Review: SPSS 11.0
Developer: SPSS, Inc.
Price: $1,145 (base); maintenance (recommended) starts at $287; upgrade from SPSS 10 for $299; upgrade from SPSS 6 for $499. Academic pricing starts at $599 (base). Many users will need extra modules. Training manuals (recommended) are around $100 each.
Requirements: G3 with 192 MB RAM, 256 MB of hard disk space, Mac OS X 10.1.2. Not compatible with Mac OS X 10.4.
Recommended: 500 MHz G4, 256 MB RAM.
The statistical analysis application SPSS entered the Mac market with a lean, efficient, syntax-driven program. Version 4 would let you use menus, but those menus would simply build syntax on the screen, helping users to use the powerful program as efficiently as possible. It had many deficiencies—among other things, it produced its results in a mainframe-style monospaced font—but it ran rather quickly on a Mac Plus, and helped beginners get used to the SPSS syntax language.
Unfortunately, after a disastrously bad port of version 6—which switched to a more modern menu-driven system, with syntax “also” available—SPSS abandoned its Mac customers.
Then, about two years ago, SPSS contracted with MacKiev to port version 10 over to the Mac. The result was a program with the capabilities of the Windows version, including a wide variety of plug-in modules and good speed. Now, version 11 has been ported over—but only to OS X. If you use OS 9, you must stay with version 10. But those who recently purchased new computers, only to find they cannot boot into OS 9—and that SPSS 10 won’t work in the Classic environment—will be very happy about the new release.
As with prior versions, as you slice, dice, and weight data, and pop out scatterplots using the built-in menus, SPSS automatically records your syntax into a “journal,” which you can later modify as a kind of macro to quickly run lots of analyses very quickly. I recommend buying the optional syntax guide and typing your commands as often as you can, instead of using the menus. Using SPSS becomes much, much faster that way.
Most of SPSS’ capabilities remain from version 10, and I will refer you to that article rather than going back through them.
As with version 10, the major drawback to the program is a long boot time. Version 10 booted in 30 seconds on my beige G3, despite an upgraded hard drive and processor. Version 11 takes 45 seconds on my blue and white G3, with an upgraded hard drive and 400 MHz G4 processor. No doubt it’s considerably faster on more modern models. While screen redraws are very sluggish on older machines, calculations are tolerably quick. I suspect the part of the program that actually does the work uses only highly optimized (and probably very old in many cases) code, while the user interface was developed with less concern for processor time. SPSS’ Windows origins are otherwise hidden. It looks and acts like a real Mac program, using standard OS routines.
The data, output, and syntax views all have different sets of menus, as they do in Windows: for example, you have to be in the data window before you can use a menu to split the file. This can be annoying, but it does keep the menus to a manageable size.
SPSS has done a wonderful job of maintaining the syntax through all Mac and Windows versions, so that files written for older versions work without a hitch. The data format is also compatible without conversion across versions and platforms, making it easy to share data and scripts with Windows people or users of older Macs. Data is stored in a highly compressed format, in a break from Microsoft’s norms of oversized files, but matching SPSS’ mainframe heritage. There are only two major issues with compatibility: SPSS 11 for Windows output files cannot be shared with SPSS 10 (or earlier versions) for the Mac, and SPSS’ scripting language (not to be confused with syntax!) was not ported over, since SPSS 11 can now use AppleScript.
SPSS 11, like prior versions, also reads tab-delimited and fixed-format ASCII text and Excel files. Output files can be saved as HTML for posting on the Web. SPSS also sells programs that allow other people to view the results and delve deeper into the data.
SPSS also deserves credit for porting over just about all the modules available under Windows, so Mac users aren’t faced with overpriced crippleware. Indeed, the prices match the Windows versions, despite porting costs. The main deficiencies of the Mac version, compared with Windows, are being one-half version behind (Windows is up to 11.5); missing features include not being able to directly import SAS files, the loss of the Method subcommand of Crosstabs, and three subcommands of nonparametric tests (both of the latter are missing from the optional Exact Tests module).
