Developing with clipr

Matthew Lincoln

2019-04-14

Calling clipr safely

To check whether the system has been properly configured to allow access to the clipboard, you may run clipr_available() which will either return TRUE or FALSE. This will be particularly useful for Linux-based systems, where clipr’s functionality depends on the installation of additional software. If you wish to display system requirements and configuration messages to X11 users, dr_clipr() will print these.

Interactive & non-interactive use

If you use clipr in your own package, you must not try to call it in non-interactive sessions, as this goes against CRAN repository policy:

Packages should not write in the user’s home filespace (including clipboards), nor anywhere else on the file system apart from the R session’s temporary directory (or during installation in the location pointed to by TMPDIR: and such usage should be cleaned up). Installing into the system’s R installation (e.g., scripts to its bin directory) is not allowed.

Limited exceptions may be allowed in interactive sessions if the package obtains confirmation from the user.

For this reason, write_clip() will error by default in non-interactive use, which includes CRAN tests.

If you want to use write_clip() interactively, you may either set the environment variable CLIPR_ALLOW=TRUE or call write_clip(..., allow_non_interactive = TRUE).

Testing on CRAN and CI

A few best practices will also help you responsibly test your clipr-using package on headless systems like CRAN or other testing infrastructure like Travis:

  1. Examples that will try to use read_clip() or write_clip() ought to be wrapped in \dontrun{}
  2. Tests calling clipr should be conditionally skipped, based on the output of clipr_available(). This is necessary to pass CRAN checks, as otherwise write_clip will error out.
  3. If you are using Travis.ci to check your package build on Linux, consult the .travis.yml for this package, which includes code for setting the DISPLAY and CLIPR_ALLOW environment variables, installing xclip and xsel, and running a pre-build script that will set up xclip/xsel to run headlessly.

Using clipr with Shiny

clipr won’t do what you expect when you call it with Shiny.

clipr talks to the clipboard of the system that is running R. If you create a Shiny app and tell one of its functions to either read from or write to the clipboard, it can only access the clipboard of the server it is running on. R running on the remote server has no way to access the local clipboard belonging to your end user.

However, you can instruct the user’s internet browser to write to the user’s clipboard by using rclipboard.