique data types:
    • vector, data.frame, matrix, factor

Third Party Packages

  • Many third party packages that extend the capabilities of base R
  • Hadley stack
    • ggplot2, dplyr, stringr, tidyr, devtools
  • Statistical modelling
    • car, lme4, caret, mgcv
  • Spatial data
    • arcgisbinding, sp, maptools
  • Time-series
    • zoo, xts, spacetime
  • CRAN Task Views for categorized view of packages

The dplyr Package

  • Package developed by Hadley Wickham to give users a fast, consistent tool for working with tabular data in R
  • Improves on many of the base R methods for data frame manipulation
  • Function for each basic verb of data manipulation:
    • filter, arrange, select, mutate, summarize
  • Introduces the forward-pipe operator (i.e., %>%) for producing more intuitive workflows in R
crime_df %>%
  filter(Equity_Score > 80) %>%
  select(Neighbourhood, Thefts, Vehicle.Thefts) %>%
  arrange(Thefts, Vehicle.Thefts)

R - ArcGIS Bridge

R - ArcGIS Bridge

  • ArcGIS developers can create custom tools that integrate R with ArcGIS
  • Allows R users to access their organization's GIS data managed in traditional GIS ways 
  • Create custom geoprocessing tools that are powered by R scripts

Installing the R - ArcGIS Bridge

  • Navigate to the R-Bridge Install GitHub page and download the Python toolbox
  • Before installing, ensure that you have the correct version of R and ArcGIS installed:
    • R 3.1 or later
    • ArcGIS Pro 1.1 or later (for 64-bit R)
    • ArcGIS for Desktop 10.3.1 or later
      • 32-bit R by default in Desktop
      • 64-bit R available via ArcGIS for Server and background geoprocessing
  • In future, will be able to use Conda to manage R environments

The arcgisbinding Package

  • The arcgisbinding package allows R users to access data stored using ArcGIS native data types (e.g., geodatabase feature classes)
    •,, arc.write
  • Convert ArcGIS data to an sp object, perform some analysis, and then write back to a geodatabase
    • arc.data2sp, arc.sp2data
  • Convert between WKT and proj.4
    • arc.fromP4ToWkt, arc.fromWktToP4
  • Interact with geometries
    • arc.shapeinfo, arc.shape2sp
  • Package Documentation



  • Very interested in having other members of the R community contribute to the R - ArcGIS Bridge
    • Sample tools available on GitHub
    • Have questions?  Contact us!
    • Collaboration with R package developers

R Webinar Resources

Integrating R with ArcGIS: Part 2

  • Quick review of arcgisbinding package
  • Basic components of an R - ArcGIS script tool
  • Writing a stand-alone R script that can be attached to an ArcGIS geoprocessing tool
  • Constructing an R-ArcGIS script tool using ArcGIS Pro
  • Using R-ArcGIS script tools in ModelBuilder workflows


  • R - ArcGIS Bridge Team at Esri US
    • Shaun Walbridge, Mark Janikas, Steve Kopp, Dmitry Pavlushko, Konstantin Krivoruchko
  • ​Hadley Wickham
  • R spatial community

Contact Information

Cameron Plouffe


R - ArcGIS Bridge Team

Integrating R with ArcGIS - Part 1

By Cam Plouffe

Integrating R with ArcGIS - Part 1

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