When working on macOS and Windows, users will often download and install package binaries, rather than sources, as provided by CRAN. However, CRAN only provides binaries for the latest-available version of a package, and so binaries for older versions of a package will become inaccessible as that package is updated.
MRAN is a service provided by Microsoft that mirrors CRAN every day, and allows users to use particular snapshots of CRAN as their active repositories within their R session.
renv can also
make use of MRAN binary packages when restoring packages on Windows and
macOS. When invoking
renv will attempt to install
the package from the latest-available MRAN snapshot that still had this
As an example, the
stringi package was updated from
1.4.5 to version
1.4.6 on 2020-02-17,
and binaries for that version of
stringi were made
available for macOS on 2020-02-20. Because of this, the last date on
stringi 1.4.5 macOS binaries were available on CRAN
Fortunately, because MRAN snapshotted CRAN on this date, we can retrieve that binary. For example, on macOS with R 3.6:
> renv::install("firstname.lastname@example.org") 'https://mran.microsoft.com/snapshot/2020-02-19/bin/macosx/el-capitan/contrib/3.6/stringi_1.4.5.tgz' ... Retrieving OK [file is up to date]1.4.5] ... Installing stringi [ OK [installed binary]
When binaries are available from MRAN,
transparently download and use them when possible. When binaries are not
renv will fall back to the old behavior, and
attempt to install packages from sources.
If you prefer not to make use of MRAN (e.g. because you are using
renv in an environment without external internet access),
you can disable it with:
options(renv.config.mran.enabled = FALSE)
See also the
?renv::equip function, which can assist you
in preparing your environment for compilation of packages.
While being able to install binary packages from arbitrary MRAN snapshots can be useful, one must be aware of potential incompatibility issues. In particular, we need to consider:
ABI compatibility issues can arise if different packages were built against different versions of a shared dependency. For example, one package may have been built against Rcpp 1.0.6, and another package might have been built against Rcpp 1.0.7. However, because only one version of the Rcpp package can be loaded at a time within an R session, mixing of these two packages might cause issues either on load or at runtime depending on the version of Rcpp available.
It’s worth emphasizing that this is not Rcpp’s fault; a package built
against Rcpp 1.0.7 would reasonably expect newer APIs made available by
that version of the package would be available at runtime, and that
contract would be violated if an older version of Rcpp were installed in
the project library. The challenge for
renv is that this
build-time dependency is not clearly communicated to
in general, it is not possible to know what packages (and their
versions) a particular package was built against.
R packages might occasionally (and unintentionally) take a build-time dependency on another R package – for example, a package with the code:
`%>%` <- magrittr::`%>%`
would take the version of
%>% that was available from
the version of magrittr that was available at build time, not
the one available at run time. This could be problematic if,
for example, an update to the
magrittr package changed in a
way that made old definitions of
%>% incompatible with
newer internal functions.
In general, it is a mistake for packages to take a build-time
dependency on exported objects from another package; rather, such
objects should be imported at runtime (using
importFrom() in the package