12.3 What is the difference between a Notebook and an R Markdown file?

Most people use the terms R Notebook and R Markdown interchangeably and that is fine. Technically, R Markdown is a file, whereas R Notebook a way to work with R Markdown files. R Notebooks do not have their own file format, they all use .Rmd. All R Notebooks can be ‘knitted’ to R Markdown outputs, and all R Markdown documents can be interfaced as a Notebook.

An important difference is in the execution of code. In R Markdown, when the file is Knit, all the elements (chunks) are also run. Knit is to R Markdown what Source is to an R script (Source was introduced in Chapter 1, essentially it means ‘Run all lines’).

In a Notebook, when the file is rendered with the Preview button, no code is re-run, only that which has already been run and is present in the document is included in the output. Also, in the Notebook behind-the-scenes file (.nb), all the code is always included. Something to watch out for if your code contains sensitive information, such as a password (which it never should!).