New features include direct publication to the SmartViewer Web Server, an extra-cost option that allows quick and easy dissemination of results throughout an organization (or to the world). Data can now be restructured so multiple cases can form a single case, or vice versa, which will save some researchers incredible amounts of time and nuisance. A database wizard can recode string values to numeric variables, obtain random samples, and do other clever, time-saving tasks that once required workarounds or other software. Other clever features for quickly rearranging data, such as the innovative pivot controls, remain.
The optional and very handy Reports module now produces modern output, with tab-delimited tables instead of the old monospaced fonts. It’s still only camera-ready if you’re not very particular, but it’s much better than in the past, and individual tables can quickly be modified for acceptable results. The Reports module can save a great deal of time when, for example, analyzing survey data. This and the Advanced Statistics modules are almost “must-haves.”
The OLAP cubes facility has been upgraded to allow calculation of differences between variables. Those who hate scientific notation will be glad to know it can now be suppressed in all output. This upgrade does not just deal with system software and appearance issues; a number of statistical upgrades were also made. These can be explored fully on SPSS’ Web site, and may affect a surprisingly large number of users.
Most people will probably export SPSS tables and charts to other programs for publication, usually by copying and pasting to the other application, but SPSS 11’s tweak to output tables—adjusting the column width to match output—makes it easier to simply save output as PDF (or HTML) and use it without modification. This may be the greatest time-saver of the new version for some people.
While SPSS seemed stable on my system, an early blue and white Power Mac with only 448 MB of RAM and a 400 MHz G4 upgrade, I did experience a corrupted preferences folder which required re-installation (resetting permissions did not help), and the program seemed to lock the Command key down at times. Syntax pasted in from the Classic Scrapbook did not work properly and had to be retyped, though syntax from older versions ran well when opened normally. In extended testing, SPSS sometimes crashed when being closed, and some parts of the output sometimes refused to use certain fonts.
SPSS 11 makes it easy to take heavy-duty statistics into the world of OS X. The fact that SPSS 10 and 11 are mutually exclusive also makes it easy to decide on upgrading—if you stay in OS 9, you cannot use SPSS 11, and if you move to X, you have to.
Because SPSS has such a slow interface, I strongly recommend that you do not use it with older machines or less powerful laptops. A 700 MHz G4 or above is just about required for tolerable speed, and a faster processor is really needed to make the program enjoyable in everyday use. If that means staying with OS 9, it may just be worth it to keep the relatively snappiness of SPSS 10. Version 11 does not add enough new features to justify an upgrade for many users (except, as noted, for OS X compatibility, which is downright needed for those with machines that won’t boot into 9).
SPSS 11 is capable, fairly user-friendly, and easier to work with than previous versions. The number crunching is very fast, and the reports increasingly easy to use in presentations and articles. It is no small wonder that SPSS 11 is still the market leader in professional statistical analysis.
Reader Comments (69)
Hardly. One word: SAS. SAS has yet to come to Mac OS X. It should. SPSS is good, but SAS is ubiquitous and is the standard in academia.
It would be good if SAS was to simply toss their source code over the wall to MacKiev. After a year or so, we'd have a real choice in MacLand.
I don't know if these still exist but there is also MacANOVA and StatView. Neither is in the same class as SPSS or SAS.
I wonder if there are open source stats packages for OS X?
Incidentally, I actually prefer SPSS 10 under OS 9 to SPSS 11 under X, but that's largely a function of my computer. If I had a current model, I'd probably opt for 11 due to those small incremental improvements which make everyday use much easier.
For open source work in OS X, the choice is R. This is an open source version of S, done by pretty much the same development team. R has just been selected as the recommended stats software at the Interuniversity Consortium for Political and Social Research at Michigan, so expect it to be much more widely used in the future. I haven't downloaded it yet because it needs to be recompiled and, frankly, I don't need it. It's there and free for those who do, however.
