Connections Contract

The RStudio Connections Pane can display database-like connections from any R package which implements a connections contract.

The Connections Pane acts like an observer; the R package notifies the observer when an event related to the connection occurs. In RStudio builds which support the Connections Pane, the connectionObserver option is populated with a list of three functions: connectionOpened(), connectionUpdated(), and connectionClosed().

Connection Opened

When a new connection is opened, your R package should inform the Connections Pane by calling connectionOpened(). For example:

observer <- getOption("connectionObserver")
if (!is.null(observer))


The arguments to the connectionOpened() function are as follows:

Argument Value
type Free-form text; the type of data connection (e.g. “SQL”).
displayName Free-form text; the name shown to the user in the Connections Pane.
host The name of the server/host being connected to; optional.
icon The full path to a small, square PNG icon representing the connection; optional.
connectCode A snippet of R code which can be used to open the connection again.
disconnect A function which can be used to close the connection.
listObjectTypes A function which returns the hierarchy of object types returned by the connection, as a nested list; see Specifying Objects below for details.
listObjects A function which lists top-level objects in the database when called without arguments, or the objects inside some other object when invoked with an object specifier. The return value is a data frame with name and type columns.
listColumns A function which lists the columns of a data object. The return value is a data frame with name and type columns.
previewObject A function accepting a row limit and an object specifier; it returns the given number of rows from the data object as a data frame.
actions A named list of actions which can be performed on the connection. Each list entry should be a list with icon (path to an small, square PNG representing the action) and callback (function to perform when the action is invoked)
connectionObject The raw connection object.

Specifying Objects


The listObjectTypes() function is invoked by RStudio to discover the hierarchy of objects supported by the connection. The return value should be a nested list, where each entry has a contains member that indicates what the object type contains, and optionally an icon member indicating the path to a small, square PNG representing the object type.

The contains member is either a list of object types that the object contains, or the special value "data" if the object contains data.

For example, if your database has schemas, and schemas can have tables and views, you might return a list like the following:

  schema = list(
    icon = "path/to/schema.png",
    contains = list(
      table = list(
        contains = "data"),
      view = list(
        contains = "data"))))


The listObjects(), listColumns(), and previewObject() functions are invoked by RStudio as the user explores the objects and data in the connection. They are all invoked with an object specifier, which is a set of named arguments corresponding to the object types returned by listObjectTypes().

For instance, suppose the user opens a connection, expands the schema “foo”, and then previews the table “bar” inside that schema. RStudio will invoke the functions as follows:

listObjects()                  # returns all schema
listObjects(schema = "foo")    # returns tables and views in "foo"
previewObject(schema = "foo",  # returns data in
              table  = "bar")


When your R package informs RStudio that a connection has been opened via connectionOpened(), RStudio saves some of the connection’s metadata. Even after the connection is closed, RStudio shows users the connection along with the code (which is supplied in the connectCode argument to connectionOpened as described above) to re-open it. It’s therefore important to supply a connectCode string which will work with few prerequisites.

Connection Updated

If the list of objects in your data source changes while the connection is open, your R package can tell RStudio to refresh the Connections Pane to show the new information. This is done by invoking the connectionUpdated() method as follows:

observer <- getOption("connectionObserver")
if (!is.null(observer))
  observer$connectionUpdated(type, host)

where type and host match the type and host parameters given when the connection was opened.

Connection Closed

When the user closes the connection, your R package should tell RStudio to update the pane. This done by invoking the connectionClosed() method, which works identically to connectionUpdated():

observer <- getOption("connectionObserver")
if (!is.null(observer))
  observer$connectionClosed(type, host)


There are currently two packages which implement the connections contract. You may use these as examples:

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