[renv, package, environment, management, R, Packrat, alternative]

Environment management for R projects with renv

renv is a dependency management tool for R projects, facilitating the reproducibility of environments across computers or platforms. As a package management tool, renv helps to make projects:

  • isolated : installing or updating a certain package in one project doesn’t affect other packages from other projects
  • portable : projects can easily be transferred to different devices
  • reproducible : renv makes it easy to reproduce projects by recording all package versions of each project


1. Install renv

First thing we need to do is to install the renv package.


2. Initialize new project environment

Then we can move to initializing the local environment of the project. We can do that with the following command:


3. Install/remove packages

After initializing the project, we can install or remove packages from it:

#install packages

#remove packages

4. Save library of project in lockfile

After configuring the project, we should save the configuration into a lockfile, in which all packages versions are recorded.


We can also check the status of the library with:


If we continue to make changes to the packages after making the lockfile, but then we would like revert to the previous state (as recorded in the lockfile), we can use:


Directory overview

After running all the commands above, the directory in which the project was created should contain the following files:

File Usage
.Rprofile File that activates renv for the new R sessions
renv.lock The created lockfile containing all packages and versions
renv/activate.R Activation script run by .Rprofile
renv/library Private project library
renv/settings.json Project settings

From packrat to renv


Packrat is now deprecated. To switch from Packrat to renv, use renv::migrate() to migrate projects.

Why renv is better than groundhog

groundhog is another R package that makes projects reproducible. However, it doesn’t work by keeping records of packages versions necessary for each project, like renv does. Instead you have to manually load libraries with the option of giving a date on when the wanted version was available. Thus, renv has more advantages because it can load all necessary packages in one go, without having to manually input the dates certain versions were available on.

Contributed by Ana Bianca Luca