With regard to running v10 under OS X, they do NOT advise it. They said it could be made to launch, but would be buggy and that they would not stand by any results you may get. So I don't recommend it either! :)
I will take this opportunity to add something I left out this time around--namely that SPSS support is usually very good!
The syntax editor in v11.01 has several bugs, e.g. after selecting text with the keyboard and typing Command-R to execute, normal editing functions (like cursor movements) often do not work until the shift key is pressed again, and copying and pasting using the keyboard (Command-C/-R) often do not work. Instead, the selected text is replaced with a c or v.
SPSS is really a memory eater on the Macintosh (and has been at least since v10), much more so than on Windows machines. Because v10 and v11.01 for Mac both install a large number of *.dll files, my guess is that an extra layer has been added on top of Cocoa or Carbon that, more or less, maps the Win API.
I did not experience those problems, but do not doubt that you did. Indeed, as time goes on, it seems that SPSS may be very sensitive to the environment it's in, indicating the need for greater testing in future. I believe the SPSS support staff when they tell me they did not experience any problems, though.
As I believe I implied, stick with version 10 if you can :) and I'll try ringing Stata for a comparison again. A few years ago, I did compare SPSS with Minitab back when Minitab was still being kept current and I can say that it's not so bad for Minitab to have fallen by the wayside.
I did get the SPSS upgrade and it neatly solved that problem of non-starting with a message about deleting the preferences.
I'm using a dual G4 (867) with OS X 10.2.6.
Does anyone have a problem like this? Any suggestions?
While 11.01 took about 20 seconds to launch on a dual G4 (1.2 GHz), 11.02 took about 5 seconds. That's a major improvement. Once launched, it seemed more responsive. I will work with it for a while to see if an update to this review is needed.
They still sent it!
I don't know how SPSS continues to do business with pitifully inept customer service like this.
Regarding SPSS on a laptop, 11.02 works fine on a G4. Not sure about how much memory you'll need. Speed...well, "need" is hard to say. I'd want to have at *least* 512 MB of RAM to run OS X regardless. SPSS is a RAM pig for the user interface but the actual calculation space seems more reasonable, so you could always tart there and build up later if needed. I will point out that it will be a bit sluggish on a single-processor G4 laptop, though still usable - again, calculations will be faster than the uesr interface suggests! - and that RAM costs more when purchased from Apple.
Support has been poor to non-existent (denial of bug, followed much later by admission of problem, but _no_ attempt/offer to rectify it). I paid £1500 plus £300 annual "maintenance" fees. What am I getting for this?
Despite your remarks about SPSS 6 for Mac, SPSS 6 for Unix (Solaris) was a stable, if spartan, application. Why couldn't/can't they simply recompile that app for the IBM chip?
p.s. I did put it to SPSS (UK) tech support that their product was simply a Windows application wrapped in a Mac emulator - they denied it point blank. I suspect also that what anonymous(1) needs to do to copy and paste is use CTRL-C, not cmd-C (rant, rant)
A note to SPSS tech support on the line feed issue is called for. However, this can hardly be blamed on "mapping the Win API." It's simply a programming oversight which is common to some other programs. The good news is that SPSS data files are easy to move. I've never had the "file starting with ." problem.
It IS shameful that on the Mac you often have to drop stuff off into BBEdit before moving to Excel.
I agree on the costs being far too high given the total lack of bug fixes.
I've been shopping around for a multidimensional database that runs on OS X and the one that powers SPSS is the only one I've found. Do you know of any others?
Their customer service has been great for me so far. I emailed them regarding their next Mac version before I had found your review. Good news: version 13 for Mac OS X is the version that will be available sometime this year, they're skipping over version 12:
We're in the process of scheduling a new Mac release for later this year. It will be SPSS 13. We have no official release date yet.
