SPSS does some pretty cool things, and I have written about some of them here. However, there are also some annoyances. First of all, it is one of the hardest packages to use moving datasets from one format or platform to another. The regular SPSS dataset, the one that ends in .sav crashes many mail and file transfer programs when you try to email or upload it.
Recognizing this problem, SPSS created the .por (for portable) file that makes it easier to move files across systems. These files can be easily uploaded or downloaded. I routinely move mine from a Mac to a Unix server to a Windows machine. For students who are used to clicking on an Excel file and having it download, it can be a bit daunting when you click on a .por file it comes up with gibberish that looks something like this.
`1233 SPSS some stuff 12397346 9400- -9774 45556 “ ~~~ 34455
for an entire page.
And yes, I know the solution is to just right-click on the file name and then you can select “Save Target As” or “Save Link As” and then save the file to disk. For once, the problem cannot be blamed on Internet Explorer (the archetypal does-not-play-well-with-others) and Microsoft’s on-going efforts to take over the world, because this gibberish-appearing trick happens with every browser.
Incredibly, SPSS does not even play well with itself. I discovered this less than lovely characteristic when students sent me .spo output files from SPSS 15 and I could not read these because I had not installed the legacy viewer that comes with SPSS 16 for Windows.
Well, I guess no one is perfect.
Lately, I have been playing with Stata, which, although it is not going to replace any time soon as my all favorite statistical software, is starting to grow on me, like that unattractive, ill-behaved child in a class that slowly charms himself into being the teacher’s pet. Stata: Bart Simpson of statistical packages.
I guess that would make SAS, Lisa and SPSS Maude Flanders.