Digital Geography

10. September 2015

Webmaps with R: the leaflet package for R

Some months ago I published qgis2leaf which enables a QGIS user to publish a webmap the easy way. It was integrated into qgis2web which offers a leaflet and a openlayers based output for qgis users. But what about R users? Jean-Francois recently published a longer post about GPX tracks and to publish them using some heavy coding. So let’s welcome leaflet for R: an easy leaflet webmap exporter. So let’s create a nice webmap from R:

our nice to have webmap

Leaflet for R

Leaflet for R is developed by the guys who brought us RStudio. It seems more documented than a package called leafletR so let us have a look at it. I will try this on RStudio Version 0.99.484.


Installation works “flawlessly” by typing
into the R console. But first I ran in the problem that I need to upgrade R to the newest version as it was not upgraded by installing latest RStudio on my Ubuntu system. But as we have the package activated
library("leaflet", lib.loc="~/R/x86_64-pc-linux-gnu-library/3.2")
we can go ahead.

Let’s create a webmap

First we need to create a leaflet instance with a basemap embedded:
m <- leaflet()
m <- addTiles(m)
Now we have a nice basis for the next step. Let’s add a thing from the last decade which is called a shapefile. But first make sure you have the dev libraries from rgdal and libproj installed. To enable R to work with shapefiles we will use the package rgdal:
and enable it. But we are interested in adding some layers as well:
polygons <- readOGR("polygon_feature.shp", layer = "polygon_feature", verbose = FALSE)
m <- addPolygons(m,data=polygons, fillColor = "black", group = "Polygon")# polygons
lines <- readOGR("line_feature.shp", layer = "line_feature", verbose = FALSE)
m <- addPolylines(m, data = lines, color = "black",opacity = 1,group = "Line") #to add a line with the layertext Line"
m <- addLayersControl(m, 
  baseGroups = c("OSM (default)"),
  overlayGroups = c("Polyline", "Line"),
  options = layersControlOptions(collapsed = FALSE)
) # our layercontrol
m #will show the current map in the preview window
That was easy and the syntax is quite comparable to the one we know from leaflet. We can also add raster images up to 4mb of size:
r <- raster("min_image.tif")
m <- addRasterImage(m,r, opacity = 0.9, colors=gray.colors(255))
Check even more examples on the page of Leaflet for R.


The whole map is shown in the Viewer of RStudio:

Leaflet for R in the RStudio Viewer.

So we choose the “Export” option and select “Save as Web Page…” and check it out:

You can download the sample code and also the data for this example.
  • Jean-François Godeau

    Very useful & thanks for the reference Riccardo! I’ll keep on digging in leaflet for R.

  • Danilo Godone

    Uesful tutorial, thanks! May I suggest some (minor) edits in the script?
    Line 14 of the downloadable script should be written as follows:

    overlayGroups = c(“Polygon”, “Line”),

    Otherwise polygon visualization in the map could not be manged;
    moreover I would also have added: