Yihui Xie

The Status of the DT Package

Yihui Xie / 2023-05-15

My first job at RStudio (now rebranded to Posit) was to integrate the JS library DataTables into Shiny. That was in 2013, almost ten years ago. To be honest, I have never been highly interested in tables, and working on tables was just a random start of my professional career. Since DataTables was quite a complex library and many of its features could be useful outside Shiny, we decided in 2014 to make a standalone package based on the HTML Widgets framework. That’s how the DT package was born.

Unfortunately, as I maintain more R packages over the years, I have found it more and more difficult to actively maintain DT. In 2020, someone emailed me this XKCD cartoon and said it reminded him of me:


He thanked me and said “I think you live in Iowa but still”. The funny thing is that I actually do live in Nebraska! I have worked on some infrastructure packages like knitr and rmarkdown, but I cannot take so much credit as depicted by the cartoon. That said, my work style is similar to the supporting pole in the cartoon—I often work on my own. I do collaborate with other people, and have merged many pull requests on Github, but most of the time, I still work on my own.

For the DT package, the last time I worked substantially on it was five years ago. I have been fortunate to have a few volunteers helping me from time to time to maintain this package (notably @shrektan and @stla). I have asked a few times inside Posit for the possibility of a new maintainer, but no one seems to be interested, so I have to carry on.

I’m writing this post to set expectations: unless someone can commit to maintaining this package, it will enter the maintenance-only mode, meaning that I will not add substantial new features to it anymore. However, if anyone wants a new feature that is not too complicated and implements it via a pull request, I can probably review and merge it. The same thing applies to bug fixes (unless it’s a really bad bug, in which case I will still try to fix it by myself).

There are many R packages for generating tables, but I feel DT offers two unique features that are not straightforward in other packages yet: server-side processing and table editing. Some features from DataTables extensions may also be unavailable in other packages.

Please rest assured that DT will not die anytime soon. It will stay on CRAN for the years to come. It’s just that before a new passionate maintainer takes it over from my shoulders, you may not expect any exciting new features from this package. If you believe no news is good news, this is good news for you.

P.S. A few months after I received the XKCD cartoon, my son, who didn’t see the cartoon, happened to make this toy using mega blocks at home, which I found quite funny:

Dependency (Mega blocksversion)