How to Install R Programming Language on Ubuntu 20.04

R is an open-source programming language, and free software environment for statistical computing and graphical representation created and supported by the R Core Team and the R Foundation. R’s popularity is widely used amongst statisticians and data miners for statistical and data analysis software developers.

In the following tutorial, you will learn how to install R using the CRAN repository and install packages from both R’s CRAN repository or PPA cran2deb4ubuntu on Ubuntu 20.04.


  • Recommended OS: Ubuntu 20.04
  • User account: A user account with sudo or root access.

Update Operating System

Update your Ubuntu operating system to make sure all existing packages are up to date:

sudo apt update && sudo apt upgrade -y

The tutorial will be using the sudo command and assuming you have sudo status.

To verify sudo status on your account:

sudo whoami

Example output showing sudo status:

[joshua@ubuntu ~]$ sudo whoami

To set up an existing or new sudo account, visit our tutorial on How to Add a User to Sudoers on Ubuntu.

To use the root account, use the following command with the root password to log in.


Install Dependecies for R

First, open your terminal (CTRL+ALT+T) and install the following dependencies.

sudo apt install dirmngr gnupg apt-transport-https ca-certificates software-properties-common

Type “Y”, then press the “ENTER KEY” to proceed and complete the installation.

Import R GPG Key & CRAN Repository

By default, R is present in Ubuntu 20.04’s repositories. However, it is very outdated. It is highly recommended to install R from the CRAN repository.

First, import the GPG key that is required the verify the authenticity of the R package.

sudo apt-key adv --keyserver --recv-keys E298A3A825C0D65DFD57CBB651716619E084DAB9

Example if the import was successful:

How to Install R Programming Language on Ubuntu 20.04

Next, import the CRAN repository.

sudo add-apt-repository 'deb focal-cran40/'

Once imported, refresh your APT repository list.

sudo apt update

Install R Programming Language

With the dependencies and the newly added CRAN repository installed, you can install the R language by executing the following command in your terminal.

sudo apt install r-base r-base-dev

Example output:

How to Install R Programming Language on Ubuntu 20.04

Once the installation has finished, verify if it was successful by checking the build version.

R --version

Example output:

How to Install R Programming Language on Ubuntu 20.04

How to Install R Packages from CRAN

Now that R is installed on your system, you can now launch the R terminal instance.

In your terminal, use the following command.

sudo -i R

Example out R terminal:

How to Install R Programming Language on Ubuntu 20.04

R has quite an extensive range of packages that you can install. For the tutorial, the “txtplot” package returns ASCII graphs with “line plot, scatter plot, bar charts, and density plot.” This is installed by using the install.packages(”) command in R’s terminal shell.


Example output:

How to Install R Programming Language on Ubuntu 20.04

With “textplot” now installed, you can run a test by activating the package in the R shell terminal.


Next, an example is shown by using the example data supplied by R’s “datasets” package with contains the speed of cars and the distance required to stop based on data from the 1920s:

txtplot(cars[,1], cars[,2], xlab = 'speed', ylab = 'distance')

From this input command, you will then receive a plot graph.


How to Install R Programming Language on Ubuntu 20.04

Additionally, to get help on the packages installed, you can use the following command.

help(package name)

Replace “package name” with the package installed. In the tutorial’s case, this was “txtplot”.



To remove a package, or “txtplot” use the following remove command in the R shell terminal.


To exit the R shell terminal interface, use the “q()” command.


You will see the following prompt:

Save workspace image? [y/n/c]: 

Select your option to exit by typing y, n, or c and pressing the “ENTER KEY”.

How to Install R Packages from cran2deb4ubuntu

Optionally, you can install the following PPA cran2deb4ubuntu, a PPA for R packages from CRAN’s Task Views built against R 4.0 (and subsequent releases). Note that this PPA only works for LTS releases such as 18.04, 20.04, and the upcoming 22.04 LTS but is built with the latest R version.

First, install the PPA using the following command.

sudo add-apt-repository -y

Once installed, update the APT repository list.

sudo apt update

Note, you may see updated packages, upgrade as appropriate.

sudo apt upgrade

Instead of compiling the R packages, this may suit the developer, and you can install them as Debian packages from the PPA. However, you will rely on the PPA to be maintained and kept secure.

Overall, the PPA by the “cran2deb4ubuntu Build Team” team is very well known and can be trusted.

Comments and Conclusion

In the tutorial, you have learned how to install R on Ubuntu 20.04 LTS Focal Fossa by using the CRAN repository, which you can draw upon packages and updates frequently.

One of the best parts about R programming is that it is more of a community-run software, which means that anyone can provide code enhancements and new packages. The consistency in the R community environment is a testament to this approach to developing specific software by sharing and encouraging inputs. This tool is also compatible across platforms, and thereby it runs on many operating systems as well as hardware.

Additionally, you can find more R packages at Available CRAN Packages By Name.


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