Survey Applications Business Center
Phone: 1.312.651.3731 / Fax: 1.312.264.3731
Glad they're shipping 13 soon! Though I sure hope they've made some improvements to the core engines rather than just adding new statistical features. I long for the days when you could get a new release that contained speed boosts, bug fixes, and user interface updates rather than new "checklist" options...
(Apologies for delay in replying - my Mac processor fried a month or so back).
1) Line feeds: I have written/helped write a couple of line feed utilities in Perl to replicate the 'dos2unix' utility, which I will happily send/post if you wish.
My point in mentioning this isssue was in support of my belief that SPSS 11 for Mac is in fact a Windows program in a Mac wrapper; namely because the text outputs from its syntax editor do not 'behave' like text outputs from native Mac apps. (And yes, I have mentioned this to SPSS tech support, as I have all the other issues I cited here and in my original post. Their response? I shouldn't be trying to export/save/write syntax on a Windows formatted partition. After much complaining, they finally accepted that these _were_ bugs, but other than reporting them to Chicago, they have done nothing about them)
Line feeds are however a minor issue. Much more important are missing lines and hiding syntax files.
2) Missing lines: e.g: what was originally, say,
if (x ge 300) hunts=1.
if (x lt 300) hunts=2.
val labs hunts 1 'In favour' 2 'opposed' 3 'No
becomes, when opened in SPSS for Mac:
if (x ge 300) hunts=1.
if xal labs hunts 1 'In favour' 2 'opposed' 3 'No
A similar problem can happen at the end of the file: according to the syntax editor, you've reached the end of the file (the EOF marker), according to the processor, the end comes a couple of lines earlier/later - really aggravating when the file in question is an 'include' file. To repeat, this only happens if the file is opened in SPSS for Mac. If opened in any other Mac-based text editor, it displays exactly as it did originally.
When you are trying to import 500+ line syntax files, this is a serious labour/time resource issue. You've debugged them once, now you have to debug them again.
3) Inability to save syntax in a Windows partition: Again, this creates serious labour/time resource issues if you are trying to evaluate/de-bug syntax on a cross-platform network. To repeat, using SPSS for Mac, you can save syntax once and once-only on a Windows partition. If you try to save it a second time, it won't let you (the file's become 'read-only'). If you try to 'save as' the file is saved as with a name like '.12344xxcsq1', and is hidden (on Windows as well as on Mac OS's) to boot. The original file disappears altogether.
Why do I appear to be trying to do things the hard way?
Well, we used to run SPSS for UNIX, exporting the output files into Word for Windows, to WP them for mailing to clients. Over the years we've built up quite a library of syntax files. We had to move away from the UNIX enviroment (long story), so ported everything to Windows (no problems, apart from the shift from relative to absolute file referencing). The downside of this move was that we lost the ability to edit batches of syntax files using utilities such as UNIX 'sed' stream editor.
The UNIX-based MacOSX gave us the opportunity to return our SPSS operations to a familiar UNIX-style environment. And so we invested a lot of money, and now time, in switching to an OSX-based operation. Except, we can't take advantage of any of the facilities offered by a UNIX-style environment because (IMO) SPSS for Mac is not a native MacOSX app, but is simply the Windows app inserted into a MaxOSX emulator.
Yet it would be so simple to create a native MacOSX app. All you would have to do is recompile the UNIX app (presently compiled for Sun's Solaris chip) for the IBM chip used in Apple products. The output wouldn't be as fancy, but at the end of the day, an average is an average, sum(x)/n(x), no matter how you dress it up.
Maybe SPSS 13 will be that app. But I bet that, like all their releases in recent years, SPSS 13.0 will be the beta version, and 13.0.5/13.1, the de-bugged (by us) alpha version. And they charge _us_ maintenance fees?
I agree that 13.0 will most likely be full of bugs and even slower, with key outstanding issues untouched. SPSS has been moving inexorably away from statistics and into "business intelligence" where the standards are presumably lower.
By the way, I've revived (with Joel West's help and blessing) the MacStats site. It's now at http://www.weborial.com/macstats/ and has a BUNCH of SPSS alternatives. I plan to re-review SPSS in light of this at some point.
