R Flexdashboards

Flexdashboards are a powerful tool for creating dynamic, interactive dashboards within R. Developed by RStudio, they leverage the infrastructure of R Markdown to allow users to build robust visual displays of information. Flexdashboards support a variety of visual outputs, including tables, data frames, plots, and even more advanced interactive visualizations using packages such as plotly and leaflet.

The strength of Flexdashboards lies in their simplicity and ease of deployment. They use a simple markdown syntax, which makes it easy to layout and design the dashboard. They can be rendered as standalone HTML documents, which can be easily hosted on a variety of platforms, including GitHub Pages. This makes Flexdashboards an excellent choice for static reporting and when sharing insights with an audience that does not require real-time interaction with the underlying data.

Flexdashboards are static dashboards - this means that they can be hosted like a static web page on Github pages, Gitlab pages…

This does not mean that you can’t have interactivity in flexdashboards, since you can, for example include plotly graphs and include widgets to filter the data.

Using Flexdashboards for the first time

You will need to install the package in R:



To author a flexdashboard you create an R Markdown document with the flexdashboard::flex_dashboard output format. You can do this from within RStudio using the New R Markdown dialog:

Let’s create one Markdown file (I like to call it index.Rmd), that will be the one containing the logic of our flexdashboard:

title: "Flex Dashboards"
author: JAT
    orientation: column
    vertical_layout: fill
    source_code: embed
runtime: shiny

To test the changes that you are performing to the index.Rmd file, you will need to use the following commands in R:


rmarkdown::run("index.Rmd", shiny_args = list(port = 3838, host = ""))

With this command, a new window will be displayed were you can interact with the dashboard locally.

When you will be done with the changes, you can generate the HTML content that will get displayed on the Github Page:


I Like to have those in a specific file Flexdashboards.Rmd to make easier the workflow.

After completion, you will see a new /docs folder containing the dashboard that will get displayed at Github.

How to Customize a Flexdashboard

There are great sources for ideas, I would start with:

Flexdashboard Example - Open Data Analysis

Let’s explore one example that I created. I created separated tabs to showcase different uses:


How about Shiny?

Shiny is another product from RStudio that offers a framework for building interactive web applications entirely in R. Shiny is more flexible than Flexdashboards and can create more complex and interactive applications.

Shiny allows for real-time interaction, meaning that the user’s inputs can directly affect the output, and the output is updated immediately. This is ideal for creating dashboards where users may want to filter, slice, or manipulate the data to answer different questions.

However, Shiny requires a running R session in the background, which makes hosting a bit more complex compared to Flexdashboards. Shiny apps can be hosted using Shiny Server or RStudio’s hosting service, ShinyApps.io.