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Re: st: Copy table--how to consistently get correct tab stops


From   "David Elliott" <dcelliott@gmail.com>
To   statalist@hsphsun2.harvard.edu
Subject   Re: st: Copy table--how to consistently get correct tab stops
Date   Fri, 6 Jul 2007 16:46:37 -0300

Stata's difficulties in copy table , I believe, arises out of it's
attempt to infer the table structure from something which is, for
Stata, simply a block of text.  With variable gaps between text and
numbers, it attempts to parse each line into some form of columnar
output.  When authors code for tabular-style output there is an
explicit cellular structure to the table, but in the process of
displaying it, that structure is lost.

Hypothetically, Stata could create an extension to SMCL that
explicitly set up tab stops, formatting, justification and lines for
tabular output and then display the output with that information still
embedded.  It would still display and log as text, but the cells would
paste as properly oriented rows and columns.  One could predict
difficulties with output that has a number of tabular formats such as
regression output which has a header with left and right justified
regression information followed by a table of coefficients.  However,
the header could be treated as just another table with a number of
empty columns in the middle.

I have used a number of packages over the years and agree that SPSS
allows much greater facility for direct copy-paste operations.  I have
also used Statistica which creates windows with spreadsheet-like
output for most commands.

One of the reasons many of us like Stata is the relative simplicity of
producing customizable output.  Those of you who have used the
excellent -estout- program will know a bit about how difficult it can
be to use something designed to make output simpler.  This is not a
criticism of -estout-, merely an observation that dealing with output
at a cellular level opens up a whole new layer of complexity.  Those
of you long for the relative simplicity of the pre Stata8 graphing
commands can imagine how you would feel if -display- became as
complicated.

I'm pretty sure at some point there have been discussions at Stata
about how to implement a table language, and I hope they will
continue.  I agree with David Radwin that the inability to easily
copy-paste output tables is an impediment to Stata's wider use in
certain sectors. Hopefully this thread can gain some traction here and
people can discuss various options.
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