In recent weeks the package manager has been causing severe problems, either taking many minutes to make a simple installation or simply freezing up.
I read on the help forums something to the effect that this problem was dealt with in recent updates to R, however that doesn't seem to be the case. I've tried installing the latest version of R - repeatedly- but this has done nothing to address this issue. Or if there is a way to fix this, or there is a version that addresses this, I haven't been able to find the relevant information or fix even after spending an hour online trying to research the issue.
This is really a serious issue; the utility of R is severely compromised without the ability to install packages since many of the most frequently used packages aren't included in the basic installation, and I am currently spending far more time trying to get R to work than actually writing code or running analyses.
The 'package installer' is the program which installs the Apple package. If you mean the 'Package Installer' menu item in R.app, there is a known issue (but that is only known to causes failures, not freezes).
Saying 'the latest version of R' does not help us. If this is not R-patched (or R-devel), it is not 'latest', and if it is, tell us exactly which version (and which version of R.app: when you start it, you will see something like
[R.app GUI 1.65 (6754) x86_64-apple-darwin13.1.0]
). If your R.app version is earlier, update it from r.research.att.com ....