Applied Epi Community

With Excell I can do almost anything, why R?

Hi guys
Excell allows me to make quite interesting graphs, do some complex calculations, such as standardizations or life tables. I can put in a cell almost any formula.
I can paste data from other sources or even use templates to reproduce calculations and graphs
And it’s very easy to learn. Why do I have to switch to R? It’s trendy and there are a lot of people who get carried away by the trend.

Thanks for your opinions


I agree with you, Excell is easy to learn. If you only do basic things once in a while and don’t have to reproduce them many times, I agree with you. You don’t need R.

But if you have to do routine calculations or graphing, debugging data, reading data from files in different formats, I would advise something other than a spreadsheet.

Spreadsheet basics are very easy to learn, but more complex use is difficult and a bit cryptic.

Not to mention the major drawbacks I see to Excell for routine work, such as that done in epidemiological surveillance:

  • They depend on the pasting position. A small error in the position of the cell or in the file to be pasted is catastrophic. And the worst thing is that you may not notice the error.
  • Sorting data from a single column, erroneously, can lead to some funny mistakes and, for example, assign values to Brisbane, which correspond to Murcia or Bolivia. And without realizing it or being able to reproduce the error.
  • Making a complex routine report will ALWAYS take you a long time.
  • The handling of dates in Excel is complex if you do not use the mm/dd/yyy format.
  • And … if you want to grow in more specific epidemiological analysis, you have to know a lot of Excel or forget about it and look for another tool.

And if you are looking for another tool, I recommend R. Yes, it will take you a while to get to know it and get started, but once you have the basics down, growing is relatively easy and there are a lot of shared resources. Building a good routine report will take some time, but reproducing it daily (as has happened with Covid) or weekly (as always) will not cost you any effort, and you will be confident that the results are correct.

Not to mention the possibility of debugging errors that R gives you, of data cleaning, its reproducibility, etc.

So, my friend, don’t delay in introducing yourself to R. Without reservations.

Best regards