3.6. Customizing the Execution Context

R code must always be evaluated in the context of a Session, with tracks the global environment, which packages have been loaded, etc.

Each new ScriptEngine instance has it’s own independent Session, and for each Session, Renjin allows you to customize the environment in which the R scripts are evaluated with regard to:

The SessionBuilder object provides an API for creating a customized Renjin ScriptEngine instance:

import javax.script.*;
import org.renjin.eval.*;
import org.renjin.script.*;

Session session = new SessionBuilder()

RenjinScriptEngineFactory factory = new RenjinScriptEngineFactory();
RenjinScriptEngine engine = factory.getScriptEngine(session);

The sections below outline how the methods of the SessionBuilder object can be used to customize the execution context.

3.6.1. File System

The R language provides many builtin functions that allow scripts to interact with the file system, such as getwd(), setwd(), file(), list.files() etc.

In some contexts, however, direct access to the file system may not be appropriate. For example:

  • You may want to limit the ability of a script to write to the file system.
  • You may want to run an R script that expects data on the local file system, but redirect calls to file() to an alternate data source, such as a network resource or a database.

For this reason, Renjin mediates all calls to R file system functions through the Apache Commons Virtual File System (VFS) library.

You can provide your own FileSystemManager instance to SessionBuilder configured for your particular use case.

The following example demonstrates how a ScriptEngine instance is configured by default:

DefaultFileSystemManager fsm = new DefaultFileSystemManager();
fsm.addProvider("jar", new JarFileProvider());
fsm.addProvider("file", new LocalFileProvider());
fsm.addProvider("res", new ResourceFileProvider());
fsm.addExtensionMap("jar", "jar");
fsm.setDefaultProvider(new UrlFileProvider());
fsm.setBaseFile(new File("/"));

Session session = new SessionBuilder()

RenjinScriptEngineFactory factory = new RenjinScriptEngineFactory();
RenjinScriptEngine engine = factory.getScriptEngine(session);

The renjin-appengine module provides a more complex example. There, the AppEngineContextFactory class prepares a FileSystemManager that is configured with a AppEngineLocalFileSystemProvider subclass that provides read-only access to the servlet’s directory. This allows R scripts access to “/WEB-INF/data/model.R”, which is translated into the absolute path at runtime.

3.6.2. Package Loading

In contrast to GNU R, which always loads packages from the local file system, Renjin’s package loading mechanism is customizable in order to support different use cases:

  • When used interactively, analysts expect to be able download and run packages interactively from CRAN or BioConductor.
  • When embedding specific R code in a web application, R packages can be declared as dependencies in Maven, Gradle, or SBT, and shipped along with the application just as any other JVM dependency.
  • When allowing users to execute arbitrary R code in your application, you may want to limit R packages to some approved subset and load from an internal repository.

For this reason, Renjin mediates all package loading, such as calls to library() or to require() through a PackageLoader interface. This allows the application executing R code to choose an appropriate implementation.

Renjin itself provides two PackageLoader implementations:

  • The ClasspathPackageLoader, which is the default for ScriptEngines and only loads packages that are already on the classpath.
  • The AetherPackageLoader, which will download packages on demand from a remote Maven repository. This is used by the Renjin interactive REPL.

If you are embedding Renjin in your application and want packages to be loaded on demand, then you can configure SessionBuilder with an instance of an AetherPackageLoader.

The following example shows to add this dynamic behavior to a Renjin ScriptEngine, and adds an additional, internal Maven repository that is used to resolve packages:

RemoteRepository internalRepo = new RemoteRepository.Builder(
    "internal", /* id */
    "default",  /* type */

List<RemoteRepository> repositories = new ArrayList<>();

ClassLoader parentClassLoader = getClass().getClassLoader();

AetherPackageLoader loader = new AetherPackageLoader(parentClassLoader, repositories);

Session session = new SessionBuilder()

You can also provide your own implementation of PackageLoader which resolves calls to import() and require() in any other way that meets your needs.

3.6.3. Class Loading

When R packages depend on JVM classes by using Renjin’s importClass() directive, the JVM class is loaded indirectly via the Session’s PackageLoader interface.

However, R scripts can also load JVM classes on an ad-hoc basis using the import(com.acme.MyClass) function.

Such classes are loaded not through the PackageLoader mechanism but through the Session object’s own ClassLoader instance. This can also be set through the SessionBuilder object:

URLClassLoader classLoader = new URLClassLoader(
    new URL[] {
        new File("/home/alex/my_dir_with_jars").toURI().toURL(),
        new File("/home/alex/my_other_dir_with_jars").toURI().toURL()

Session session = new SessionBuilder()

3.6.4. Command-Line Arguments

If you have an existing script that relies on the R commandArgs() function to obtain parameters from the environment, you can set these via the setCommandLineArguments method:

Session session = new SessionBuilder()

session.setCommandLineArguments("/usr/bin/renjin", "X", "Y", "--args", "Z");

RenjinScriptEngineFactory factory = new RenjinScriptEngineFactory();
RenjinScriptEngine engine = factory.getScriptEngine(session);

engine.eval("print(commandArgs(trailingOnly = FALSE))");  // c("/usr/bin/renjin", "X", "Y", "--args", "Z")
engine.eval("print(commandArgs(trailingOnly = TRUE))");   // c("Z")

Note that the Java Scripting API provides a richer API for moving values between Java and R. See Moving Data between Java and R Code.