testInheritedMethods: Test for and Report about Selection of Inherited Methods

testInheritedMethodsR Documentation

Test for and Report about Selection of Inherited Methods


A set of distinct inherited signatures is generated to test inheritance for all the methods of a specified generic function. If method selection is ambiguous for some of these, a summary of the ambiguities is attached to the returned object. This test should be performed by package authors before releasing a package.


testInheritedMethods(f, signatures, test = TRUE, virtual = FALSE,
                     groupMethods = TRUE, where = .GlobalEnv)



a generic function or the character string name of one. By default, all currently defined subclasses of all the method signatures for this generic will be examined. The other arguments are mainly options to modify which inheritance patterns will be examined.


An optional set of subclass signatures to use instead of the relevant subclasses computed by testInheritedMethods. See the Details for how this is done. This argument might be supplied after a call with test = FALSE, to test selection in batches.


optional flag to control whether method selection is actually tested. If FALSE, returns just the list of relevant signatures for subclasses, without calling selectMethod for each signature. If there are a very large number of signatures, you may want to collect the full list and then test them in batches.


should virtual classes be included in the relevant subclasses. Normally not, since only the classes of actual arguments will trigger the inheritance calculation in a call to the generic function. Including virtual classes may be useful if the class has no current non-virtual subclasses but you anticipate your users may define such classes in the future.


should methods for the group generic function be included?


the environment in which to look for class definitions. Nearly always, use the default global environment after attaching all the packages with relevant methods and/or class definitions.


The following description applies when the optional arguments are omitted, the usual case. First, the defining signatures for all methods are computed by calls to findMethodSignatures. From these all the known non-virtual subclasses are found for each class that appears in the signature of some method. These subclasses are split into groups according to which class they inherit from, and only one subclass from each group is retained (for each argument in the generic signature). So if a method was defined with class "vector" for some argument, one actual vector class is chosen arbitrarily. The case of "ANY" is dealt with specially, since all classes extend it. A dummy, nonvirtual class, ".Other", is used to correspond to all classes that have no superclasses among those being tested.

All combinations of retained subclasses for the arguments in the generic signature are then computed. Each row of the resulting matrix is a signature to be tested by a call to selectMethod. To collect information on ambiguous selections, testInheritedMethods establishes a calling handler for the special signal "ambiguousMethodSelection", by setting the corresponding option.


An object of class "methodSelectionReport". The details of this class are currently subject to change. It has slots "target", "selected", "candidates", and "note", all referring to the ambiguous cases (and so of length 0 if there were none). These slots are intended to be examined by the programmer to detect and preferably fix ambiguous method selections. The object contains in addition slots "generic", the name of the generic function, and "allSelections", giving the vector of labels for all the signatures tested.


Chambers, John M. (2008) Software for Data Analysis: Programming with R Springer. (Section 10.6 for basics of method selection.)

Chambers, John M. (2009) Class Inheritance in R https://statweb.stanford.edu/~jmc4/classInheritance.pdf.


## if no other attached packages have methods for `+` or its group
## generic functions, this returns a 16 by 2 matrix of selection
## patterns (in R 2.9.0)