By the way, Paul, have you tried creating a sparse image and saving THAT on the Windows network? Then you could save the Mac files to the PC server in a Mac filesystem.
I agree on the beta versions, maintenance, etc. I sure wish Stata et al would provide an SPSS syntax conversion utility!
version 13... pushed to Q1 2006.
at that time, an announcement about the plans for the transitiion to intel will be revealed (could go either way, I guess?).
version 11.0.4 will be out in the next couple of weeks to fix tiger compatibility and some bugs (should have been out last week of july). Should also take better account of dual processor systems.
There you go....
Version 11.04 has been promised next week for two weeks...
I did hear from a reader recently that you CAN run SPSS 10 under Mac OS X - even Tiger, 10.4. See http://www.weborial.com/macstats/ for instructions!
I'm certainly pissed off at the quality of support SPSS gives it's mac products. Unfortunatly my lab is currently all windows, except for my trusty iBook.
Release 13 will be produced, SPSS says, next year; we don't know if MacTel support will be included but unless they're insane, it will be.
Question I was trying to get answered is this -- in this version of SPSS (11 for OSX) is there no longer a restriction of only 8 characters for each variable name? Ive heard this is true for the latest windows version, but want to know for the MAC.
thanks in advance
I think I will be happy to use it on my somewhat outdated machine.
At first, sorry for my bad english!
For a clinical study i have to use SPSS. Everybody in my hospital is windows user except of me. So my question is: what kind of problems, wil I have to face, while running spss 11. on my mac and the others using version 12 on ther PC's.
thankful for every help!!
I mean running spss 11.04 on the new macbook for example?
"We've yet to get our in-house Intel-based iMacs in order to do some thorough testing. Preliminary testing by Apple and others has shown SPSS 11.0.4 to work without error, but until we do a complete suite of procedures in-house we cannot know for sure.
A more public announcement on the expected delivery of a version of SPSS Mac with universal binaries will come out at a later date. "
See http://www.weborial.com/macstats/mactel.html for a list of stats programs with compatibility...
Sorry for the long delay in responding. I think that there is something funny going on with ATPM's comments service. Although I obviously selected the 'Email me new comments' checkbox, nothing came through until last week, when I started getting comments on 'what a great game' this was.
The icy sarcasm drew me back to your site, but no, it appears they really were talking about some computer game, and I'm down to receive responses from that site, not this!
I'm afraid I don't know what a 'sparse' image is, although I appreciate the suggestion. However, unless my Windows-based clients can access the data/syntax contained there it won't solve the problem.
Anyway, to take up your invitation to comment on 11.04, I'm afraid it made no difference whatsoever to the issues I raised.
Did I mention the line feed issue when reading in data inputted in a Windows environment? If I look at the data in a regular (Mac) text editor, it looks absolutely fine, exactly the same as it did when it was input on the Windows machine
Yet if a client sends me rawdata inputted in a Windows environment, SPSS for Mac, 11.04 included, discovers linefeeds in random places, such that the first 40 or so cases will be read in correctly, but then I have to add a couple of blank lines into the dataset to enable the next 30 or so cases to be read in, then another 3.5 lines for the next 15, and so on and on.
I actually did at one time have the head of UK SPSS support on the line to me, and beyond him telling me of the great new update (11.04), he could promise me nothing. If Chicago don't/won't address the issue, Guilford certainly won't.
I'm now refusing to pay any more to SPSS. I reckon they're in breach of the both the Trades Descriptions Act (it's not SPSS for the Mac, it's 'passing off' something that looks like the real thing for the real thing) and the Sale of Goods Act (it's not as described, its not of mercantible quality and its not fit for the purpose).
Give me my money back (not you of course)!
A sparse image is a type of disc image, a file that can be mounted by the file system and looks like a hard drive or CD drive.
