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PSPP is only a free Linux SPSS for those with basic needs

I admit that I am hardly a typical user for statistical software, given that I had to go online to download a file with less than 7,000 records and less than 500 variables. STILL, I have to say that PSPP was a disappointment in a great many ways. This is NOT to say that it isn’t a nice little package. It’s just not a nice package for me. (I think I may have said this to some boyfriends in college, but I digress).

The first file I downloaded was a text file on a survey of public libraries. PSPP does not allow the option of moving a line using your mouse to designate where variables are split. No problem, I thought, I’ll just read it in and use a substring function to read the first seven characters of the field, which were the population. Unfortunately, it turned out that when the population was under 1,000,000 that there was text data in that field.

Fine, I’ll just download it as an ACCESS file, the other option. Except it turns out that PSPP doesn’t import any types of files except text. It would open a .sav file but I did not have one on this machine that I was interested in using.

The reason I didn’t have one  I was interested in using is that PSPP only does really basic statistics and all the .sav files I had were ones I was using for studies that did repeated measures ANOVA, cluster analysis or factor analysis. None of these were options for PSPP.

PSPP does do descriptive statistics, regression and one-way ANOVA. It has a lot of functions listed, I presume they all work. The substring function worked fine. I didn’t try much else.

If I have to search around for  a dataset for which a package can be used, it’s clear it’s not going to meet my needs.

Who IS PSPP good for ?

I have worked with students who needed no more than a basic package for an introductory statistics class and they should be thrilled to have PSPP as a free alternative to buying yet one more thing in a semester. It is pretty easy to use for the limited set of statistics it does. I did finally download a file off of our server that was in Excel format, opened it in LibreCalc, saved as a .csv file and had no problem opening it in PSPP. I did a multiple regression and it gave me everything I wanted, ANOVA table, R-square, Adjusted R-Square, beta-weights, t-values, etc. etc.

The default formatting of the output is nothing to write home about, but you can select, copy and paste it into LibreWriter, which is handy.

If you just need to do your own study for a relatively simple project and are going to be entering your own data, or maybe entered it in Excel and saved it as a text file, then PSPP should work fine.

I was looking forward to working more in Linux, since I think knowledge of operating systems is like everything else – use it or lose it. So, I was disappointed that PSPP is not a useful option for me. On the other hand, a lot of Linux packages get built up over time, and this is certainly a nice basic start and it may turn out to be a full-fledged package eventually. If anyone is interested in my opinion, I’d say the two biggest lacks at this point are the inability to import other formats besides .txt /.csv  and the limited number of statistical tests available. Correlation would be the first thing I would add, followed by Repeated measures ANOVA and logistic regression.

As it stands right now, PSPP is a nice little package, emphasis on the little.


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  1. I recently put Ubuntu on a desktop and tried PSPP. I would tell anyone who wants to have something similar to SPSS to just use R and try the Rcmdr GUI. I think it has more statistical routines in it, and the upside is that when you run something through the GUI it shows you the corresponding script. It’s a decent way to learn some of the R language.

  2. Certainly PSPP only has a very few statistical procedures and has a long way to go. There is certainly no comparison with R.

    I looked at PSPP as a good start that may develop into something really cool in the future.

  3. I didn’t ever use it but the pspp webseit says “Easy data import from spreadsheets, text files and database sources.” My frend says it does corralations to so either hes wrong or u just didnt finds it.

  4. In the meantime PSPP has added K-means cluster and factor analysis, among other procedures.

    Given the price difference (PSPP is free, SPSS is very expensive software) and the fact that probably for some more extensive analysis you’d have to buy yet another expensive add-on for SPSS, I think PSPP is a very good alternative that deserves more credit. Not only students, a lot of researchers could go a very long way with PSPP, and probably it already offers more then they’ll ever need.

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