Use an external R IDE with Power BI

With Power BI Desktop, you can use your external R IDE (Integrated Development Environment) to create and refine R scripts, then use those scripts in Power BI.

Enable an external R IDE

Previously, you had to use the R script editor in Power BI Desktop to create and run R scripts. With this release, you can launch your external R IDE from Power BI Desktop and have your data automatically imported and displayed in the R IDE. From there, you can modify the script in that external R IDE, then paste it back into Power BI Desktop to create Power BI visuals and reports.

Beginning with the September 2016 release of Power BI Desktop (version 2.39.4526.362), you can specify which R IDE you would like to use, and have it launch automatically from within Power BI Desktop.


To use this feature, you need to install an R IDE on your local computer. Power BI Desktop does not include, deploy, or install the R engine, so you must separately install R on your local computer. You can choose which R IDE to use, with the following options:

  • You can install your favorite R IDE, many of which are available for free, such as the Revolution Open download page, and the CRAN Repository.

  • Power BI Desktop also supports R Studio and Visual Studio 2015 with R Tools for Visual Studio editors.

  • You can also install a different R IDE and have Power BI Desktop launch that R IDE by doing one of the following:

    • You can associate .R files with the external IDE you want Power BI Desktop to launch.

    • You can specify the .exe that Power BI Desktop should launch by selecting Other from the R Script Options section of the Options dialog. You can bring up the Options dialog by going to File > Options and settings > Options.

If you have multiple R IDEs installed, you can specify which will be launched by selecting it from the Detected R IDEs drop-down in the Options dialog.

By default, Power BI Desktop will launch R Studio as the external R IDE if it's installed on your local computer; if R Studio is not installed and you have Visual Studio 2015 with R Tools for Visual Studio, that will be launched instead. If neither of those R IDEs is installed, the application associated with .R files is launched.

And if no .R file association exists, it's possible to specify a path to a custom IDE in the Browse to your preferred R IDE section of the Options dialog. You can also launch a different R IDE by selecting the Settings gear icon beside the Launch R IDE arrow icon, in Power BI Desktop.

Launch an R IDE from Power BI Desktop

To launch an R IDE from Power BI Desktop, take the following steps:

  1. Load data into Power BI Desktop.

  2. Select some fields from the Fields pane that you want to work with. If you haven't enabled script visuals yet, you'll be prompted to do so.

  3. When script visuals are enabled, you can select an R visual from the Visualizations pane, which creates a blank R visual that's ready to display the results of your script. The R script editor pane also appears.

  4. Now you can select the fields you want to use in your R script. When you select a field, the R script editor field automatically creates script code based on the field or fields you select. You can either create (or paste) your R script directly in the R script editor pane, or you can leave it empty.


    The default aggregation type for R visuals is do not summarize.

  5. You can now launch your R IDE directly from Power BI Desktop. Select the Launch R IDE button, found on the right side of the R script editor title bar, as shown below.

  6. Your specified R IDE is launched by Power BI Desktop, as shown in the following image (in this image, RStudio is the default R IDE).


    Power BI Desktop adds the first three lines of the script so it can import your data from Power BI Desktop once you run the script.

  7. Any script you created in the R script editor pane of Power BI Desktop appears starting in line 4 in your R IDE. At this point, you can create your R script in the R IDE. Once your R script is complete in your R IDE, you need to copy and paste it back into the R script editor pane in Power BI Desktop, excluding the first three lines of the script that Power BI Desktop automatically generated. Do not copy the first three lines of script back into Power BI Desktop, those lines were only used to import your data to your R IDE from Power BI Desktop.

Known limitations

Launching an R IDE directly from Power BI Desktop has a few limitations:

  • Automatically exporting your script from your R IDE into Power BI Desktop is not supported.
  • R Client editor (RGui.exe) is not supported, because the editor itself does not support opening files.

Next steps

Take a look at the following additional information about R in Power BI.