Skip to contents

The R7 package is a new OOP system designed to be a successor to S3 and S4. It has been designed and implemented collaboratively by the RConsortium Object-Oriented Programming Working Group, which includes representatives from R-Core, BioConductor, RStudio/tidyverse, and the wider R community.


The long-term goal of this project is to merge R7 in to base R. For now, you can experiment by installing the in-development version from GitHub:

# install.packages("remotes")


This section gives a very brief overview of the entirety of R7. Learn more of the basics in vignettte("R7"), the details of method dispatch in vignette("dispatch"), and compatibility with S3 and S4 in vignette("compatibility").

Classes and objects

R7 classes have a formal definition, which includes a list of properties and an optional validator. Use new_class() to define a class:

range <- new_class("range",
  properties = list(
    start = class_double, 
    end = class_double
  validator = function(self) {
    if (length(self@start) != 1) {
      "@start must be length 1"
    } else if (length(self@end) != 1) {
      "@end must be length 1"
    } else if (self@end < self@start) {
      "@end must be greater than or equal to @start"

new_class() returns the class object, which is also the constructor you use to create instances of the class:

x <- range(start = 1, end = 10)
#> <range>
#>  @ start: num 1
#>  @ end  : num 10


The data possessed by an object is called its properties. Use @ to get and set properties:

#> [1] 1
x@end <- 20
#> <range>
#>  @ start: num 1
#>  @ end  : num 20

Properties are automatically validated against the type declared in new_class() (double in this case), and with the class validator:

x@end <- "x"
#> Error: <range>@end must be <double>, not <character>
x@end <- -1
#> Error: <range> object is invalid:
#> - @end must be greater than or equal to @start

Generics and methods

Like S3 and S4, R7 uses functional OOP where methods belong to generic functions, and method calls look like all other function calls: generic(object, arg2, arg3). This style is called functional because from the outside it looks like a regular function call, and internally the components are also functions.

Use new_generic() to create a new generic: the first argument is the generic name (used in error messages) and the second gives the arguments used for dispatch. The third, and optional argument, supplies the body of the generic. This is only needed if your generic has additional arguments that aren’t used for method dispatch.

inside <- new_generic("inside", "x", function(x, y) {
  # Actually finds and calls the appropriate method

Once you have a generic, you can define a method for a specific class with method<-:

# Add a method for our class
method(inside, range) <- function(x, y) {
  y >= x@start & y <= x@end
#> <R7_generic> function (x, y)  with 1 methods:
#> 1: method(inside, range)

inside(x, c(0, 5, 10, 15))

You can use method<- to register methods for base types on R7 generics:

method(inside, class_numeric) <- function(x, y) {
  y >= min(x) & y <= max(x)

And register methods for R7 classes on S3 or S4 generics:

method(format, range) <- function(x, ...) {
  paste0("[", x@start, ", ", x@end, "]")
#> [1] "[1, 20]"

method(mean, range) <- function(x, ...) {
  (x@start + x@end) / 2
#> [1] 10.5