altair v4.1.1


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Interface to 'Altair'

Interface to 'Altair' <>, which itself is a 'Python' interface to 'Vega-Lite' <>. This package uses the 'Reticulate' framework <> to manage the interface between R and 'Python'.


lifecycle CRAN
status R-CMD-check


The goal of altair is to help you build Vega-Lite visualizations. This package uses reticulate to provide an interface to the Altair Python package, and the vegawidget package to render charts as htmlwidgets. To avoid confusion, the capitalized word Altair shall refer to the Python package; the lower-case word altair shall refer to this R package.

This version of the R package supports Python Altair version 4.1.0.


This example is discussed in detail in our getting started article:


vega_data <- import_vega_data()

chart <- 
    x = "Horsepower:Q",
    y = "Miles_per_Gallon:Q",
    color = "Origin:N"


Some things to keep in mind:

  • Where you see a . in the Python examples, use a $ instead.

  • In your data, columns that contain dots can be wrapped in square brackets in Altair specifications, e.g. [Sepal.Width], to keep Altair from throwing an error. Alternatively, you can use a double-backslash, e.g. Sepal\\.Width.

These and other “gotchas” are compiled along with workarounds in an article: Field Guide to Python Issues.


You can install altair from CRAN with:


The development version of is available from GitHub:

# install.packages("devtools")

Because of Python, there may be some additional installation steps, described in greater detail in the Installation article.

  1. Python must be installed on your system. We have had success using Conda: in particular, Miniconda works well and installs more-quickly than Anaconda.

    If you work in a corporate or institutional environment, you may have to specify the location of your SSL certificate, or deal with a proxy. The installation article has a section on this.

  2. Create a Conda environment called "r-reticulate". The reticulate folks recommend standardizing on a common name for all packages that use reticulate. For more information, there is a section in the installation article.

  3. Install Altair into your "r-reticulate" environment using altair::install_altair().

You may wish to add a line like this to the .First() function in your .Rprofile:


The use_condaenv() function is called to provide a hint to reticulate on which Python environment to use.

Optional installations

If you have nodejs installed on your computer, you can use vegawidget’s image-generating functions to convert Altair charts into SVG strings or write SVG files. With the rsvg and png packages installed, you can get a bitmap array, or write PNG files.

When knitting to a non-HTML format, e.g. github_document, this package provides a knit_print() function that will intercept the normal renderer, using instead its own renderer, allowing you to specify "png" , "svg" or "pdf". Like the image functions, this requires that nodejs be installed on your system, as well as rsvg and png. MacOS users will require an X11 system, such as XQuartz, to be installed.


The documentation for this package includes some articles:


  • An adaptation to R of the Altair Example Gallery, to demonstrate (not least to ourselves) that we are not missing any of the expressiveness of the Python API. You may be interested in the Interactive Charts examples.


Field Guides:


This package rests on these foundations:

  • Altair: Python interface to Vega-Lite

  • reticulate: R framework to work with Python

  • Vega-Lite: a grammar of interactive graphics

  • htmlwidgets: R framework to work with JavaScript visualizations

As well, a particular debt is owed to the folks behind the vegalite package, as it provided a lot of the inspiration for these efforts.

This project is a collaborative effort. In addition to the principal authors:

  • Alicia Schep has contributed the concatenation functions, as well as sorted out many of the Python, JavaScript, and package-API issues.

  • Heike Hofmann has been an invaluable advisor, providing incisive feedback, and insight into the fundamentals of interactive graphics.


Please note that this project is released with a Contributor Code of Conduct. By participating in this project you agree to abide by its terms.

This project also has a Contributing Guide.

Functions in altair

Name Description
repr_text.altair.vegalite.v4.api.TopLevelMixin MIME method for text
altair_concatenation Altair plot concatenation
vega_embed Vega embed options
vegawidget Create a Vega/Vega-Lite htmlwidget
vegawidgetOutput Shiny-output for vegawidget
vw_as_json Coerce vegaspec to JSON
repr_vegalite4.altair.vegalite.v4.api.TopLevelMixin MIME method for chart rendering
vw_set_base_url Set base URL
renderVegawidget Render shiny-output for vegawidget
%>% Pipe operator
knit_print.altair.vegalite.v4.api.TopLevelMixin Knit-print method
install_altair Install Altair Python package
altair altair: Create and embed Vega-Lite charts using the Altair Python package
alt Altair object
JS Mark character strings as literal JavaScript code
as_vegaspec.altair.vegalite.v4.api.TopLevelMixin Coerce to vegaspec
check_altair Check the Altair installation
image Create or write image
import_vega_data Import Vega datasets
altair_version Installed versions of Altair, Vega, etc.
as_chart Create Altair chart from vegaspec
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SystemRequirements Python (>= 3.5.0), (Python) Altair (>= 4.0.0). To use image functions, i.e. suggests: nodejs (> 8), and for MacOS: X11
License MIT + file LICENSE
Encoding UTF-8
LazyData true
ByteCompile true
RoxygenNote 7.1.1
NeedsCompilation no
Packaged 2021-01-14 04:02:00 UTC; sesa19001
Repository CRAN
Date/Publication 2021-01-14 13:00:02 UTC

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