Help in R Tools for Visual Studio

Help for R is integrated directly into the interactive window in Visual Studio. Whenever you use the ? command, such as ?mtcars, help from the R documentation appears in a Visual Studio window:

Help window in Visual Studio


The help window, like all others in Visual Studio, can be arranged and docked however you like. See Customize window layouts in Visual Studio.

To open help results in a browser, select the R Tools > Options menu and set the R Help Browser property to External. See Options.

To search help, use the ?? command followed by the search term. Use quotes if the search term contains spaces:

??"Motor Trend"

Help search results

The help window also has a search input field through which you can conduct further searches in the R documentation directly:

Help search results using the input field

Integrated help lookup

Developers often search the R documentation for help on function names, datasets, and other elements. R Tools for Visual Studio (RTVS) streamlines the process by integrating help lookups directly into the editor and interactive windows.

  • Pressing F1 during an auto-complete operation produces a list of help results that match the substring.

  • Right-clicking a search term (like a function) and selecting the Help on command opens help for that function. You can also invoke Help on for any selection.

    Invoking help through the right click context menu


To open integrated help in a browser, select R Tools > Options and set F1 Web Browser to External. See Options.

In addition to searching in the R documentation, developers often search StackOverflow while writing code. RTVS streamlines that process as well. Right-click a term or a selection, select the Search web for command (Ctrl+F1), and Visual Studio opens a window with search results scoped to StackOverflow:

Web search results in Visual Studio

You can change the appended scoping string, R site:stackoverflow, through the R Tools > Options > F1 Web search string option:

Changing the F1 Web search string option

If you prefer to show results in a browser, change the F1 Web Browser option as described on Options.