## The problem

I’m currently (finally) learning more about linear algebra, statistical optimisation, and other matrix-related topics. While learning about such abstract topics, for me it really helps to convert the material into small `R`

programs. While doing this, I stumbled upon a problem: **Matrix construction in R kind of sucks**. Why? Look at this:

```
M <- matrix(c(1, 0.2, -0.3, 0.4,
0.2, 1, 0.6, -0.4,
-0.3, 0.6, 1, 0.4,
0.4, -0.4, 0.4, 1),
nrow = 4,
ncol = 4,
byrow = TRUE)
```

If I want to create a matrix, I need to (a) create a full vector of values to put in the matrix, (b) decide into how many rows/columns I want to put these values, and (c) decide whether to fill these values in a columnwise (default) or rowwise manner. This last step in particular is a nuisance, because the default makes sure we cannot have any form of “what you see is what you get” (WYSIWYG) in our script.

## The solution

To solve this issue for people who want to rapidly create legible matrices, I created the package `Massign`

. This package has only one operator, `%<-%`

, and it works as follows to create the same matrix as above:

```
M %<-% " 1
0.2, 1
-0.3, 0.6, 1
0.4, -0.4, 0.4, 1"
```

Neat right? There are a few features to it:

## WYSIWYG Matrix Construction

In it’s most basic form, `Massign`

makes for legible code because of the “what you see is what you get” nature of the matrix construction function.

```
M %<-% " 1, 0.2, -0.3, 0.4
0.2, 1, 0.6, -0.4
-0.3, 0.6, 1, 0.4
0.4, -0.4, 0.4, 1"
M
```

```
## [,1] [,2] [,3] [,4]
## [1,] 1.0 0.2 -0.3 0.4
## [2,] 0.2 1.0 0.6 -0.4
## [3,] -0.3 0.6 1.0 0.4
## [4,] 0.4 -0.4 0.4 1.0
```

## Automatic Symmetric Construction

As shown before, when you enter a lower triangular matrix, `Massign`

automatically creates a symmetric matrix. This is a major feature, because properly creating the symmetric elements is not simple using the default `matrix()`

function.

## Variables Allowed

Because `Massign`

constructs a `matrix()`

call under the hood and evaluates it in the environment in which the function is called, it is allowed to enter variables inside the text string:

```
phi <- 1.5
M %<-% "1, 1, 1
1, phi, phi^2
1, phi^2, phi^4"
M
```

```
## [,1] [,2] [,3]
## [1,] 1 1.00 1.0000
## [2,] 1 1.50 2.2500
## [3,] 1 2.25 5.0625
```

For the same reason, complex numbers work too. It does only work with numbers, though, so for character matrices you’re stuck with the `matrix()`

function for now.

# Conclusion

The `%<-%`

operator in `Massign`

makes life a little easier for `R`

programmers who want to quickly construct a relatively small matrix for prototyping or learning. Take this code piece for generating an 8-dimensional multivariate normal distribution with positive correlations:

```
library(Massign)
library(MASS)
S %<-% " 1,
.5, 1
.5, .5, 1
.5, .5, .5, 1
.5, .5, .5, .5, 1
.6, .6, .6, .6, .6, 1
.5, .5, .5, .5, .5, .5, 1
.4, .4, .4, .4, .4, .4, .4, 1"
X <- mvrnorm(10, mu = rep(0,8), Sigma = S)
```

The package is on CRAN, so you can install it as follows:

`install.packages("Massign")`

If you have any complaints, tips, issues, or suggestions, you can submit an issue on the project’s GitHub page. Here you can also view the source code of the package!