Selecting an IDE for Data Science


João Ramalho


December 16, 2022


This post provides a quick comparison of RStudio, Vim and Visual Studio Code for Data Science. After experimenting in parallel these three editors I decided to stick with RStudio for my Data Science work. In summary RStudio is pure open source and competes very well with Visual Studio Code in functionality. Vim seemed to bring ergonomy and speed but the cost of configuration and learning is not paying off in my view. A key point on the comparison was to confirm that RStudio provides the possibility to minimize the use of the gui thus making the benefit of Vim minimal. The keyboard list also presented here strongly influenced our assessment and encouraged to continue the road to “keyboard only” even without Vim.

IDEs assessment

* Excellent python-R integration
* Minimal IDE configuration required for Data Science
* Widely used among the R community
* All Vim keyboard shortcuts have an equivalent in RStudio default (see list below)
* Many of the benefits provided by Vim can also be provided by RStudio defaults, it’s a matter of searching for them (e.g. using more the keyboard and less the gui)
* Good potential for becoming a standard with Posit growing
* Is and will remain pure open source
* no critical drawbacks

* Speed
* Many benefits provide by RStudio are not easily available on Vim (e.g. require plug-ins, extensive configuration and learning config details)
* Vim brings an additional domain to learn with significant redundancy, mostly with different ways to do the same things just for the sake of being faster

Visual Studio Code
* Extremely broad, complete and extensible
* Good packages for Data Science
* Good python and R integration
* Runs Jupyter notebooks
* Although open source it is backed by Microsoft

Shortcuts comparison

Vim main selling point is the speed provided by a keyboard only approach. There are endless combinations of keystrokes to never have to leave the keyboard. The proposal may seem logic but there are two challenges: is typing the bottleneck? is it worth to learn a second system as myself and I assume many people are already familiar with some system. Or if not the common question of which standard to adopt applies. Personally I’m quite convinced for the direction of keyboard only not for the speed but for the argument of removing layers from brain to machine just as in a musical instrument or a tennis racket we’re not thinking anymore as the years of practice make the instrument more and more the prolonging of the brain.

The list below has been used primarily to confirm that most Vim shortcuts have an equivalent in RStudio. RStudio key shortcuts accessible with Alt + Shift + k. In a separate article I’ll be providing a simple sheet cheat of the keyboard shortcuts that I’ve started with and that I recommend.


RStudio Vim Action
Left h Left
Right l Right
Up k Up
Down j Down
home 0 Start of line
End $ End of line
Ctrl + Left b Word backward
Ctrl + Right 2x w Word forward
Ctrl + Right 4x 2w Move 2 words
Ctrl + Right e End of word
Ctrl End G Last line


RStudio Vim Action
:q Exit
:q! Exit discard changes
Ctrl+s :w Write
Ctrl+w :wq Write quit
Ctrl+o Open


RStudio Vim Action
Del x Delete under the cursor
Ctrl + Del dw Delete word
Ctrl + Backspace 4x d2w Delete 2 words
Shift + End, Del d$ Delete to End of line
Home, Shift + End, Del dd Delete whole line
Home, Shift + Down, Del 2dd Delete two lines


RStudio Vim Action
Just type i Insert text
End A Append text
Enter o Insert in next line
Up O Insert in previous line
Home, Shift + End, Ctrl + c yy Yank (copy) a line
Home, Shift + Down, Ctrl + c n,Nd Yank lines n to N
Home,Shift+PageDown, Ctrl+c n,Nd Yank lines n to N
Ctrl+z u Undo
U Undo all current line
Ctrl+Shift+z Ctrl+R Redo
10J Join 10 lines


RStudio Vim Action
:close Close window
Ctrl+W Switch window
Ctrl + 1 Focus on Source
Ctrl + 2 Focus on Console
Shift + Alt + M :term Focus on Terminal
:term python3 open python terminal


RStudio Vim Action
Alt + Shift + k Keyboard shortcuts


RStudio Vim Action
:set number Line numbers on
:set nonumber Line numbers off
:syntax on Syntax highlight on
:syntax off Syntax off


RStudio Vim Action
v Start visual mode

Vim syntax

syntax: operator [number] motion
operation: Delete two words
command: d2w