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Re: st: Stata vs SPSS

From   "Christopher W. Ryan" <>
Subject   Re: st: Stata vs SPSS
Date   Mon, 16 Oct 2006 13:24:49 -0400

I used SPSS very briefly many years ago; version 9 I think.  As I
recall, the data were always visible, in a spreadsheet, even as I
pointed and clicked my way through an analysis.  This is in contrast to
Stata.  And it may be another part of an explanation as to why some
students prefer SPSS.  In my opinion, to "kids these days," interface is
everything.  If it's not visible on the screen, it does not exist.  They
think of word processors as magical, infinitely erasable sheets of
typing paper.  They have no concept of files or what is really in them,
of kilobytes, or of binary data.  I mean no disrespect to the students;
it is how they have been "raised up" on computers.  This is unlike the
old days when programming was necessary to use computers for much of
anything.  Programming requires one to manipulate mental objects, like
variables that might (or might not) have any actual numbers in them.
Programming enforces a certain mental discipline.  One can use a
computer nowadays, fairly productively for most office tasks, without
those skills or habits of mind.  And that's the way "the kids" have been
Christopher W. Ryan, MD
SUNY Upstate Medical University Clinical Campus at Binghamton
and Wilson Family Practice Residency, Johnson City, NY
GnuPG and PGP public keys available at

"If you want to build a ship, don't drum up the men to gather wood,
divide the work and give orders. Instead, teach them to yearn for the
vast and endless sea."  [Antoine de St. Exupery]

Richard Williams wrote:
> At 10:53 AM 10/16/2006, Nick Cox wrote:
>> I virtually never use the Stata GUI even --
>> so can people knowing both say how SPSS and Stata
>> compare in ease of GUI use?
> I'd have to give the GUI edge to SPSS, partly because it is easier to
> use the online help.  Also in SPSS, what Stata calls post-estimation
> commands can generally be specified as options in SPSS when executing
> the original command (that represents a difference in philosophy; both
> approaches have their merits.)  Students like SPSS because (a) they
> don't have to know any syntax, and (b) they are far more likely to have
> been exposed to it previously, and like anyone else they don't like to
> change.
> But, the SPSS GUI has to be good because nobody in the world could
> possibly remember all of SPSS's wildly inconsistent syntax.  I can't
> think of any good reason for the inconsistencies; I'm sure it just
> reflects the fact that different routines were written by different
> programmers and SPSS, unfortunately, made little effort to impose any
> consistency.  Stata, which is at least 10 years younger than SPSS,
> probably benefited from seeing what other programs had done wrong.
> -------------------------------------------
> Richard Williams, Notre Dame Dept of Sociology
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