Before you work through this walkthrough, you should make sure you’ve read (or at least understood) the contents of the beginner’s tutorial.

Ad Hoc File Types

In the beginner’s tutorial, we showed how ProjectTemplate automatically loads data files from the data and cache directories. If you’re working with plain text files or any of the supported binary file formats, this automatic data loading should work out of the box without any effort on your part. But if you have to retrieve data sets from more complex data sources, ProjectTemplate has advanced features that will let you set up ad hoc autoloading. In the rest of this document, we’ll talk about working with SQL databases, remote resources available over HTTP and FTP, large data files stored on external drives and R files that contain code that generates data at runtime.

SQLite Databases

Let’s start by working with a SQLite database. We’ll use a database from the Analytics X competition in which contestants were trying to predict crimes that took place in Philadelphia. You can download the database file here. To save on bandwidth, we’ve compressed the database, so you should uncompress it before going through the rest of this tutorial.

Autoloading the Database

The simplest way to access the database is to store the philapd.db file in the data directory of a new project. Let’s set up a project using the standard ProjectTemplate invocation:

    library('ProjectTemplate')
    create.project('PhilaPD')

Then we’ll shift into the relevant directory, move our database over and uncompress it:

    cd PhilaPD
    mv ~/Downloads/philapd.db.zip data
    unzip data/philapd.db.zip -d data
    rm data/philapd.db.zip 

Then we reload R and load the project. You’ll see ProjectTemplate automatically load the two tables found in our SQLite database:

    library('ProjectTemplate')
    load.project()

Autoloading

For most users, this automatic loading procedure is probably enough. But if you need more fine-grained control, you can use the .sql ad hoc file type to load specific tables from a SQLite database. You can also specify an exact SQL query to run against the database. We’ll go through all three cases below.

Load One Specific Table

First, let’s move the philapd.db file out of the data directory to prevent it from being autoloaded:

    mv data/philapd.db .

After that, we’ll create an .sql file in the data directory. We’ll use a file called data/philapd.sql. Inside of this file, we need to specify (a) that we’re working with a SQLite database, (b) the path to the SQLite database and (c) the specific table we want to load. We’ve done that below:

    type: sqlite
    dbname: philapd.db
    table: location_info

After creating the data/philapd.sql file, we can rerun load.project, which will load only the location_info table from our database into the variable philapd:

Autoloading

Load All Tables from a Specific Database

If we want to load all of the tables from a database file that we can’t place inside of the data directory, we can use a .sql file to do this by replacing the name of a specific table with an asterisk:

    type: sqlite
    dbname: philapd.db
    table: *

Autoloading

Loading Data with an SQL Query

You can also load a subset of your data by specifying an SQL query instead of a table in your .sql file:

    type: sqlite
    dbname: philapd.db
    query: SELECT * FROM location_info WHERE zip = '19144'

Autoloading

MySQL, PostGres or ODBC Databases

Working with a MySQL, PostGres or ODBC database is exactly as easy as using a .sql file to access a SQLite database. All that changes is the use of the mysql, postgres or odbc types instead of the sqlite type:

    type: mysql
    user: sample_user
    password: sample_password
    host: localhost
    dbname: philapd
    table: location_info

    type: postgres
    user: sample_user
    password: sample_password
    host: localhost
    dbname: philapd
    table: location_info

    type: odbc
    user: sample_user
    password: sample_password
    host: localhost
    dbname: philapd
    table: location_info
URL Files

If you need to access a file that’s available over HTTP or FTP, you can use a .url file. Inside of the file, you’ll specify the URL where your data set is available and the type of data set you’re accessing. Here, we’ll use a data/sample.url file to load the standard ProjectTemplate sample data set over HTTP:

    url: http://www.johnmyleswhite.com/ProjectTemplate/sample_data.csv
    separator: ,

Autoloading

.file Files

If you need to access a file that’s stored outside of the project’s main directory, you use a .file file. Inside of the file, you’ll specify the path of the data file and the extension of the data set you’re accessing:

    path: /usr/share/dict/words
    extension: csv

Autoloading

R Files

Sometimes you want to generate random data for your analysis: this, after all, is the heart of Monte Carlo analyses of statistical methods. You can do this by inserting R code into a file in the data directory. We’ll put this into the data/d.R file:

    set.seed(1)
    d <- rnorm(1000, 0, 1)

Autoloading

Media Files: MP3’s and PPM’s

Sometimes you want to work with more interesting sorts of data than a typical text file. ProjectTemplate now has basic support for loading media files into R. To load an MP3 audio file into an R object for analysis, simply place the .mp3 file in the data directory. The tuneR package will be automatically loaded by ProjectTemplate and the MP3 file will be read into an R object in the global environment. Similarly, if you want to load a PPM image file, just place the .ppm file into the data directory. ProjectTemplate will then use the pixmap package to load the image file into an R object in the global environment.

Unit Testing Your Project

ProjectTemplate has been designed to make it easier to unit test the functions you’ve written for your analysis. To get started, you can call stub.tests(), which will generate a file at tests/autogenerated.R filled with sample tests for every one of the functions you defined inside of the lib directory. You should edit these tests, as they are expected to fail by default.

After editing your tests, you can call test.project() to run all of the unit tests in the tests directory.

Unit Tests

Logging Your Work

If you want to log your work, ProjectTemplate will automatically load a log4r logger object into the logger variable that will write to a plain text stored at the logs/project.log. To use this logger, you only need to change the configuration file to specify:

    logging: TRUE

After making this change, the logger object will be created once you call load.project():

Logging

Data Tables

The data.table package allows you to create a variant of the typical R data frame that provides indices. Indices make locating and selecting subsets of your data much faster than the typical vector scan that R uses when working with data frames. To automatically convert all of the data frames loaded from the data directory into data.tables, change the configuration option in config/global.dcf to data_tables: on. After that, you can check for tables by calling the tables() function.