13.1 Downloading Files

First we’ll deal with the situation in which the data we want is in a file somewhere on the Internet. In this case we need only download the file to our computer.

It’s a good idea to keep one’s work organized. Since we plan to begin downloading data files, we might as well create a directory dedicated to them. It’s easy to use the R Studio IDE to create the directory, but we might as well learn how the same task could be accomplished with an R-command. We will use the function dir.create().

dir.create("downloads")

We are ready to begin downloading. Let’s begin with a file32 at the URL:

https://homerhanumat.github.io/r-notes/downloads/words.zip

The relevant function is download.file():

download.file(url = "https://github.com/homerhanumat/r-notes/blob/master/downloads/words.zip?raw=true", destfile = "downloads/words.zip")

The file should now be in the downloads folder of your Home directory.

We see that it’s a zip-file. R can unzip it for us:

unzip(zipfile = "downloads/words.zip")

We now have the text-file words.txt in our downloads directory. In R Studio you can examine the contents of the file if you click on the file-name in your Files tab. You see something like this:

aa
aah
aahed
aahing
aahs
aal
...

The file is a fairly comprehensive list of words in the English language—all in lowercase, one word per line.


  1. This file is a compressed version of words.txt file used in Think Python (Downey 2015).