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Re: Evaluating PSPP

From: Andy Choens
Subject: Re: Evaluating PSPP
Date: Thu, 14 Aug 2008 09:57:46 -0400
User-agent: Thunderbird (X11/20080724)

Several people have responded to my original request for information. Thank you. I will try to respond to what people have written below:

John Darrington wrote:
If you say what your company's needs are, then it'd be easier to
answer that question.  Other uses have identified repeated measures
anova (aka GLM), factor analysis and reliability analysis as things
they need, so these are probably going to be implemented in future
releases.  I personally have an interest in non-parametric statistics,
so you might see a few more of those too.

  Also, a better output system is on the cards
( )

Like most companies (I assume) we have different "levels" of users. Most of our SPSS users need to be able to open .sav files and generate tables, cross-tabs, etc. for use in their reports. For these users, I think the limited graphical output system is the biggest problem I can see with us using PSPP. Being able to output the results to CSV (for further analysis) and HTML (for cut/paste into a report) are both really really important.

Other users, such as myself and a couple of others, write syntax and do most of the actual analytical work. My existing syntax does use MANOVA in a few places, which I can see is one function that PSPP does not currently support. Factor analysis and reliability are also used quite heavily. Based on your comments, I think PSPP is headed in all of the right directions.

I would also love to see syntax highlighting / line numbers in the syntax editor. Since SPSS syntax is not something that has traditionally been useful on a linux box, none of my favorite editors support syntax highlighting and I have tried to use/maintain a vi syntax file, but it would be nice to have something more complete/integrated.

I also do some GIS work, but I've been doing more and more of this in R-CRAN and that will probably not change in the foreseeable future.

A python interface is something that I think should definitely be

I agree. As SPSS users familiarize themselves with Python I fully expect SPSS syntax to increasingly rely on Python, which will make for some interesting looking syntax. Any mixing of PSPP syntax and python will make syntax highlighting increasingly important.

With regard to R integration,  most people seem to suggest that
spss/pspp could be a front-end to R's engine.   That might be useful,
but I'd be much more interested in the opposite; would it be possible
to use R's syntax with PSPP's back-end?   A few simple tests should
convince you that PSPP is magnetudes faster than R, so I'm not keen on
the former option.


When I mentioned R-CRAN on this thread I was a little worried that I might get flamed (vi v. emacs anyone?). Fortunately, I can see that this isn't going to be an issue. I myself have not done any speed comparisons between R and PSPP, but speed isn't why I mentioned R-CRAN. For what it is worth, R-CRAN is an important tool in academic statistics. R already has far more features than SPSS-base or PSPP. SPSS appears to have developed an R plug-in for newer versions of SPSS to let advanced SPSS users take advantage of these tools.. I don't think they have any intention of ever replacing their engine with R's. Nor do I think PSPP should replace it's engine with R's. The PSPP FAQ does a good job of explaining why this wouldn't be a good idea.

That being said, I think a plug-in could be useful for two reasons.
1) If SPSS does it, users like me will eventually get some syntax from someone that relies on the R plug-in. I'd like to be able to run this syntax in PSPP.

2) R-CRAN has a wealth of useful tools that PSPP does not have. There are some domains, such as GIS, that PSPP is not really well suited for. If I can use R via PSPP, then I can save myself having to output my data structure from PSPP and import it into R, and let the plug-in do all that for me. This is time effective AND less error prone. I think there are some good arguments for giving access to R's functions via the syntax/command-line but not via the menu system.

I do agree, it would be really neat if we could use R syntax in PSPP.


Andrew Choens, MSW
Research Policy Analyst
Hornby Zeller Associates, Inc.
(518) 273 - 1614

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