SPSS has no idea of what is in SPSS Mac, it's written by MacKiev using SPSS mainstream code. I have been told that we can expect SPSS 12 or 13 or 14, and believe it will be Universal when it comes.
Yes I know it's a nuisance and it can be done, but let me make it clear that you can't see which lines are problematic until you run it through SPSS. So you can't develop any general utility to spot the problematic lines, so in the example I just gave, I'd have to try reading in the data at least 3 times. This is to say nothing of the issues about reading and writing syntax we've discussed before.
I hear also what you're saying about MacKiev being responsible. If I'd known about all this before I'd bought the programme, I'd have bought a PC instead and installed the Windows version on that. If they were to give me my money back, that's what I'd do. But I'm stuck with this situation now. Hopefully, my experience will prevent someone else making the same expensive mistake.
As Deng Xiao-Peng famously said: What does it matter if a cat is black or if it is white, so long as it catches the mice? I love my Mac, but this programme, on which my business depends, catches no mice.
You can indeed spot the problematic lines using TextWrangler or a similar utility. They'll look like spaces but be an invisible character. Easy to spot and script out.
Shame you can't switch to Stata or something but if you need to share SPSS files... the GOOD news is that they do seem to be getting more serious about Macs at SPSS and I'd expect that sooner or later they'll start taking it in-house. Or MacKiev will start getting better.
First of all- I do notknow anything about computers... I bought a MacBook 13 with an socalled Intel Core Duo prossessor a couple of weeks ago. Now I am going to write my thesis with use of SPSS.I can not install the version I have- SPSS for MacOSX 13. Which version should I purchase instead? And where do I buy/install it? How much do I have to pay? Thanks, Ma
Stata has stood by the Mac for a while now with full, 100% support. Unfortunately I find SPSS much easier to use!
Did you try instaling it (ver. 13) or are you not installing it because it says it does not support the new intel processors?
I don't have ver. 13, but ver. 11 for mac works fine on my coreduo macintosh (a little slow, since it runs inside a translation layer, but faster than my ibook g3 ever was). SPSS are reportedly working on a new intel compatible build but it's not easy to say when that might be done.
So, my first question is have you tried to instal it? if it doesn't I could give you a few options.
Sorry to hear about your troubles.
Seriously, if version 13 is installed, and working, chances are very high that you can run your stats wihtout problem. However, it is POSSIBLE that some of your results could be wrong esp. if you do a lot of iterative analyses. Simple frequencies, sig testing, etc. SHOULD be OK - I haven't seen any differences in my tests, but they weren't as extensive as those SPSS might have used. If indeed they do test the Mac versions, and didn't just post a warning to avoid legal liability, or to get us all to buy version 14 (or will it be 15 before we get Intel nativity?)
Can you tell I'm frustrated with SPSS? Really, besides their own record on the Mac - with the excellent Release 4, awful Release 6, and mediocre releases since then, and no real support after you buy - there's the companies they bought that had reasonably priced Mac products, then quickly had no reasonably priced products AND no Mac products. It almost seemed like they hunted down good Mac software and killed it (not unlike Computer Associates). Then they have lots of promises but their delivery is oh, so slow...
I think SPSS survives because Stata is still stuck in the mainframe view of the world (no simple cut and paste into Word or Excel tables), Statistica seems too far out of the mainstream (I can't say from experience), R is a typical Linux/open-source project (great if you spend a few years learning it, I guess), and SAS just isn't on the Mac at all.
Stats programs remind me of web design programs... I can't see why either one is so hard to use, so frequently lacking obvious, minor changes that would make them much better, and so demanding of system resources (except of course Stata!)... and for that matter SO EXPENSIVE. I think we can all confidently say SPSS doesn't put all THAT much work into each new version to justify their pricing.
i have the same problem as marit -- only i've tried to install spss v13 but will not install. is there a way to get v13 installed? i know someone said that some stats are inaccurate, but i'll take that risk...
Sorry I can't help you more.
Anyone hear anything about the next version coming out soonish?
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