Introducing ghee

By Jonathan Trattner in R Packages Git & GitHub

March 14, 2021

I recently began using Github for more collaborative work. I was constantly leaving RStudio, opening up a browser, navigating to my repo-of-choice, and creating or commenting on issues, inviting people to a repository, etc. Around the same time, I joined Colin Fay, and #rstats users around the world in running a 5K by closing Github Issues. Every week, we would get a new, customized, issue with a training plan. Naturally, I looked at the source code and saw that Colin automated most of it with the {gh} package.

{gh} provides an extremely flexible API1 interface for Github. It allows you to perform hundreds of actions involving organizations, teams, repos, and more. It also requires syntax that – to me at least – can be confusing. So, inspired by Jenny Bryan and Jim Hester’s book, I developed {ghee}.

What is {ghee}?

{ghee} is a user-friendly wrapper for the {gh} package that provides client access to Github’s REST API for common tasks such as creating issues and inviting collaborators.

I chose the name {ghee} for a couple reasons. One, my neighbor loves using ghee (clarified butter) to cook with, and I’ve become a fan. Two, I think it makes it easy to switch between this package and its underlying one, {gh}, if you need to perform unsupported actions.

😱 Unsupported actions? What? 😱

Well, this package is not meant to replace {gh} or be an exhaustive API interface. It is designed to help you achieve common tasks with GitHub easily. As such, all functions begin with the prefix gh_, followed by categories of actions such as collab and issue. This allows you to take advantage of RStudio’s auto-completion feature and quickly accomplish your goals.

How do you install {ghee}?

The source code for {ghee} is on my GitHub repo, and the development version of it can be installed and loaded as follows:

# Install the development version from GitHub

# Load package

What are use cases for {ghee}?


I’ve found it particularly helpful to use {ghee} when working with collaborators. Normally, to invite someone to a repo, I would have to navigate to its page on Github, go to settings, manage access, and send an invitation manually. With {ghee}, though, it’s as simple as specifying the repo and the invitee:

gh_collab_invite(path = "owner/repository",
                 invitee = "bestfriend")

If you wanted to invite multiple friends at once, you could do so in a functional programming style. Here’s an example with the {purrr} package, which simply calls the gh_collab_invite() for each entry in the friends vector.

friends <- c("friend", "pal", "amigo")
purrr::walk(.x = friends, 
            ~ gh_collab_invite(path = "owner/repository", invitee = .x))


{ghee} provides functions to create, edit, and delete repositories. As an example, I’ll create a repo called “ghee_test,” as seen below.

# Create a Private Repo
gh_repos_create(path = "jdtrat/ghee_test", private = TRUE, description = "A test repository.")

Note how the above picture shows an “Issues” tab. I don’t really want feedback on this repository, so I’m going to disable it with the gh_repos_mutate() function.

# Disable Issues
gh_repos_mutate(path = "jdtrat/ghee_test", has_issues = FALSE)

If you decide you don’t want a private repo anymore, no problem! That’s an easy change! In the picture below, you can see the private badge next to the title is gone.

# Change Privacy Settings
gh_repos_mutate(path = "jdtrat/ghee_test", private = FALSE)

Now, I know what you’re thinking. You don’t like the repo name “ghee_test.” I don’t blame you. Let’s change it! Voila! It’s now “ghee_testing.”

# Change Repo Name
gh_repos_mutate(path = "jdtrat/ghee_test", name = "ghee_testing")

For more repository manipulation options, check out GitHub’s API here. You can also look at the documentation for gh_repos_mutate(), which expands upon the above examples.

{ghee} also has a function to delete repositories, though it should be used with caution, as it is permanent. Further, if you want to use it, you will need to create a special GitHub PAT with the appropriate permissions. This can be done with the with the {usethis} package as follows: usethis::create_github_token(scopes = "delete_repo").


Another big component of GitHub are Issues. {ghee} includes some helper functions for interacting with them. These include, gh_issue_list(), gh_issue_new(), gh_issue_comment(), and gh_issue_assign(). The first function, perhaps unsurprisingly, lists the GitHub issues for a specific repo. The next one allows you to create a new issue, and the other two allow you to comment on or assign existing ones. For example, if I wanted to create an issue for my {shinysurveys} package, I could do so as follows:

gh_issue_new(path = "jdtrat/shinysurveys", 
             title = "My Issue Title", 
             body = "Just wanted to pop on and say I love your package!")

To assign that issue to myself, or respond to it, I would use the issue number (which I could get with gh_issue_list()) and do something like this:

gh_issue_assign(path = "jdtrat/shinysurveys",
                issue_number = 5, 
                assignees = "jdtrat")

gh_issue_comment(path = "jdtrat/shinysurveys", 
                 issue_number = 5, 
                 body = "Thanks, @jdtrat!")

Happy Git(Hub)ing!

Thanks for reading my blog post! I hope you find use for {ghee} in your day-to-day. If you have any feedback, I’d love for you to file an issue (bonus points if you use gh_issue_new()!). For more of my work, check out my GitHub! If you want to chat about anything (including neuroscience, #rstats, piano, or my new kitten), DM me on Twitter! Most importantly, Happy Git(Hub)ing!

  1. An API, or Application Programming Interface, allows you to access certain features of a program, e.g. Google Drive or Github, from outside of its user-interface. The package {googledrive}, for example, allows you to read, write, and manipulate files in your Google Drive Account from R.↩︎

Posted on:
March 14, 2021
5 minute read, 928 words
R Packages Git & GitHub
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